“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”
“being vigilant in it”
The word “vigilant” here means to be in continuous readiness and alertness to pray–to be alert, to be watchful, to be vigilant. It was sometimes used as a military term for a century keeping alert on duty.
“Being vigilant” is in the present tense placing added emphasis upon the need to continue in a state of alertness.
“Vigilant” means to watch and is used 1) of keeping awake, (Matt. 24:43; 26:38, 40, 41). The idea is to rouse from sleep and can mean to arouse the conscience and attention of the person who prays. It is also used 2) of spiritual alertness, (Acts 20:31; I Cor. 16:13; Col. 4:2; I Thes. 5:6, 10;1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 3:2, 3; 16:15).
I Thess. 5:10 uses “vigilant” in contrast to sleep. In this passage it has the meaning of vigilance and expectancy as contrasted with carelessness. All believers will live together with Christ from the time of the rapture (chapter 4). All have spiritual life now though their spiritual condition may vary. Those who fail to watch will suffer loss (I Cor. 3:15; 9:27; II Cor. 5:10) but the Apostle does not deal with that aspect of the subject in I Thessalonians 4. What he does make clear is that the rapture of believers will depend solely on the death of Christ, not upon their spiritual condition. The rapture is not a matter of reward, but of salvation. God will reward believers after the rapture.
When the enemies of Nehemiah tried to stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem he did not throw in the towel. He commanded his people to watch and pray (Neh. 4:9). We need to guard against anything that might weaken our effectiveness in prayer. Apathy, negligence or unbelief can detract from our prayer life.
God wants us to keep awake to the importance of prayer.
God expects 1) perseverance and 2) alertness in prayer. Three apostles fell asleep during a prayer meeting (Mt. 26:41-43) in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus told them to “watch and pray.” They did neither.
How would you describe your prayer life? Vibrant, dynamic, wide-awake? Do you watch to confess your sins on a regular basis? Is prayer nothing but an empty form to you? Beware of thoughts that might distract us from prayer.
Prayer ought to hold a central place in our lives. “Vigilance” in prayer stresses the danger we face in spiritual attacks. Satan would like nothing more than to put us asleep spiritually. May God deliver us from a lethargic prayer life.