Pain often affects people’s relationships with one another. Aggressive persons might lash out and inflict their personal pain on others. Passive individuals sometimes withdraw into a shell to protect themselves from hurtful situations. Believers should reject both temptations. In Christ, we have a better solution to suffering. Peter began his litany of hope by encouraging the Christians to respond to their suffering by living in a right relationship with each other. In doing so, he offered several specific actions they could take.
First, they should engage in prayer. Not only should they pray about their personal needs, they had the privilege of also praying for one another. Intercession helps us focus on other people rather than our own problems. Instead of leaving us to wallow in self-pity, prayer draws us outside the circle of our pain and gives us a larger perspective in light of others’ suffering. Prayer also brings the situation before the throne of God where we can find grace and help in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16).
1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins, 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
Peter encouraged believers to be alert and sober-minded about their prayers. The word translated sober-minded is very similar in meaning to the term rendered as “alert.” Both suggest suffering believers should be disciplined and serious about prayer. James taught that the fervent prayer of righteous people is effective as we pray for ourselves and others (James 5:16).
If our belief in prayer does not drive us to our knees with urgency, perhaps we are not earnest about either the need or the power of prayer.
Peter emphasized the urgency of prayer because the end of all things is near. Christians of the first century believed Jesus would return soon, particularly as persecution and suffering increased. Through the centuries, believers have maintained watchfulness, anticipating Christ’s return as being imminent. The fact that Jesus has not come back in power and triumph does not mean His promise is untrue. In his second letter, Peter addressed this specific issue by pointing out God was giving humankind time to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Still, the expectation of the end of the age motivated Christians to pray seriously.