By Bruce Green
First Peter is packed with practical instruction for living out the story of Jesus.
One thing he gives quite a bit of attention to is our mindset and attitude. In 1:13, we are told to have “minds that are alert and fully sober.” In 5:8 it is “Be alert and of sober mind.” And in 4:7 it is “be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
There’s more to all of these passages of course, but I’m interested here in developing the teaching of 4:7. The entire verse reads, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.” It’s my understanding that “the end of all things” is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus and the Romans in AD 70 (about a decade after Peter writes). It’s hard for us to imagine how impacting this must have been for Jewish people everywhere (disciples and non-disciples). They would have known people or perhaps had family who perished. The destruction of Jerusalem brought an end to the temple, the priesthood and the city as the people of Peter’s day knew it. It was a sad and ominous time for Jewish people as more conflict with Rome was on the horizon. (There would be two more rebellions before the conflict would finally “cease” in AD 135 when the revolt led by Simon bar Kokhba was put down and Jewish people were barred from Jerusalem). It was the fulfillment of what Malachi had spoken of (4:1,5-6) and what Jesus had said would happen (Luke 21:2-32).
With this in mind, Peter’s words to “be alert and of sober mind” take on a new dimension. They were to recognize they were living in perilous, difficult times. Those who have lived through such times can attest that they call for an attitude of alertness and clear mindedness. If you live in a part of the country that that routinely experiences tornadoes as we do, you learn to be on the alert when conditions that are favorable to producing one develop.
You think differently because conditions warrant it.
Peter tells us to be this way “so that you may pray.” There’s prayer and then there’s PRAYER, isn’t there? There are quick prayers before meals, with our children, or whatever the occasion might be. We will take all of these we can get because they are God-honoring moments. That being said, it’s also true that such prayers tend not to dive down deeply. But there are prayers that do. Prayers like Jesus’ in Gethsemane or the prayers in Paul’s letters (Ephesians 1 and 3 will get you started). These prayers are part of our spiritual weaponry (Ephesians 6:18). They can protect and empower us. But they don’t come from froth and bubbles. They arise out of deep waters that have been stilled by God. If we want to pray these kinds of prayers, it begins with becoming alert and clear minded.
Peter wants us to know that’s how we prepare for PRAYER.
Green has written a book on the model pray called Praying in the Reign. It is available through 21st Century Christian.