Could it have been avoided?

“Could you not watch with me one hour?  Matthew 26:40  ESV

The senseless mass murder at the Naval Ship Yard in our nation’s capital this week raises many questions.  Not the least of which “could it have been avoided?”  Many things, as with past massacres such as the Newtown School shootings less than a year ago, are under consideration that shoulda woulda coulda been done to prevent such tragedies.  But I have not heard, at least through secular media, even a hint or suggestion that it could have been avoided through prayer.  To even suggest that prayer might have headed off such a tragedy doubtless jars the sensibilities of some, but let us stop for a moment and consider it as a possibility.

In the bible, both Old and New Testaments there are numerous accounts of earnest, concentrated prayer being made where tragedy was thereby averted.   Jerusalem’s last minute deliverance from its own imminent demise when surrounded by the Assyrians during the reign of King Hezekiah was a direct and miraculous answer to prayer.  And the Apostle Peter’s eleventh hour escape from prison and certain death directly coincided with a prayer meeting that was focused on his behalf. (2 Kings 19 & Acts 12:5-16)

And even more noteworthy is the fact that throughout the Bible God actually encourages individuals to take up positions as watchmen in prayer specifically for the purpose of being a safeguard against evil.  Many of the prophets, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah and Habakkuk were specifically called by God as watchmen to intercede on behalf of God’s purposes in the nations.  God told Isaiah “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”  (Isaiah 62:6-7 NIV)

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus encouraged prayer as a preventative against evil.  He did so both by example and in His teaching.  In His great high priestly prayer in John 17, He prayed for all those the Father had given Him that they might be protected “from the evil one.” (vs. 15)  And when His disciples asked Him how to pray, He urged “Pray then in this way . . . deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:9, 13 ESV) 

Jesus frequently acknowledged evil as a clear and present danger in the world, and labeled the instigator as the devil and his evil spirits.  At one point He declared “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through.” (Luke 17:1 KJV)  He battled demonic evil on many fronts, through prayer and rebuking them with the word, binding and casting them out and sending His disciples out to do the same. 

The intensity of this spiritual warfare came to a focal point as He agonized in prayer the night before He was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there, when He was looking for prayer support and found His disciples sleeping, that He issued what has become the clarion call to watchman intercession.  “Could you not watch with me one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41  ESV)    

As we look at this most serious of calls to prayer, there are four arresting features.  First, Jesus is asking for a commitment to prayer for a set period of time.  In this instance it is specifically an hour and that period of time is not without significance.  An hour carries with it a sense of completeness or accomplishment.  When we undertake to do anything for an hour we usually think of that passage of time as long enough to make significant headway. 

Second, it is an invitation to spend time watching “with” Jesus.  Jesus promises to be with us in this venture, to show us what to pray for and how to pray.  Much more could be said about this but suffice it to say that the “watchman ministry” is first and foremost simply watching to see what God is doing and seeking to therefore pray in concert with Him.

Third, watching and praying is the primary means instituted by God to guard against evil.  At a minimum, those who pray will not succumb to temptation where evil lurks.

Fourth and finally, undertaking a watchman prayer ministry takes personal discipline.  It is not something most people do without a focused decision and concerted effort. 

Now back to the original question, can tragedies like mass murders be prevented through prayer?  Given the preceding overview of the Scriptures on this topic, most definitely!  Imagine the potential to alter the spiritual atmosphere in a local community if there were key watchmen intercessors praying daily for God’s protection over their public and private institutions. The most immediate concern of any watchman is the city and area where he or she has their residence.  This is an established spiritual principle dating back to the Jewish exiles in Babylon when God said “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  (Jeremiah 29:7  NIV)

What would happen if God raised up each church to be a light house of prayer that was praying earnestly for the spiritual and natural welfare of their community?  What if specific prayers were bombarding heaven to thwart the plans of every schemer of wickedness, mentally deranged, demon possessed, mass murder, terrorist, arms fanatic and Islamic radical?  Just maybe what happened in Decatur, Georgia, where a Christian woman, obviously empowered by the Holy Spirit, headed off another school tragedy by talking a young man toting an AK-47 type weapon into surrendering himself to authorities. 

Prayer makes a difference, we know that.  How much of a difference I believe depends on the intensity and consistency of watchmen intercessors who like Daniel, Esther and Moses are willing to make the commitment to “build up the wall and stand in the gap before God” in prayer no matter what the cost. (Ezekiel 22:30 NAS) 

Do you hear the Lord calling you to “watch with Him one hour?”  Your prayers just might mean the difference in your community between security or chaos and life or death.

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