Jesus addressed this in Luke 21. He was in Jerusalem, in the last week of his life, with his disciples. He noticed how enthralled the people were with physical things like the beauty of the temple and how distracted they were with spiritual things like prayer and the commands of God. He taught about the end of things and reminded the people that their role before God is not to admire the ways of the world but to "watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly" (21:34).
While Jesus is talking specifically about the "day of the Lord," that great day of judgment, a broader application of his words reminds us that we must be diligent in our watchfulness. Those who struggle with drunkenness and dissipation know how easy it is to fall into old habits. Those of us who often feel overwhelmed with the "cares of this life" know how easy it is to become so focused on our daily to-do lists, work projects, and what is left to do around the house that our attention to God is given second priority, if it is attended to at all.
Jesus, thus, provides help for us. Following a reminder to "stay awake at all times," which is simply a call to keep spiritually alert, he says to pray for strength (21:36). In prayer, we give ourselves and our attention to God. In prayer, we carve out time to reflect on what really matters. In prayer, we learn and relearn how to trust and depend on God.
A popular proverb says something like, "Pray for twenty minutes every day, unless you are too busy. Then pray for an hour." The truth of the proverb is simple--we are never too busy to pray and to seek guidance and help from God. It is in prayer that we keep our attention where it really matters. We then allow what we learn in prayer to shape how we approach the rest of our lives.
But will we be watchful? Will we be serious enough to stay alert? Will we be diligent enough to stay awake at all times? Will we take the time to pray?