Usually these words of Jesus are applied to "being ready" for his return or "avoiding temptation". These words kept echoing in my mind as I paddled the river for several days these past weeks. The natural environment suggested another interpretation. One has much to "watch" along the way. You had better pay attention to the river for potential hazards like rocks and fallen trees called "sweepers", changes in the current, and channels that turn out to be deadends. Vigilance is vital in monitoring the weather for wind direction and velocity, storms, heat, and cold fronts. A delightful watching surprises around each bend as deer, raccoons, trumpeter swans, eagles, butterflies, geese and goslings, pelicans, and otters appear suddenly. In the twists and turns of the river watching and studying the maps is essential to making safe progress downstream. Finally, with hours of solo time, one can't avoid the "inward glance" and taking a long and hard look at my own life. As I watched hour after hour my reflections flowed into prayer effortlessly, even gracefully.
Too often our prayers become a chore and hard work. On the river I have been reminded that if we "watch" and pay attention more carefully to our surroundings, prayer becomes a wonderful gift!