The role of watchmen in the Old Testament was well understood. They had to stand guard twenty-fours a day for a city. Cities are mentioned over 800 times in the Bible. Unlike today, when we have mega-cities across the world, in Old Testament times cities were sometimes quite small. What distinguished them from villages was the wall of protection built around them. Each city wall had watch-towers constructed as part of the wall. One sees this replicated today in some historic castles scattered across the British Isles.
Watchmen had to stand guard in shifts around the clock, watching for signs of danger. They would then inform the city elders, who would decide what action was appropriate. Isaiah 62.6, Jeremiah 6.17 and Ezekiel 3.17 (among others) speaks of the role of spiritual watchmen.
In many nations today, the church has taken this very seriously. Multiple “watches” in prayer centres and towers, churches, ministry centres – even prisons – have been established, involving many thousands of Christians in prayer on a regular basis.
But what about the UK and Europe? I believe God is calling again for such watches to be established in this country. These are prayer watches, involving all ages.. Some already are deliberately and regularly taking the night watches. African believers know that the hours of darkness are when most of the evil in the world takes place. “Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil”.
Certainly the urgency of the hour, the spread of wars, the economic uncertainty, the widening gap between rich and poor, the increasing intensity of enemy aggression against followers of Christ, the huge migrant crisis gripping Europe, creating population shifts, the terrorist threats posed by Islamist groups in many parts of the world – all this and more means that we as Christians need to be “watching and praying”. Nothing is certain – everything is shifting.
How do we watch? Certainly in prayer for extended times. By keeping our eyes open to what the evil one is doing as well as to what God is doing, we will have fuel for prayer. By watching the news (but not getting fearful because of the news) can be a help, so long as we recognise that the news media can only present a perspective – not the whole truth. But we also need to see things from God's perspective as we pray. He knows everything we need to know for effective prayer. By being seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2.10), we can know that too.
We also need to watch and pray in unity. Watchmen on the walls were in touch with each other. We need to check what we are discerning with others, and then decide what to do next – in unity with both watchmen and the elders of the city. When I meet with prayer leaders in the South East region this is something we do.
Where do we watch? We need to ask God what is the assignment he individually wishes us to take on. For some it will be their street, for others their village, town or city. Others know they are called to be watchmen for their nation. And some know that God has appointed them to be global watchmen. I was at a gathering of intercessory leaders in mid- August, and around half of them knew they had been called to be global watchmen. I know God has called me to be one of these too.
The times we are in are serious. Satan knows that his time is short. So he is active on multiple fronts simultaneously. He works through a network of principalities and powers, and demonic systems of control. Most Christians in the West are not alert to these things (unlike our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia, who are well aware of Satan's devices). But we need to be on our guard and alert!
Where are the watchmen? “Watch and pray”, said Jesus lest you fall into diverse temptations.
Brian Mills, Founder of Interprayer International Partnership.