Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Be serious and watchful in your prayers"

I came across 1 Peter 4:7-8 this morning and was struck:

"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.  And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.'"

What a remarkable period of redemptive history we live in!  Think of the generations of Israelites who were born and died during the 400 years of Egyptian affliction.  Think of Abraham, who waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise of a son born to him and Sarah in their old age.  Think of the Jewish people who lived and died after Malachi - who waited for a word from their God which would take around 400 years to come.  Think of Zecharias' excitement when he was given a divine word in the temple from Gabriel (Luke 1:13).  Think of John the Baptist's joy when he finally saw Jesus approaching and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).  Think of the exhilaration of the apostles when they went our preaching the risen Christ in the book of Acts.  

And here we are today in 2008 - with only one great event remaining:  The Second Coming of Christ.  This is what Peter means by "the end of all things."  The last great redemptive work of the one Living and True God will be the return of Christ to gather His elect, raise the dead, and judge the world.  Peter brings this great and terrifying fact to his reader's attention to motivate seriousness and watchfulness in prayer.  The great enemy of our souls loves nothing more than when people cease to believe in the effectiveness of prayer.  Satan would love nothing more than for God's people to stop praying.  Satan relishes our sluggishness and scatterbrain attitude towards prayer.  He delights when we pray with unbelieving hearts.  He enjoys knowing most don't even acknowledge his existence or role in this world.  He likes that many Reformed believers let go of prayer in the name of, "just leaving it to the providence of God."  In a book I've been reading by Horatius Bonar, he comments:

"... when we can rest satisfied with using the means for saving souls without seeing them really saved, or we ourselves being broken-hearted by it, and at the same time quietly talk of leaving the event to God's disposal, we make use of a truth to cover and excuse a falsehood; for our ability to leave the matter thus is not, as we imagine, the result of heart-submission to God, but heart-indifference to the salvation of the souls we deal with.  No, truly, if the heart is really set on such an end, it must gain that end of break in losing it." - p23, Words to Winners of Souls, Horatius Bonar.

There are, I believe, two reasons the Bible everywhere exhorts us to be fervent in prayer: 1) We tend strongly in the direction of believing prayer is worthless and accomplishes nothing. 2) Prayer is a powerful means ordained of God to bring about His sovereign purposes.  

The final judgment - "the end of all things" - is the most grave and serious event any mind could contemplate.  It is the seriousness of the event that causes seriousness and watchfulness in prayer.  Because the end is near, we must pray all the harder: for the salvation of our loved-ones, against temptation, against sin, against the forces of darkness which seek to paralyze and render impotent the ministry of the Word in our churches, against the spirit of this age which ever beckons churchman to compromise and become men-pleasers (always in the name of reaching the lost or "becoming all things to all men"), against discouragement, for holiness, for peace, for good church officers, for pulpits which will preach Christ and Him crucified, for revival among the churches of God, against distractions of entertainment, for strong marriages and homes where the Bible is read, believed, and taught to the children, and for an up and coming generation of believing children.  The peril of evil in these last days before the end of all things should motivate an avalanche of prayer.  And yet... the church continues to capitulate to entertainment, sleepiness, and unbelief in the power of the truth.  

Keith Green said it well in Asleep in the Light:

The world is sleeping in the dark, that the church just can't fight,
Because it's asleep in the light.  
How can you be so dead when you been so well-fed.  
Jesus rose from the grave, and you can't even get out of bed.  

Peter goes on in v8 to say that above all things we must have fervent love for one another.  Now more than ever, we must love each other - in such a way as to cover over a multitude of sins.  It is so easy to hate in our world.  There is so much difference of opinion, so much uncertainty, so much evil, and so little certainty about anything.  Jesus Himself knew this day would come, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."  Has our love grown cold?  Is my heart cold?  Do I ache, hurt, or shed tears for the lost who are all around me?  If only God would let us see what is coming.  If only our eyes could be opened. May God revive my heart to love Him better by having this "fervent love" for my family, my church, and my neighbors!