The Greek word used for “watchful” in Colossians 4:2 is: “γρηγορεύω (grégoreó)” which means: “to be awake, to watch, Mt. 26:38, 40, 41; Mk. 14:34; 37, 38; to be alive, 1 Thess. 5:10; met. to be watchful, attentive, vigilant, circumspect, Mt. 25:13; Mk. 13:35, et al.” Source: https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/gregoreo
The purpose of being watchful in prayer is to have our minds set on sober realities, whether present or future.
A great example of this is when Jesus & His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane, cross reference(Matt 26:36):
“Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the
Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.
When he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not
fall into temptation.”
He went away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my
will but yours be done.”
[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And
in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops
of blood falling to the ground.]
When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them
sleeping, exhausted from grief. So he said to them, “Why are you
sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation!””
Luke 22:39-46 NET
As we just read and in relation to Colossians 4:2, the reason we are to be “watchful or vigilant in prayer is because we can fall into temptation, loose focus on spiritual realities, etc.
The similar word “γρηγορεῖτε (grēgoreite)“ in Matthew 24:42, means: “Keep watch” or “Be on the alert” in relation to the Lord’s Second Coming. The same concept is essentially there.
Colossians 4:2 is about being “watchful” to our spiritual duties as Christians.
Not only in prayer, but in our mentality we are to have the following, as examples listed here:
“Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober,
and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you
when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13
Now the end of all things draws near. Therefore be self-controlled
and sober-minded for your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with
carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on
you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell
on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that
you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come
to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36
Luke is especially reflective of Colossians 4:2, we can ask: “Why do we have to be watchful in our prayers?”
Answer: Because in Luke’s account, in order to escape all the things coming on the earth, our Lord commanded we watch and pray that we escape all these coming calamities & to stand before Him.
Peter says the “end of all things is at hand(near).
The Scripture is clear we are made for God & eternity, so being watchful is our duty & the opposite is being slothful, careless, and lazy. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Colossians 1:15-16)
Prayer isn’t merely about our desires, certainly some of it is, but prayer should be more “attentive” & “kingdom focused”. The Lord’s Prayer does address our (needs), yet, it is also kingdom focused:
“So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, may
your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:9-10 NET
- The end of the age is near, so be watchful & pray always that we can stand before the Son of Man.
- We pray in vigilance that we may not enter into temptation & sin.
- We pray watchfully in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming.
- We attentively pray that we would seek God’s Kingdom, His righteousness, & our needs. (Matt 6)
- We pray to be delivered out of the hands of Satan’s attacks: (Matt 6:13)
- We pray diligently to have our sins forgiven: (Matt 6:12,14,15)
- We are to be watchful in prayer for mortification of sin lest we die: (Romans 8:12-13)