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Be therefore sober and watch unto prayer

by Anton Stier

The Bible tells us of a coming period before the return of the Messiah when believers will have to deal with a lot of false teachings and temptations. Peter therefore calls us to common sense, watchfulness and prayer.

Fight over Jerusalem
We live in serious and perilous times. Everywhere in the world we discover an irrevocable process of disruption and chaos. The global impact of Islam, aids, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, a loss of sense of values and natural disaster can only be turned by the return of Israel’s Messiah. The Middle East is especially a powder keg that can easily be set on fire. The recent war between Israel and Hezbollah once again proved the situation can change unpredictably. Are these changes totally unpredictable? No, because God’s Word reveals a future scenario. The Bible shows us a future when the Middle East conflict will result in a fight over Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12 writes about Jerusalem as a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone for all people (Zech. 12:2,3). The conflict about Israel will become a matter that will exercise many minds until the day of the Lord comes. Then everyone will see the march of Israel’s enemies ending up in their own destruction as 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4 states: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God”
The Bible tells us the falling away will come, as well as the revelation of the man of sin who will sit in the temple of Jerusalem shewing he is God.

Peter wrote: “But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer”. Since we are believers seeing the end of all things coming soon, it is important to be sober and watch unto prayer.

The word Peter uses for sober is also found in Mark 5:15. After the Lord delivered a man who was possessed with legions of devils, the man sat at the Lord’s feet “in his right mind”. Because of that deliverance he was able to control himself. Paul uses the same word in 2 Corinthians 5:13 as a counterpart of the expression “to be beside ourselves”. Soberness is what we need in order to Biblically analyze the developments in the world.

After ‘sober’ Peter mentions the word watch. Both words are being used together in the Bible and have the same meaning. The Greek verb ‘nēphō’ which is being used here means ‘not being fuddled’ (see also 1Thess. 5:6-8). According to the Greek word we have to be able to think clearly and be alert to all kinds of temptations and false teachings that are a characteristic of the latter times.

Soberness and watchfulness are conditions for prayer. In Greek the word ‘prayer’ is used in the plural, meaning various kinds of prayer like worship, thanksgiving, intercession, praise, but also meaning ‘praying repeatedly’. A lot of times we are so focused on doing something that we are too busy to pray. Prayer is of great importance especially in times of trial.

The Lord says to His disciples: “Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”. And to Simon He says: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).
Although God is the Almighty One Who does not need our prayers in order to act, it is a privilege to know the Lord is willing to involve us in the fulfilment of His plans. “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence” (Isaiah 62:6).

Prayer and daily life
Prayer is considered to be the soul’s breath. Although this expression is not to be found in the Bible, Paul does call us to pray without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17) and to continue in prayer (Col. 4:2). Prayer therefore is essential concerning our relationship with God.

Free entrance to heaven’s throne
The Bible tells us we are able to enter God’s heavenly sanctuary by prayer because of the blood of Christ. Because of Christ’s sacrifice God calls us to frankly enter His Presence in prayer: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

Christ our Mediator
The blood of Christ is the reason why we can enter into the holiest. The risen Lord is our living Mediator. Therefore we can pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

A holy life
An important condition for prayer is an intimate relationship with the Lord and the people around us. Paul writes: “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8).
This verse is not about the uplifting of hands but about the uplifting of holy hands. Prayer requires a holy life, a life without wrath and/or doubting. Even the relationship between husband and wife is important concerning prayer: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).

Look up
David prayed: “Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). When David prayed he knew God was listening and it made him look up to the Lord concerning the answer to his prayer.

No vain repetitions
Prayer is not about the words we use, but about the condition of our hearts.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him” (Matt. 6:7-8).

Meeting God personally
By prayer we meet God in a personal and intimate way. It’s important to find a place where we can pray without being disturbed. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6).

Common prayer
Prayer is not only done in secret. Also a group or congregation can be lead into common prayer. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Pouring out our soul
When we pray we can pray like Hannah did:“...but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15).

Not by force
Prayer is not meant in order to force God to do something. The Lord Jesus prayed: “Not My will, but Thine, be done” (see Luke 22:42; John 5:30).

No advice
Prayer is not meant to advise God. The Bible says: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to Whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:34-36).

The Holy Spirit our Intercessor
It is important to realize that we have but a limited understanding when it comes to God’s omniscience. Only the Lord knows what is best for His children. This is why the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27).

Prayer is not about sending a wish list to God. We ought to thank Him for the blessings He has given us. The apostle Paul writes: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).

Prayer teaches us our sufficiency is of the Lord.
Paul wrote about a “thorn in the flesh”, although we do not know what he meant. But it’s more important to read about the way he dealt with the thorn in his flesh: “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
Don’t expect all prayers being answered in just the way we want them to be answered! If prayers are not answered in such a way, it is good to know that whatever happens, His grace is sufficient for us.

Praying from the book of Psalms
When praying it sometimes is hard to find the right words to express our feelings. If so, we can always pray the words from the book of Psalms: “Shew me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day” (25:4,5).