”The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7)
I will be honest with you: I don’t always find prayer easy. Most people I know struggle with prayer at some time or other; many of us struggle with prayer quite a lot of the time.
For this reason, it is good to identify encouragements for prayer, and things that motivate to pray when we find it difficult. Perhaps you are motivated to pray when you hear answers to prayer? Maybe you are moved to pray more when you hear about specific needs or opportunities?
As Peter writes his first letter in the New Testament he gives us another motivation to pray: the return of Jesus.
We are about to start the season of advent, which traditionally focuses not only on the birth of Jesus but also his return. It’s a period in the church’s life when we are called to consider Jesus’ second coming. But I wonder if you have ever thought of it as a time to deepen your prayer?
“Be clear minded and self-controlled” says Peter. Be alert and focused in your thinking. I suspect we have all found prayer difficult when our minds are full of many thing or we are tired after a long day. What Peter is encouraging is an attitude of mind: wakefulness and watchfulness, centred on one specific thing: Jesus’ return.
“The end of all things is near” says Peter. This is not Peter getting full of doom and gloom, like those people who used to stand on street corners with a sign that said ‘The end is nigh’. Instead Peter is urging us to have our focus on the end of Jesus’ purpose and mission when he returns, to look for that day and long for it to arrive. And that will help us to pray.
Having this frame of mind helps us to pray because it reminds us that we have a Lord we bow to, and a Lord we depend on. One day every knee will bow before Jesus and every tongue confess that he is Lord. Because this will be true on that day to come, we do so now, bowing before our Lord who is willing and able to hear our prayers and who cares for us.
This focus on the return of Jesus reminds us that we have a king who is in control. We can, and should, pray for the needs of the world because Jesus is the king who is in control of it. We can pray for those who struggle, for those who face difficulty and persecution, because Jesus is powerful and able to act on their behalf, and he has not forgotten them.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus’ return also reminds us that we have a Father who will answer. On that day when Jesus comes again in glory, everything will be made new and all prayers will be answered. Because we look for and long for that day, where and now we can ask for a taste of that day to come.
So this season of advent let’s take up the challenge of thinking about the return of Jesus. Let’s consider that day to come and let’s allow it to shape and reshape our prayer like in the present.