God’s Word tells us, “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7, NLT). Let’s focus on this rich and deep word “earnest.” What does it mean to be “earnest” in our prayers? To help us understand earnest praying let me give you ten brief descriptions and insights regarding this incredible aspect of prayer.
Earnest praying is intelligent prayer.
The word “earnest” (sophroneo) comes from a term that literally means “be in one’s right mind.” It has the idea of being under control mentally. This is the believer who thinks through and evaluates what he/she is praying about: filtering the prayer through Scripture and reason.
Earnest praying is discerning prayer.
In addition to being an intelligent prayer, it is also carries the idea of discernment. The word “earnest” (sophroneo) stresses a clearheaded sensibility that allows a person to appraise a situation and act appropriately. It is examining the situation as accurately as possible and praying accordingly.
Earnest praying is doctrinal prayer.
This prayer is based on God’s Word. When we pray we need to take Scripture into account regarding our petitions, intercessions, thanksgiving, and praises. One form of Scriptural praying is using God’s Word as a guide for praying. For example: take a passage like Philippians 1:7 and pray it over someone else. It might sound like this, “Lord, I ask that Joe’s love would overflow more and more, and that he will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding so that he can understand what really matters resulting in a life that honors you.” Earnest praying is prayer that is driven by the Scriptures.
Earnest praying is reality prayer.
This command to pray earnestly, immediately follows a reminder that “the end of the world is coming soon” (1 Peter 4:7a). Due to the meaning of the word “earnest” (clear-minded), Peter is cautioning us against giving way to end time frenzy and panic. From time to time I hear about believers who quit their jobs, relocate to an isolated area, join a group of survivalist, or move to another country because they believe the end of the world is coming or some type of judgment by God is coming. For many, their reaction is not that of faith but of fear, worry, panic and delusional thinking. Chuck Swindoll in his book, Hope Again, commented about earnest praying: “Having sound judgment and a sober spirit means you don’t panic when a natural disaster hits, or when an official is elected that you don’t like, or if the nightly news seems packed with increasingly bad news. Rather, you keep your nose to the grindstone and continue your work with an ongoing sense of purpose and urgency” (218). Earnest praying protects the believer from impulsive reactions, emotional drifting, and an unbalanced life and ministry. Earnest praying helps you face life realistically, even in light of all the disasters and wickedness that comes with the end times (1 Timothy 4:1-5). In context, Peter’s concern is not that we become so excited about the coming of Christ that we fail to live out the responsibilities of the present (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 2:2).
Earnest praying is expectant prayer.
Pray in light of Christ’s return (1 Peter 3:7). Convinced by God’s Word that Jesus will return one day and because of that coming and glorious event pray earnestly. You are expecting Jesus to return: you are looking forward to that day. As a result, your life and prayers are motivated by His return.
Earnest praying is determined prayer.
It is praying with a mind fixed on spiritual priorities (Josh. 1:8; Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:2, 16; Titus 2:11-12). Satan and his kingdom will do whatever they can to distract you: they will use your own self-centeredness, deception, and the sins of the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-16) to deflect and sidetrack your walk with God. Clear-minded, intelligent, and focused praying will protect you from Satan’s destructive detours.
Earnest praying is effective prayer.
It accomplishes the purposes of God. Peter has already mentioned how a Christian husband’s prayer can be productive (1 Peter 3:7) and how God’s ears are attentive to the prayers of those who seek His ways (1 Peter 3:12), so here Peter sees this as part of accomplishing God’s purposes in the lives of believers as the end of time draws closer. Earnest prayer is effective, useful, and productive praying for the believer and those he or she is interceding for (cf. James 5:16; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2).
Earnest praying is consistent prayer.
Peter wrote, “Be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.” Notice the word “prayers” is plural. One meaning of this is multiple prayers throughout the day. Earnest praying is learning to walk in prayer. Pray when you get up, when you are on your way to work or school, praying for those you encounter. It is a lifestyle of prayer that is consistent throughout the day, weeks, and months.
Earnest praying is variety of prayer.
The idea behind the word “prayers” being plural can also refer to different types of prayers throughout the day. There are times you need to simply praise the Lord and tell Him how great and wonderful He is. At other times you find yourself interceding for another’s need and then you discover yourself bringing a petition before God regarding something in your life. At other times you need to thank God for what He has done or confess a sin that you have committed. Regardless of what kind of prayer you are praying you are talking to God about it in earnest – with a clear mind, thoughtfully, and backed up by God’s Word.
Earnest praying is group prayer.
Peter wrote, “Be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.” That “your” is plural. He is talking to the body of Christ as a whole. Even though you can and should pray earnestly on your own, it is just as important to earnestly pray with others. Find or lead a group of believers in praying clearly, scripturally, and faithfully for other believers and those yet to come to Christ.
Questions to Consider:
- Would you describe your prayers as “earnest” praying?
- Who does God want you to pray earnestly for? (a friend, your pastor, the church, a spouse or child, someone at work or school)
- How does hearing someone pray scripturally and intelligently impact you?
- Why do some Christian’s prayers lack this element of earnestness in them?