Summary: Prayer gives us the strength to face the challenges of life in the last days. It is our reliance on God that grants the victory. We need that resolve today.
Let’s look at the theme verse for the last Retreat.
• 1 Peter 4:7 says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.”
• There is an end to this world. And we are now nearer its end than before.
• And therefore, Peter says, there are some important things we need to be doing.
The number one thing he mentions here is prayer.
• He says, be clear-minded (understand what time it is) and watchful in prayer.
• Peter connects the nearness of the end with the need for prayer.
Jesus did the same thing in Luke 21.
• He was telling the disciples the signs of the end times.
• Luke 21:34-36 "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
The point of praying is so that we “may be able to stand before Jesus”.
• We are to pray for strength, so that we can stand strong in the difficult end times.
• If we are not careful, verse 34 says we can be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life.
• Jesus says they will come on us like a trap. These are end-time traps.
And He says, pray that you would be able to escape and not be trapped by them.
• Prayer gives us the strength to stay righteous and not be spiritually and morally corrupted by these end-time stresses.
• Jesus said to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation....” (Matt 26:41)
So both Jesus and Peter connect prayer with drawing near to the end times.
• This is not coincidence. Both of them knew that, unless we are praying, we will find it hard to stand strong in the last days.
• The temptations are great, the distractions are many. Unless you are praying regularly, you will find it hard to stay faithful to God.
For Peter, this need was something close to his heart.
• He had first-hand experience of this failure.
• Jesus asked them to watch and pray with Him while they were at the Garden of Gethsemane. It was at a crucial time before Jesus was arrested.
• But Peter slept, along with the other disciples. He did not pray. He could not stay awake with Jesus.
• When Jesus returned and found them sleeping, He asked Peter, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? 41Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matt 26:40-41)
And that very day, after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing Him three times.
• He was afraid. When the real testing comes, he failed.
• He could not find the courage to stay faithful.
Look at Jesus. He prayed throughout the time in the Garden, while the disciples were sleeping. He was tired as they were but he chose to pray.
• He knows that “the end of His work (or life) is near. Therefore He needs to remain clear-minded and self-controlled, so that He can pray.”
• No wonder He was able to remain calm and composed throughout the trials.
• No wonder He has the strength and courage to face the cross and finish the job He needs to do.
Haddon Robinson [professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary] expressed it very well:
“Where was it that Jesus sweat great drops of blood? Not in Pilate’s Hall, nor on his way to Golgotha. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he ‘offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save him from death’ (Heb 5:7). Had I been there and witnessed that struggle, I would have worried about the future. ‘If he is so broken up when all he is doing is praying,’ I might have said, ‘what will he do when he faces a real crisis?’ Why can’t he approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of his three sleeping friends?’
Yet, when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with courage, and his three friends fell apart and fell away.”
If we do not want to fell apart and fell away, then we need to watch and pray.
• Even Jesus needed to invest time in prayer, regularly, in order to keep His calling clear, to avoid mission drift, distraction and temptation.