The Vital Role Of Prayer In These Last Days
By Rich Carmicheal
"The end of all things is at hand; therefore…" (1 Pet. 4:7). When someone under divine inspiration, in this case the Apostle Peter, begins a statement with such a solemn truth, the next thing he writes is obviously of great consequence. After all, it literally makes all the difference in the world that the end of all things is near. The Day of the Lord is coming like a thief and "the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10-11). The Lord is ready to judge the living and the dead, and those who are in sin shall give account to Him (1 Pet. 4:4-5). In fact, even now "it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" (4:17-18). The Day of the Lord is near, judgment is already upon us in some measure, and greater judgment is to come. These are somber truths.
With this in mind, note how Peter finishes the statement: "The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer" (1 Pet. 4:7). As we consider the realities that are soon to come, Peter exhorts us to be serious, circumspect and watchful so that we can be given to prayer. Why such emphasis on prayer?
Prayer in the Life and Ministry of Jesus
The Apostle Peter knew well the vital role of prayer. He first discovered its significance and power as he witnessed the life and ministry of Jesus. He knew that Jesus often withdrew to secluded places to spend time in prayer, at times getting up early, even before daylight, and at times staying up late to pray, even throughout the night. Peter understood that the authority and power in Jesus’ words and deeds flowed out of a life of prayer.
In fact, Peter had benefited directly from Jesus’ prayers for him. When Jesus warned him that the devil would sift him like wheat, and that Peter would deny even knowing Jesus, He also encouraged him, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (see Luke 22:31-34). How significant that prayer was for Peter’s restoration and future ministry!
Peter also understood the power of prayer through the incredible statements Jesus had made about prayer during the three years Peter had spent with Him as a disciple. For example, when Peter had commented about the fig tree that had withered, Jesus told him and the other disciples, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you" (Mark 11:22-24). Jesus also had promised, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:12-13).
Prayer in the Life and Ministry of Peter
Jesus prepared Peter and the other disciples for a life of prayer, and just before His Ascension, He told them to stay in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). For ten days they, along with other believers, joined together constantly in prayer (Acts 1:14), and the Lord blessed them profoundly on the Day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Peter immediately experienced the power of answered prayer as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached with great boldness and with great effectiveness as three thousand responded to his message (Acts 2:14-41). He and the other believers continued to devote themselves to prayer, and in response the Lord continued to bless them deeply and added to their number daily (2:42-47).
Even when Peter faced persecution, he did not turn away from prayer, but pressed in to the Lord all the more. For example, after he and John were released from prison and threatened following the healing of the lame man, they gathered with the other believers to call out to the Lord. Their prayer, recorded in Acts 4:24-31, reveals their high view of the power and sovereignty of the Lord, as well as their faith in Him to grant them boldness in proclaiming His Word, and to display His mighty power through the name of Christ. God heard and honored their prayers, shook their meeting place, and filled them with the Holy Spirit and boldness.
As the church continued to grow, an issue developed with food distribution to widows (see Acts 6:1ff.). Peter and the other apostles knew that prayer was absolutely essential to the well-being and growth of the church and had to remain central in the life of the church. They therefore delegated this matter of food distribution to other responsible men so that they (the apostles) could continue to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. As a result, "the Word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly…" (v. 7).
Peter also saw the vital role of prayer in the expansion of the Gospel to the Gentiles. This significant story began as Cornelius, a God-fearing centurion, was praying, and an angel appeared to him and told him that his prayer had been heard (10:3-4, 30-31). The next day, while Peter was in a time of prayer, the Lord gave him a vision to show him that the Gospel was for the Gentiles as well (10:9-16, 28, 34-35). When Peter heeded the vision and went to preach to Cornelius and his household, the Lord graciously poured out His Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles.
Yet another illustration of the power of prayer in Peter’s life is the account in Acts 12 of his miraculous deliverance from prison. In this case, Herod had James the brother of John put to death, and had arrested and imprisoned Peter as well. The church, however, prayed fervently for Peter, and an angel rescued him from the prison and restored him to the other believers. After this incident, "the Word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied" (v. 24).
So when Peter writes for his readers to "be of sound judgment and of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer," he writes as one who knows firsthand how significant and powerful prayer is. His life and ministry show that prayer is vital to the spiritual well-being and growth of individual believers as well as the corporate body. Through prayer believers are filled with the Holy Spirit and with anointing and boldness to effectively proclaim the Word of the Lord. Through prayer, doors are opened for the expansion of the Gospel and the conversion of souls. And through prayer the Lord displays His mighty power, performs miracles and pours out His grace.
The Great Need for Prayer In Our Day
How tragic, then, that in our day prayer is so often neglected. Although God’s Word makes it absolutely clear that prayer is vital to Christian life and ministry, too many churches and individuals seem eager to try anything and everything but prayer. What R.A. Torrey wrote so long ago is unfortunately still very much true in our day: "We live in a day characterized by the multiplication of man’s machinery and the diminution of God’s power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work, organize, organize, organize, give us some new society, tell us some new methods, devise some new machinery; but the great need of our day is prayer, more prayer and better prayer."
This issue of Herald of His Coming focuses on the theme of prayer. The Herald staff hopes the messages encourage, challenge and equip you to become more devoted to seeking the Lord in prayer for His presence and power that are so desperately needed. The time is short, and we need to take deeply to heart the call to "be of sound judgment and of sober spirit for the purpose of prayer." Our intercession (or lack thereof) at this crucial time is of eternal consequence, not only for ourselves, but for many other people as well. Although the Lord is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), our days are numbered. Let us with reverence and passion press in to Him during the time that remains, that He might work through our prayers to bring spiritual awakening to save and sanctify many!