As the approach of school or college examinations encourages study, and imminent guests spur our hospitality preparations, so reminders about the return of Jesus Christ have always mobilised Christians to get their lives ready to welcome Him (Matthew 24:42-44). Although we have not been told the details of our life with Him for all eternity, Peter urges us to be clearly aware of all the small details that make up our life now - and make a habit of discussing them all with the Lord. Watching for His return one day, and watching our lifestyle today, is Peter's expectation for every Christian. Indeed, a spiritually watchful life of the believer is in sharp contrast to the careless lifestyle of the worldling (1 Peter 4:2-4).
The Apostle Paul applied the same criteria to himself (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), to church leaders (Acts 20:28) and to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16). This was not the pietistic discipline to earn favour with God but godly self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), which is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps Peter recalled Jesus’ rebuke when he, James and John fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-41). Keeping watch and praying go together. Those who do not pray will not be morally and spiritually alert; and those who are not aware of spiritual danger will not pray.
How shall we make decisions about every-day relationships and responsibilities, so that God will be honoured, and Christ's purpose will be satisfied in us? The Scriptures reveal God's mind and act as a mirror to our own hearts (James 1:22-25); and our prayer-life reveals how much we want our lives to please the Lord. As we place the details before Him, with all their apparent contradictions, so He moves in power - in our minds to make a clear distinction between truth and error; and in our circumstances to open the way for us to do His will.
Minds which are numbed by alcohol, drugs or sensual pleasure cannot pray properly. Choices which allow wickedness to rule in our lives will strip away the self-control, which should be the result of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives and is essential for effective prayer. Workaholism and even Christian activism may leave little space or desire to pray. But every Christian needs to have the time, desire, discipline and persistence to pray. Without prayer we will not discern the Lord's mind about the essential details of every personal interaction, every use of time, money and other resources. So clear your mind and diary to pray, and do it as though everything depends on it ... because it does!
© Dr Paul Adams