We All Are Watchmen - Prayer

We All Are Watchmen

“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7

As Banner Church approaches a season of 24-hr prayer, it’s worth considering the purpose of such a practice. We may all agree that God has ordained praying as a means to overcoming our challenges, healing our illnesses, restoring our communities, and advancing God’s kingdom. But we may disagree as to the practical lengths necessary to seeing the results we’re after. Won’t our daily prayers, attended by a morning cup of coffee, suffice for achieving these ends? If God is all-powerful and in complete control, does he really need us to pray around the clock in order to perform His own will? And, more importantly, does the praying really need to take place so late at night?

In order to answer these questions, we would do well to consult the history of God’s people (aka the Bible) and evaluate how His chosen people prayed in light of their community’s needs, desires, and challenges. It’s important that we appreciate the wisdom to be gleaned from our spiritual heritage, for we will find answers to today’s questions by reviewing how faithful believers answered them in generations past. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

So, although we worship today in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, yet our spiritual roots run deep into the Negev Desert of the Middle East. This was the ancient scene of Israel’s redemptive history and the land of God’s promise. There our spiritual forebears built Jerusalem in faith, in faith that the Lord would deliver them from the pagan nations and extend the kingdom of God to the corners of the earth. For Israel, there was no greater desire, and seemingly no greater challenge, than to ensure that God’s chosen nation reigned pre-eminent over all the kingdoms of the earth.

Their faith in this matter was tested. Famine at home and recurring war with the surrounding nations sowed the seeds of doubt. Would God truly establish Jerusalem and make it a “praise in the earth”?

In mercy, God would not allow His people to despair without a vision of hope. So, as He had many times before, God sent His prophet to remind Israel of His promise to establish Jerusalem.

The nations will see your righteousness.
    World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name
    by the Lord’s own mouth.
 The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—
   a splendid crown in the hand of God.
Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City”
    or “The Desolate Land.” – Isaiah 62:2-4

Isaiah cast a vision of the future wherein God would indeed reign through His chosen people, and even the Gentiles would be included among them (Isaiah 56:3-5). God always keeps His promises.  

But Isaiah did more than just remind God’s people. He instructed them. The lesson was simple but challenging: If Israel wanted to see Jerusalem established, they would have to do something about it. He told the watchmen (a figurative term for the prophets and intercessors of Israel) : “You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem…”

Isaiah understood that God doesn’t have a timetable for fulfilling His Word so much as a list of pre-requisites that must be satisfied, pre-requisites He has established in His unsearchable wisdom. At the top of this list are the fiery desperation and relentless perseverance of His praying people.

The New Testament backs this up. From the Parable of the Importunate Widow, we learn that we should “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). But then Jesus raises the stakes a little higher, in two ways. First, he places the burden of an incontrovertible promise on God’s shoulders: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones…”? We see here an emphasis on the absolute assurance of God’s fulfillment. However, in the phrase immediately following, we are reminded of one of those pesky pre-requisites: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who call out to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).

In our quest to see God’s powerful answers to our ambitious prayers, it is simply not enough to be God’s “chosen ones”. We must be God’s chosen ones who call out to him day and night. Perhaps we are thinking too literally if we insist that prayer must take place in the middle of the night in order to satisfy God’s expectations. So, yes, let’s take “day and night” with a grain of salt, if only to avoid a wooden interpretation of Scripture.

But whether we take the phrase literally or not, there’s surely something to be said for stretching ourselves in our practice of prayer. When we commit to periods of intense intercession, we communicate to God that we understand that the city of Scottsdale is a lot like the city of Jerusalem. Both cities need watchmen on the walls—i.e. intercessors on their knees—in order to secure God’s protection and victory. It is true that we no longer fight against surrounding armies of flesh and blood. But our adversary the devil, and his spiritual forces of darkness, are more dangerous than the pagan nations of old. If we intend to defeat the enemy, we will need God’s help. May we never let God rest, neither day nor night, until he establishes Banner Church and makes it a praise in Old Town Scottsdale.

- Chandler Nick