For the Sake of Our Prayers
by Tom McLemore
Prayer is indispensable to the Christian life. It is important to think about the basic mechanics of prayer, but there are deeper issues involved, including how our attitude and conduct affect our praying. The Apostle Peter addresses this in his first epistle. The foundational truth involved is stated in 1 Peter 3:12 (Psalm 34:15)– “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil.” There are three things we must do for the sake of our prayers.
First, we must conduct ourselves with fear for the sake of our prayers. “And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17).
The Father we invoke is the Judge. He judges impartially according to deeds. There is no need to fear being treated unfairly by him. Yet, he does judge, and he is ready to judge (1 Peter 4:5). Please don’t accept the common view that God is a benign deity who never would condemn anyone.
However, the Judge whom we invoke is our Father. He has redeemed us (1 Peter 1:18-21). He gave his Son to die for our sins to bring us to him (1 Peter 2:24, 25; 3:18). It behooves us, then, to have respect and show the utmost reverence and honor to our Father to whom we pray. Jacob remembered that God was the “Fear” of his father Isaac (Genesis 31:42, 53). Jesus, heard for his fear, set the standard for us as we pray (Hebrews 5:7-9). “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts...” (Malachi 1:6). May God never be moved by our attitude or our conduct thus to speak of us!
Second, we husbands must live considerately with our wives for the sake of our prayers. “Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Peter teaches that the manner in which husbands treat their wives has an effect upon prayer. The Christian husband is considerate of his wife's needs, views her as of utmost value and worthy of special care, and recognizes her as his equal as an heir in the household of God. If a husband disregards his wife's needs, does not value her, and looks down upon her, God will not look favorably on his prayers (assuming that such a character would even be likely to offer them). It is troubling to think that there are some inconsiderate or even abusive husbands who presume to lead public prayer (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8).
This teaching rests on a broader principle that applies to all Christians. The mistreatment of people comes before the Lord as well as prayers (James 5:4; cf. Luke 18:1-8), and the Lord takes it personally (Matthew 25:40, 45; Acts 9:5; 22:7; 26:14, 15). Therefore, let all husbands who aspire to being heard by God treat their wives according, and let any of us who desire for God to listen to us be mindful of how we treat others!
Third, we must keep sane and sober for the sake of our prayers. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).
If we are persecuted for being Christians, we must control our emotions (“passions” 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11; 4:2, 3) and must not retaliate or respond in kind, so that we will be true to our Master (1 Peter 2:19-23). Rather than retaliate, we are to pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). We are to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We also are to pray for all those who are persecuted (1 Peter. 5:9).
This calls for Christians to “keep sane and sober,” viz., to think, keep our heads, keep our cool, and keep a grip on ourselves so we can pray and pray effectively. Here, prayer is not the means to an end (getting what we desire) but the end itself. The objective is to remain in a state conducive to prayer (not angry, resentful, vengeful, etc.). Jesus exemplified this (Luke 23:34), and Stephen followed Jesus' example (Acts 7:60). Peter suggests the kind of thinking that we must do in the midst of persecution if we are to be able to keep sane and sensible for our prayers (see 1 Peter 1:13; 3:6, 13-16; 4:1-2, 12-16, 19).
The general truth that we are being taught by Peter is that our attitude and our conduct have an effect on our prayers. Revere our Father as he deserves, for the sake of your prayers. Treat one another right, and especially let husbands treat their wives right, for the sake of your prayers. Keep control of your emotions and behavior, especially when persecuted, for the sake of your prayers. May God help us to pray more, more fervently, more genuinely, and more effectively.
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