Ugh. I have been awakened and seemingly am unable to return to sleep. So I’ve been laying here trying to shift my mind away from difficult things and to focus on scripture.
1 Peter 4:7-11 is an arresting passage that ends with a call to believers to use the gifts that God has given them to serve one another in the strength that God grants, so that God may be glorified (verse 11). This is a beautiful picture of how church is supposed to work.
But what I want to focus on here tonight is verse 7:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
“The end of all things is at hand…” I won’t focus much on this except to say that my huge ESV Study Bible states that this does not mean that Peter thought that the return of Christ was imminent. My response to that is, how do they know that is not what Peter thought? Peter definitely might have been thinking that Christ’s return was to come shortly. Haven’t people throughout the ages continually thought this? Haven’t people throughout the ages continually longed for His return? I know that I do, with an intense fervency. I would think that Peter would have longed for Christ’s return as well. I’m sure that Peter never imagined it would be 2000 years later and Christ still will have not returned. My soul. I don’t know what to think about that tonight.
But it’s the second part of the verse that I want to focus on tonight: “therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
What does it mean, to be self-controlled and sober-minded, for the sake of your prayers? This is an important question I think, as I lay here trying to pray after being awakened.
Be “Self-Controlled”: It seems that several different translations of scripture, translate this word differently. One of my commentaries laid out the greek word as being:
sōphronēsate, lit., “be of sound mind”
This is the only place in scripture that uses this word, sophronesate. But what in the world does it mean to be of “Sound Mind”? I very often, in prayer, do not think that I have a “sound mind”. My mind is all over the place, particularly when it comes to prayer. We often associate the phrase “sound mind” in a negative light—meaning we refer to a person who is “not of sound mind”, as someone who is mentally unbalanced. Not well in the mind. How does all of this relate?
Reasoning this out in my own “sound mind”, I think I can relate it to what takes place when I study scripture such as I’m doing here. It is focus. It is a clear mind. Now, obviously this does not happen automatically. For example, in approaching scripture tonight, after being awakened, I was definitely not of “sound mind”. But as I’ve written and tried to wrap my mind on this passage, my mind has become clearer. More focused. Difficult things have faded. I think the same thing happens in prayer. I so often come to prayer with my mind scattered, unable to focus. It’s easy to want to give up. But if I will keep at it, if I will persevere, if I will determine to focus, I generally can come to a place of having a “sound mind”. Or “self-control”. Does this always happen? Most certainly not. But I must keep trying to approach prayer in this manner.
While sōphronēsate is a very interesting concept, I’m more fascinated with the idea of being “sober-minded” in regards to prayer–for the sake of your prayers.
Of course, the first thing we think of when we hear the word “sober” is “not intoxicated”. But that is not the meaning here in this passage. I, of course, went to my dictionary to look up the meaning of “sober”. Here is what I found:
marked by seriousness, gravity, solemnity, etc., as of demeanor, speech, etc.:
The implications of this are important. Does this mean we are to approach God with a “high church mentality”, a frown upon our face at the gravity of the situation? Well, maybe sometimes, but I don’t think that’s quite what scripture means here either. Instead I think it is more about the overall attitude which we don when approaching prayer.
Prayer is not a game. It is not a means to “get what you want”. It is not intended to help you find that close parking space in front of the supermarket. (Some would disagree with me on that point.) What I mean by that is prayer is not to be taken flippantly, but with a healthy measure of seriousness. It is communication with the Almighty God. It is building a relationship with God. Yes, there is joy in that relationship; I don’t think approaching it seriously takes away that joy. Instead, I think approaching prayer seriously enhances that joy, multiplies it even.
Because when we approach prayer as a true means of connecting with God our Father, there is room for true joy. There is room for making our requests known. There is room for soul work. There is room for lament. There is room for relationship.
O, that I would approach prayer with self-control and sober-mindedness! I think that it must be a discipline; meaning, one must discipline oneself to approach prayer like this for it to become ingrained in the fabric of our soul.
3:30 AM. I suppose I will begin my day now. Sleep is so elusive on nights like tonight. Scripture work is good, but I’m not ready to return to sleep tonight. But here is a job update for those who read this blog regularly: We’ve had an intense week of work meetings at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hampton. I’ve decided that this industry runs on tremendous work-loads, lots of coffee and sheer panic. Deadlines are huge. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my “teammates” from across the United States, very much so. The potential growth for this company is huge and I’m very excited to be a part of it. To say I have much yet to learn is an understatement. But I’ve been surprised at how much I have been able to actually track and follow on the technical side. Today will be our last meeting. I have a full page of questions that I am looking forward to getting answers to, mostly having to do with documentation and fine details. It will be another intense day. My brain is approaching capacity. I’m going to need to make more room in there.