“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7)
Well, what a marvelous time we had at our annual meeting! The attendance was good. The spirit was tremendous. The challenge was great. We were (and are) compelled to pray! Pray for unity, pray for courage, pray for anointing, pray for boldness, pray for the lost, pray for revival, pray for God-sent laborers!
I’d like to take my article this month to encourage you more in that direction. To do that I want to take a close look at a couple of commands God gave Peter to share with the saints. But before I do, I want to get your mind to churning about how sometimes even the simplest of things can be misunderstood.
It’s amazing how even the simplest of statements can often be misinterpreted or somehow lost in translation. For example, several years ago I was asking one of my students about her favorite food. She had grown up in the Caribbean islands and then south Florida. Yet, not unlike many young folks, her favorite food was hamburgers. It all sounds pretty mundane until I tell you that our discussion at the time was in Spanish and I used the more formal word for hamburger I had learned, “hamburguesa.” However, she was used to the less formal, more Americanized, form for the word, “hamburger.” So when I said “hamburguesa”, she thought I said “hamburge y cervesa.” Now for you who don’t know Spanish, that means, “hamburger and beer.” My face turned red as I started shouting, “No, no, no!” What I thought was a simple hamburger had suddenly turned into an embarrassing hamburger & beer. Something had somehow gotten lost in translation. Keep that thought of misinterpretation or getting lost in translation in mind as I direct your attention to the passage listed above from 1 Peter chapter 4.
Here are what appear to be two very simple, straight-forward commands. So what are they? The King James Version says:
Simple, right? That is until you start filtering it through our life experiences and understanding, and then we may miss the true meaning by a mile.
For example, when you think of “being sober,” what immediately goes through your mind? If you grew up in a home where alcohol was abused, you immediately think of not being drunk. But if you grew up in a home with very strict rules you immediately think of a very somber, straight-laced, not a hint-of-a-grin approach to life. Yet, neither of those interpretations capture what was intended here.
“Sophronesate” is the Greek word used here. It literally means to be right-minded. In other words have the right attitude! Develop a Christian mindset. Think like a child of God ought to think. And this is something you and I are commanded to do. It is not an optional approach to life; it is a must, if we are truly his!
So how about that second command? Watch unto prayer. Again let me ask you a simple question. When you think of watching, do you think of actively participating or do you think of observing from the sidelines?
You don’t suppose that God inspired Peter to tell us that you and I need to be standing on the sidelines watching and waiting for the time to come that we need to pray? Not at all! The Greek word for “watch” here is “nesthate.” It actually means to “be full” or “to replenish.” Do you see how our understanding immediately changes with that insight? Instead of waiting and watching for those times to arise when we see our prayers are not needed, this verse is actually saying we need to be constantly replenishing our prayers. We need to always be full of prayers. By the way, prayers here is plural, not singular. That is just another solid reminder that this is an on-going task.
And our prayers are not to be some mindless sort of rote or even simply careless. The word for “prayers” here is “proseuchas.” “Proseuchas” prayers are “earnest” prayers. They are from the depth of the heart prayers. They are intense, sincere prayers.
Oh what peace we often forfeit.
Oh what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Compelled to pray. It is this year’s challenge, this year’s focus. May I challenge you even as Peter commanded:
Be filled with earnest prayers