“Be sound in mind, . . . and be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 PETER 4:7.
1, 2. (a) Why is it so important to “be vigilant with a view to prayers”? (b) What questions about prayer should we ask ourselves?
“THE most difficult time of the night to stay awake is just before the dawn of a new day,” says a man who used to be a night worker. Others who have to stay awake all night would probably agree with him. We can compare this to the time we are living in. We are at the very end of Satan’s world. It is like the darkest moment of the night, and Christians today need to fight to stay awake. (Romans 13:12) To fall asleep spiritually would be very dangerous. It is necessary that we “be sound in mind” and that we continue to “be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 Peter 4:7.
2 Because we are so close to the end of Satan’s world, it is wise to ask ourselves: ‘How much attention do I give to my prayers? Do I use every form, or type, of prayer, and do I pray continually? Do I often pray for others, or do I pray only about the things I need or want? How important is prayer for my salvation?’
CARRY ON EVERY TYPE OF PRAYER
3. What are some types of prayer?
3 When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he mentioned “every form of prayer.” (Ephesians 6:18) When we pray to Jehovah, we often ask him to give us what we need and to help us solve our problems. The Bible says that he is the “Hearer of prayer,” and because he loves us, he listens when we ask for help. (Psalm 65:2) But when we pray, we should not only ask for the things we need. We should also praise Jehovah, thank him, and supplicate him.
4. Why should we often praise Jehovah in our prayers?
4 There are many reasons why we should praise Jehovah in our prayers. For example, we want to praise him when we think of “his works of mightiness” and “the abundance of his greatness.” (Read Psalm 150:1-6.) Just look at Psalm 150. In six verses, it mentions praising Jehovah 13 times. Another writer of the Psalms showed his deep love for Jehovah when he sang: “Seven times in the day I have praised you because of your righteous judicial decisions.” (Psalm 119:164) Jehovah surely deserves to be praised. So we should praise him in our prayers “seven times in the day,” that is, very often.
5. How is being thankful in our prayers a protection?
5 Another type of prayer is thanksgiving. In his letter to the Christians in the city of Philippi, Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Because we live in the last days of Satan’s world and are surrounded by people who are “unthankful,” it is important for us to thank Jehovah from our heart for all of his blessings so that we do not become like the world. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) The world is dominated by an unthankful attitude. If we are not careful, we can begin to imitate that attitude. But if we are thankful when we pray, we will be happy and will not complain about our life. (Jude 16) When family heads pray with their families and include thanksgiving in their prayers, it will encourage their wives and children to be thankful.
6, 7. What is supplication? What may we supplicate Jehovah for?
6 Supplication is sincere prayer with intense emotion. What may we supplicate Jehovah for? We can ask Jehovah for his help when we are being persecuted or when we have an illness that threatens our life. At times like these, it is understandable that we would beg Jehovah for help. But should we do this only when we are being persecuted or when we are sick?
7 To help us answer this question, let us consider what Jesus said in his model prayer when he spoke about God’s name, God’s Kingdom, and God’s will. (Read Matthew 6:9, 10.) There is so much wickedness in this world, and the governments cannot give people even the most basic things they need. This gives us good reason to supplicate God for his name to be sanctified and for his Kingdom to remove Satan’s rule from the earth. This is also the time to pray to Jehovah to have his will done on earth as it is being done in heaven. So we should stay vigilant and use all types of prayer.
8, 9. Why should we not judge Peter and the other apostles for falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane?
8 Peter wrote to Christians to “be vigilant with a view to prayers,” but at least on one occasion, he himself had not done that. He was one of the disciples who fell asleep while Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Even though Jesus had told them to “keep on the watch and pray continually,” they fell asleep.—Read Matthew 26:40-45.
9 Instead of judging Peter and the other apostles for falling asleep, we should remember that they were very tired because of everything they did that day. They prepared and celebrated the Passover that evening. Then Jesus gave instructions for the Lord’s Evening Meal so that his disciples would know how they should observe the Memorial of his death. (1 Corinthians 11:23-25) The Bible says that “after singing praises, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” To get there, they had to walk through the streets of Jerusalem. (Matthew 26:30, 36) By then, it was probably long after midnight. If we had been in the garden of Gethsemane that night, we too might have fallen asleep. Jesus did not criticize his tired apostles. Instead, he recognized that “the spirit . . . is eager, but the flesh is weak.”
10, 11. (a) What did Peter learn from his experience in the garden of Gethsemane? (b) What do you learn from Peter’s experience?
10 Peter learned a painful but very important lesson the night he fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane. Earlier Jesus had said: “All of you will be stumbled in connection with me on this night.” But Peter answered: “Although all the others are stumbled in connection with you, never will I be stumbled!” Jesus then said that Peter would deny him three times. But Peter did not believe him and said: “Even if I should have to die with you, I will by no means disown you.” (Matthew 26:31-35) Jesus’ words came true when Peter later denied knowing him. When he realized what he had done, Peter felt so bad that he “wept bitterly.”—Luke 22:60-62.
11 From his experience, Peter learned not to trust so much in himself. Prayer helped him with this. How do we know? Because it was Peter who wrote that we should “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” Do we listen to this Bible counsel? Do we pray continually, showing that we depend on Jehovah? (Psalm 85:8) We should also apply Paul’s counsel: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:12.
NEHEMIAH’S PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED
12. Why is Nehemiah a good example for us?
12 Another good example is Nehemiah. He was the cupbearer to Persian King Artaxerxes about 450 years before Christ. Nehemiah prayed to Jehovah with his whole heart. The Bible says that he had been fasting and praying for days about the difficult situation of the Jews in Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:4) When Artaxerxes asked him why he was looking sad, Nehemiah immediately “prayed to the God of the heavens.” (Nehemiah 2:2-4) What was the result? Jehovah answered his prayers in a way that helped His people. (Nehemiah 2:5, 6) This experience must have strengthened Nehemiah’s faith!
Nehemiah is a good example of someone who prayed to Jehovah with his whole heart
13, 14. What should we do to have strong faith and not allow Satan’s efforts to discourage us?
13 If we pray continually as Nehemiah did, it will help us to have strong faith. Satan has no mercy, and he often attacks us when we are weak. For example, if we have a serious illness or if we are very depressed, we may begin to feel that God does not value the time we use to preach each month. Some of us have thoughts that may be very distressing, perhaps because of bad experiences we have had in the past. Satan wants us to believe that we are worthless. He tries to use these negative feelings to weaken our faith. But if we are “vigilant with a view to prayers,” we can have strong faith. The Bible says that our faith is like a large shield that will make it possible for us to stop “all the wicked one’s burning missiles.”—Ephesians 6:16.
14 If we are “vigilant with a view to prayers,” we will not be taken by surprise by a test and be unfaithful to Jehovah. When we face tests and trials, we should remember Nehemiah’s example and immediately pray to God. It is only with Jehovah’s help that we can resist temptations and endure tests of our faith.
PRAY FOR OTHERS
15. What should we ask ourselves about praying for others?
15 Jesus prayed intensely for Peter so that the apostle’s faith would not fail. (Luke 22:32) The Christian called Epaphras, who lived in the first century, imitated Jesus’ example. Epaphras made efforts to pray for his brothers in Colossae. Paul wrote to them: “He prays hard for you all the time, that you may stand fast, ripe in conviction and wholly devoted to doing God’s will.” (Colossians 4:12, The New English Bible) We should ask ourselves: ‘Do I make a real effort to pray for my brothers around the world? How often do I pray for my brothers and sisters who have suffered because of a natural disaster? When was the last time I made an effort to pray for those who have heavy responsibilities in Jehovah’s organization? Have I recently prayed for someone in the congregation who is having difficulties?’
16. Does it matter if we pray for our brothers and sisters? Explain why.
16 Our prayers to Jehovah for our brothers and sisters can truly help them. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:11.) Jehovah does not have to act because many of his servants pray for something again and again. But he is happy to see their genuine interest in one another as he answers their prayers. So we should take our responsibility to pray for others seriously. We should imitate Epaphras and show love for our Christian brothers and sisters by making the effort to pray for them. If we do this, we will be happier, because “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
‘OUR SALVATION IS NEAR’
17, 18. How will it help us if we are “vigilant with a view to prayers”?
17 Just before Paul said that “the night is well along; the day has drawn near,” he 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.” (Romans 13:11, 12) God’s new world is near, and our salvation is closer than we may think. This is not the time to fall asleep spiritually. We should never allow this world to take away the time we need to be alone to pray to Jehovah. Instead, we need to “be vigilant with a view to prayers.” If we do that, it will help us to have “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion” as we wait for the day of Jehovah. (2 Peter 3:11, 12) The way we live our life will show if we are awake spiritually and if we really believe that the end of this wicked world is near. We must “pray incessantly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We should imitate Jesus and find a place where we can be alone to pray to Jehovah. If we take enough time to pray to Jehovah, it will draw us closer to him. (James 4:7, 8) This will be a wonderful blessing!
We should never allow this world to take away the time we need to be alone to pray to Jehovah
18 The Bible says: “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.” (Hebrews 5:7) Jesus supplicated Jehovah and made petitions to Him, and he stayed faithful to God to the end of his life here on earth. Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, Jehovah resurrected his Son and gave him immortal life in heaven. We too can be faithful to our heavenly Father no matter what temptations or trials we will have to face in the future. If we are “vigilant with a view to prayers,” we can have the prize of eternal life.