1 Peter 4:7-11
But the end of all things is at hand: be you therefore sober, and watch to prayer.…
The word "watch" is a military term. It teaches us that the same alacrity and watchfulness which distinguish the soldier on duty and the sentinel at his post ought to characterise the Christian; and, as you know, the safety of an army, the chance of a victory, the success of a campaign may all be endangered without watchfulness on the part of the soldier and the sentinel. A like contingency may befall the Christian who is not watchful. Now, I would say, there are three ways in which this watchfulness is to be exercised. There is to be watchfulness over ourselves, watchfulness against our enemies, and watchfulness that we get Divine assistance to help us in our struggles. I would liken the Christian to a general commanding a besieged fortress, who has to watch that he may keep down mutiny within the garrison, who has to watch that he may repel the assaults of the enemy assailing the garrison from without, and who has to watch that he may get assistance from friends who are advancing to help him. And now notice, there is to be prayer in addition to watchfulness. Prayer is the breath of the soul, the life of the spirit, without which you can no more conceive of the Christian existing than of an eye seeing without light, or an ear hearing without being subjected to the sense of sound. Prayer is to the soul of the Christian what his senses are to his body. He not more surely tells his natural wants and gets them relieved, looks upon the beautiful objects in nature, holds intercourse with his friends, and feels himself in contact with the material world by means of his senses, than he tells his spiritual wants and gets them relieved, and holds intercourse with the Former of his body and the Father of his spirit by the exercise of prayer. And what is calculated to enhance the value of prayer is this, that while my senses permit me to look upon many beautiful objects, and urge me to possess them, because they are not mine, I am not permitted to enjoy them; whereas there is not a single possession within the wide domain of the spiritual world that is not placed at my disposal by prayer. If the Christian be weak, then he is strengthened by prayer. If he be in doubt, then his doubts are removed by prayer. If he be in difficulty, his difficulties are surmounted through prayer. But I have to tell you, in order to issue in such gracious results, prayer must be possessed of certain qualities.
1. And here I would say, first of all, prayer must be intelligent. In all cases, our first prayer needs to be, "Lord, teach us to pray."
2. Further, I have to say, besides being intelligent, prayer must be humble. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth (and, of course, in answer to prayer) grace unto the humble."
3. But, besides being intelligent and humble, prayer must be offered in faith. Just as you cannot get your diseased bodies cured without submitting to the prescriptions of your physician, which implies faith in his skill, so you cannot get your sick souls healed without faith in the Saviour's willingness and ability to heal. You must approach Him as David did — and this implies faith — when he prayed: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee."
4. Further, I would say prayer must be in earnest. It is only the fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous man that availeth much. God only promises to answer earnest, importunate prayer.
5. I observe finally, here, that prayer must be constant. We have thus looked at these words separately. We will now look at them in their relation to each other. Like those other two features of our religious character — faith and works — which act and react upon each other, so that in proportion to the strength of our faith will be the number and excellency of our works, so in proportion to our spiritual watchfulness will be our prayerfulness. This, I hold, must be so from the necessity of the case; for the man who watches over himself is the man who discovers his own failings, the obstacles that impede his progress in the life of faith, and the number, the strength, and the power of his spiritual adversaries. What is the reason of the vast number of petitions that are presented to the Commons House of Parliament? Why, the inhabitants of these islands have watched the working of the British Constitution, and they have discovered that they have wants to be relieved, and grievances to be redressed, and think the Commons of England in their wisdom can relieve these wants and sweep away these grievances, and hence the table of the House is being constantly flooded with petitions. Well, the Christian watches and discovers his own weakness and liability to fall, the number, the vigilance and wiles of his spiritual foes, and he prays for Divine help to overcome them all. He watches, and, as a necessary consequence, prays. Indeed, such is our condition that we do not simply need to watch and pray to resist temptation, but to watch and pray that we may not enter into it, for there is every reason to believe that, were we to enter into it, we would yield to it; so that the only true course is, avoid it, and pass away.
(J. Imrie, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.