“Be sound in mind, . . . and be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 PET. 4:7.
1, 2. (a) Why is it vital to “be vigilant with a view to prayers”? (b) What searching questions regarding prayer would we do well to ask ourselves?
“THE most difficult time of the night to stay awake is just before the dawn of a new day,” says a former night worker. Very likely, others who have to remain awake all night would agree. Present-day Christians face a similar challenge because the long night of Satan’s wicked system of things is now at the darkest point in its history. (Rom. 13:12) How dangerous it would be for us to fall asleep at this late hour! It is imperative that we “be sound in mind” and heed the Scriptural exhortation to “be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 Pet. 4:7.
2 Because of where we are in the stream of time, it is wise to ask ourselves: ‘How vigilant am I when it comes to prayer? Do I use every form of prayer, and do I pray continually? Is it my custom to pray for others, or do my prayers usually focus only on my needs and wants? And how important is prayer with regard to my salvation?’
CARRY ON EVERY FORM OF PRAYER
3. What are some forms of prayer?
3 In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul referred to “every form of prayer.” (Eph. 6:18) In our prayers, we may often petition Jehovah for his help in satisfying our needs and in overcoming obstacles. The “Hearer of prayer” lovingly listens to our appeals for help. (Ps. 65:2) However, we should also endeavor to focus on other forms of prayer. These include those of praise, thanksgiving, and supplication.
4. Why should we often praise Jehovah in our prayers?
4 There are many reasons why our prayers to Jehovah should include words of praise. For instance, we are moved to praise him when we think of “his works of mightiness” and “the abundance of his greatness.” (Read Psalm 150:1-6.) Why, the six verses of the 150th Psalm exhort us 13 different times to praise Jehovah! With deep reverence for God, the composer of another psalm sang: “Seven times in the day I have praised you because of your righteous judicial decisions.” (Ps. 119:164) Jehovah surely deserves to be praised. Therefore, should we not praise him in our prayers “seven times in the day,” that is, very often?
5. How is a thankful spirit in prayer a protection?
5 Thanksgiving is another important form of prayer. Paul exhorted Christians in the city of Philippi: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) There is a protection in expressing heartfelt gratitude in prayer to Jehovah. Especially is this the case, since we are living in the last days when people are “unthankful.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) The world is indeed dominated by a spirit of ingratitude. If we are not careful, that spirit can easily rub off on us. Expressing gratitude to God in prayer promotes contentment and prevents us from becoming ‘murmurers and complainers about our lot in life.’ (Jude 16) Moreover, when family heads include thanksgiving in prayers with their loved ones, they encourage a thankful spirit in their wives and children.
6, 7. What is supplication, and concerning what may we supplicate Jehovah?
6 Supplication is earnest prayer coupled with intense feeling. Concerning what may we supplicate Jehovah? We can certainly do so when we are being persecuted or if we are facing a life-threatening illness. At such times, our prayers for God’s help understandably become supplications. But are these the only times when we can supplicate Jehovah?
7 Consider Jesus’ model prayer, and note what he said about God’s name, His Kingdom, and His will. (Read Matthew 6:9, 10.) This world is drenched in wickedness, and human governments are failing to care for even the basic needs of their citizens. Surely, then, we should pray for our heavenly Father’s name to be sanctified and for his Kingdom to rid the earth of Satan’s rule. This is also a time to supplicate Jehovah to have his will done on earth as it is in heaven. Let us therefore remain vigilant, readily making use of all forms of prayer.
8, 9. Why should we be careful about judging Peter and the other apostles for falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane?
8 Although the apostle Peter exhorted Christians to “be vigilant with a view to prayers,” he himself failed to be that way on at least one occasion. He was one of the disciples who fell asleep while Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Even after Jesus told them to “keep on the watch and pray continually,” they did not do so.—Read Matthew 26:40-45.
9 Instead of judging Peter and the other apostles harshly for failing to stay awake, however, we would do well to remember that the day had evidently taken quite a toll on their weak flesh. They had made preparations for the Passover and celebrated it that evening. Then Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal, setting the pattern for future observances of the Memorial of his death. (1 Cor. 11:23-25) “After singing praises, they went out to the Mount of Olives,” walking some distance through the narrow streets of Jerusalem. (Matt. 26:30, 36) By then, it may have been well past midnight. If we had been in the garden of Gethsemane that night, we too might have fallen asleep. Rather than criticize the weary apostles, Jesus lovingly acknowledged that “the spirit . . . is eager, but the flesh is weak.”
10, 11. (a) What lesson did Peter learn from his experience in the garden of Gethsemane? (b) How does Peter’s experience affect you?
10 The experience in the garden of Gethsemane was not wasted on Peter. He learned a painful lesson from his lack of vigilance. Earlier, Jesus had said: “All of you will be stumbled in connection with me on this night.” At that, Peter exclaimed: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” Jesus responded by saying that Peter would disown him three times. Unmoved, Peter declared: “Even if I should have to die with you, I will by no means disown you.” (Matt. 26:31-35) Nevertheless, Peter did stumble, just as Jesus had foretold. Overwhelmed by his final denial of Jesus, Peter “wept bitterly.”—Luke 22:60-62.
11 Peter certainly learned a lesson from this experience and overcame his tendency to be self-confident. Evidently, prayer helped Peter in this regard. In fact, it is noteworthy that the counsel to “be vigilant with a view to prayers” comes from Peter. Are we heeding that inspired counsel? Furthermore, do we “pray continually” and thereby show our dependence on Jehovah? (Ps. 85:8) Let us also bear in mind the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12.
NEHEMIAH’S PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED
12. Why is Nehemiah a good example for us?
12 Consider Nehemiah, who served as cupbearer to Persian King Artaxerxes in the fifth century B.C.E. Nehemiah provides a fine example of someone who prayed fervently. For days, he had been ‘continually fasting and praying before God’ over the plight of the Jews in Jerusalem. (Neh. 1:4) When Artaxerxes asked him why his face was gloomy, “at once [Nehemiah] prayed to the God of the heavens.” (Neh. 2:2-4) With what result? Jehovah answered his prayers and directed matters in a way that benefited His people. (Neh. 2:5, 6) How faith-strengthening this must have been for Nehemiah!
13, 14. What should we do in order to keep our faith strong and resist Satan’s efforts to discourage us?
13 Praying continually, as Nehemiah did, helps us to maintain strong faith. Satan is merciless and often strikes us when we are weak. If we are dealing with illness or are struggling with depression, for instance, we may begin to feel that the time we spend in the ministry each month means very little to God. Some of us may experience distressing thoughts, perhaps because of past experiences in life. Satan would have us believe that we are worthless. His attacks are often designed to play on our emotions and thus weaken our faith. By being “vigilant with a view to prayers,” however, we can keep our faith strong. Indeed, ‘the large shield of faith will enable us to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.’—Eph. 6:16.
14 If we are “vigilant with a view to prayers,” we will not be caught off guard and thus compromise if a test of faith comes upon us unexpectedly. When confronted with tests and trials, let us remember the example of Nehemiah and immediately turn to God in prayer. It is only with Jehovah’s help that we can succeed in resisting temptations and enduring tests of our faith.
PRAY IN BEHALF OF OTHERS
15. What questions should we ask ourselves about praying for others?
15 Jesus made supplication for Peter so that the apostle’s faith would not give out. (Luke 22:32) The faithful first-century Christian Epaphras imitated Jesus in this regard and exerted himself in prayer in behalf of his brothers in Colossae. “He prays hard for you all the time,” Paul wrote them, “that you may stand fast, ripe in conviction and wholly devoted to doing God’s will.” (Col. 4:12, The New English Bible) We do well to ask ourselves: ‘Do I pray hard for my brothers around the world? How often do my prayers include fellow believers who have suffered because of a natural disaster? When did I last exert myself in prayer for those shouldering heavy responsibility in Jehovah’s organization? Have I recently prayed for individuals in the congregation who are facing hardships?’
16. Do our prayers in behalf of others really matter? Explain.
16 Our prayers to Jehovah God in behalf of others can truly help them. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:11.) Although Jehovah is not obliged to act because a large number of his worshippers have made prayerful requests repeatedly, he notes their collective interest and takes into account their genuine and deep concern as he responds to their prayers. So we ought to take seriously our privilege and responsibility to pray in behalf of others. Like Epaphras, we should display our heartfelt love and concern for our Christian brothers and sisters by exerting ourselves in prayer in their behalf. Doing so will add to our happiness, for “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
‘OUR SALVATION IS NEAR’
17, 18. How will being “vigilant with a view to prayers” help us?
17 Just before stating that “the night is well along; the day has drawn near,” Paul wrote: “You people know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers.” (Rom. 13:11, 12) God’s promised new world is near, and our salvation is nearer than we may think. We must not fall asleep spiritually, and we should never allow the world’s distractions to crowd out our time to be alone with Jehovah in prayer. Instead, let us “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” Doing so will help us to engage in “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion” as we await the day of Jehovah. (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) Our way of life will thus reveal that we are staying awake spiritually and that we really believe that the end of this wicked system of things is imminent. May we therefore “pray incessantly.” (1 Thess. 5:17) Let us also imitate Jesus by seeking solitude for private prayer. If we linger in our personal prayers to Jehovah, we will draw ever closer to him. (Jas. 4:7, 8) And what a blessing that will prove to be!
18 The Scriptures state: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Heb. 5:7) Jesus offered supplications and petitions and maintained his faithfulness to God to the very end of his earthly life. As a result, Jehovah saved his beloved Son out of death and rewarded him with immortal life in heaven. We too can be faithful to our heavenly Father regardless of what temptations and trials may come our way in the future. Indeed, we can gain the prize of everlasting life—provided we remain “vigilant with a view to prayers.”