Prayer and “The End of Days”

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Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7 (NRSV)

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourself for the sake of your prayers.

I can count on my hand the number of television shows I watch on a consistent basis. This past week I enjoyed a couple of very good Halloween themed programs and one “Community” about a community college study group and their escapades. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing zombies or anything of the type, it was just that I initially thought the episode was political satire rather than pure comedy; what with the latent military “zombie-inducing” virus, the stereotypical public ‘over’ reaction and the slow government response. I thought they were lampooning the Bush administrations Katrina response. Especially since the catch-phrase for the show was “The end of Days; the end of Days!”

To set the stage in the sitcom the main characters were trying not to get bit by the zombies so after locking themselves into a room they discussed some possible solutions to their predicament. The ultimate solution was to ride out the zombie attack by turning down the thermostat in the building so that the virus could be contained until the Government arrived, in six hours.

Interestingly enough the ‘Christian’ is the one propagating the catch-phrase ‘The end of Days.’ And that is what caught my attention. You see two phrases jump out at me from this verse; be serious (practice self control, curb one’s passions) and discipline yourselves (keep your minds clear, be calm and collected in spirit). The Christian lady in the sitcom did neither of these in this situation and it is probably Hollywood’s idea that is how most Christians react to situations. She didn’t even pray.

Not exactly how I’d like to be remembered but it did get me to thinking. Peter encourages believers to suffer as Christ did and at the same time he encourages them to keep avoiding the sins that they have given up. Then here in the middle of this passage he writes that they need to be ‘serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.’ Some translations render the phrase “be alert and of sober mind.”

Peter tells us that the end of all things is near. There is a tremendous amount of speculation in regard to what that could mean in the Christian community and I’ll leave that for another day, but he tells us two things we need to do (become) for the sake of our prayers. The first is to discipline our thoughts. This is a difficult task at best but it requires us to constantly be on guard to identify the unwholesome and pointless thoughts we entertain (or entertain us) and dispose of them. These things will either distract us from praying or misguide our prayer.

The second is that we need to learn how to keep our emotions from getting the best of us. We have to be willing to see God’s priorities without losing our peace of mind. Otherwise the weight of the world will overwhelm us. Believe me its hard work to get to the point that stress doesn’t become the driving force behind our prayers.

In the end, prayer is just like physical training, you have to start with the basics and be willing and consistent to work our way up. If we aren’t we’ll get discouraged and give up. But, and here is the prize, the more we grow up in Christ, the more our prayers will be motivated by bringing God’s kingdom to the here and now. Perhaps that will bring on the “End of Days” or perhaps not. But it will bring about a new dynamic in our prayer life and a stirring of the Spirit to be more influential in the world today.

ALMIGHTY God, who alone gave us the breath of life, and alone can keep our hearts filled with your holy desires, I ask you, trusting in your infinite compassion, to sanctify my thoughts and endeavors; that I may neither begin an action without a pure intention nor continue it without your blessing. And grant that, having the eyes of my mind opened to behold things invisible and unseen, my heart may be inspired by your wisdom, and my work upheld by your strength, and in the end, that I may be accepted by you as your faithful servant; through Jesus Christ our Savior.