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The Night Watches

(Excerpts taken from book by Chuck Pierce “Reordering Your Day”—Understanding and Embracing the Four
Prayer Watches )

The biblical day actually begins at 6 pm (sunset). There are certain spiritual dynamics that happen in each watch. There are certain victories that are only gained during certain watches. The Jews, like the Greeks and Romans, divided the night into military watches instead of hours. Each watch represented the period for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. This produced the “watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). The proper Jewish reckoning recognized only three watches, entitled the first or “beginning of the night watches” (Lam 2:19), the middle watch (Judges 7:19) and the morning watch (Ex. 14:24; 1 Sam. 11:11). When Rome established supremacy and began to influence the Church, the number of watches was increased to four, which were described as follows: Evening 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm Midnight 9:00 pm to 12:00 am Breaking of a Day (Cockcrowing) 12:00 am to 3:00 am Morning 3:00 am to 6:00 am How the Early Christians Prayed. Most Christians today don’t realize that observing regular watches for prayer was considered to be a normal part of the Christian life in the first few centuries. These prayer watches were designed to maintain the practice of offering God a “continual sacrifice” of praise and prayer. The Imperative of Continual Prayer: God commanded the priests of Israel to offer special sacrifices every morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39). They were also to maintain continual sacrifices, offerings, and incense throughout the day. An Overview of the Hours of Prayer – Vigils (the middle of the night) -- The word vigils, referring to night prayer, comes from the Latin vigiliae, the nocturnal watches of Roman soldiers. The night from six o’clock in the evening to six o’clock in the morning was divided into four watches of three hours each, the first, second, third, and fourth watches. In the Church, the use of the term was very elastic. Originally the vigils were the nightly synaxes (reunions or meetings) of the Christians. Because of the secrecy of their meetings, and because they felt the middle of the night was the hour (par excellence) for prayer, the Christians chose the night time for their meetings. This was especially true of the Sabbath. On occasion, the Christians began their meeting with a meal in the evening, and were still meeting when the new day dawned! The word “vigil” was also used to describe private times of prayer in the nigh t. Christians were expected to awake in the middle of the night to seek the Lord in prayer. Lauds (sometime before dawn) – A time to begin the day in praise! This was often a corporate gathering. It pictured the morning sacrifice offered by Israel’s priests every morning.

Vespers (sundown. True watchmen attempt to gain the overall scope of an issue. at evening. Mark 13:35. 5:8) Watchman was also a term used to designate a sentinel on the city walls (2 Sam 18:25. “the Lord’s watch” – A group of Moravians were fleeing persecution. Dutch Sheets. I will dwell with you!” They determined to keep the fire on the altar . The . 16:13. It is private prayer at bedtime. designating the last (completing) hour of the day. Count Zinzindorf got up to lead the service. The Four Watches -. Most folks have worked all day.” The First Watch (Evening Watch 6 pm to 9 pm): During the first watch we regroup. or in the morning”. They divided the clock into watches and took turns praying 24 hours a day. Is 62:6) or on the hilltops (Jer 31:6).Prime (1st Hour: 6 am) – Prime is to bbe considered as the prayer of the beginning of the day.” The Watchman sees into the heavenly realm. and finally the blessing and dismissal. (There were signs and wonders and miracles and they were never the same again). All the lamps and torches were lighted. got partway through. thanksgiving offered. (Be on the alert – Luke 21:36. On August 13. The Watchman. It was so called because at this hour the candles were lighted. Herrnhut. 1 Cor. but with a pure heart. 6:18. in his book Watchman Prayer. Number 28. The day is consecrated to God by Vespers. meaning evening. pictures a watchman as a sentry. around 6 pm) – The word comes from the Latin vesper.Mark 13:35 NKJV “Watch therefore. Ps 127:1. Prayer at the time of compline closes the day with the Lord. at the crowing of the rooster. Germany from Czechoslovakia and built a village called Herrnhut. let him declare what he sees. This evening gathering was a continuation of the evening sacrifice of the Old Testament (Exocus 29:39. but this is the time we need to “still” ourselves from the world. 1 Chron. lookout or night watchman who is supposed to remain awake and alert. for you do not know when the master of the house is coming – in the evening. then the prayers. “how do we keep it?” They turned to their Bibles and found that in Exodus 29. at midnight. 1727 they went to the nearby village of Bertlesdorf to meet together in the Lutheran Church for a communion service. TLB “Keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when I will come. immigrated to E. This was often a daily time of corporate prayer. early dawn or late daybreak. The next week they said.18. The psalms were sung. Daniel 9:21. 2 Kings 9. when the Spirit of God fell.4. God gave instructions on how to live in His Presence – “If you keep the fire burning on the altar. Eph. 23:30). at midnight. 1 Pet. Compline – The term compline is a derivation of the Latin word completorium. This time was most widely known in the early Church as Lucernalis or Lucernaria hora (the hour of the lights). They continued in these prayer watches for about 120 years. Prayer at this watch consecrated all the work of the day. 7 days a week. watching for signs of trouble. Isaiah 21:6-10 – verse 6 says “for thus has the Lord said to me: go. set a watchman.

and even specific direction for individuals or a corporate body. Psalm 30:5. 20:20.” It’s a time to ask the Lord open the heavens and connect heaven and earth where you are. Also. unbelief. Many equate this watch o Peter’s trial that led him to deny His relationship with the Lord. go out to meet Him!” The Lord will give strategies during this watch – read Luke 11:5.Evening Watch is a time of meditation – removing the cares of the day and preparing to focus on the Lord and His plans for us. 3 am to 6 am) This watch is linked with the approaching of the morning light and the breaking of the day.” Exodus 34:3 “So be ready in the morning. It’s preparation for the day ahead. 2 Chron. that the Lord looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud. This is a time for thanksgiving. This is a watch when there is much spiritual activity occurring.” Genesis 28:18 “Then Jacob rose early in the morning. and poured oil on top of it. It’s a good time to deal with doubt. Joshua:14. The Second Watch (the Midnight Watch 9 pm – Midnight): Psalm 119:62 says “At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You because of Your righteous judgments. and took the stone that he had put at his head. 11:4. The Fourth Watch (The Morning Watch – A New Day Dawning. Joshua 3:1. Midnight to 3 am). It was at midnight that the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (Ex.16. in the morning watch. The fourth watch is the last portion of the night. Matthew 25:6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold the bridegroom is coming. 12:29). Acts 16:25 “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them.” The Third Watch (The Breaking of a Day – Cockcrowing. Exodus 14:24 “Now it came to pass. set it up as a pillar. This is also a time that God is dealing with our enemies that are trying to keep us from entering into His perfect plan for our lives. and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. It may be that what occurred during the Second Watch will be carried over into the Third. This is also a time of visitation. Exodus 19:16. This is a time when the Lord begins to prepare us to receive many acts of change in the earth. and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai. . and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain.