What Is Prayer?



April 1, 2022

1 Peter 4:7 NASB

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.


Just when I thought we were ready to turn the corner from verse 7  to verse 8, I got an early morning email from my friend and fellow reader, Harlan, who reminded me I hadn’t even talked about prayer, which is the point of verse 8. So we will add a fifth day of coverage to this seventh verse of the fourth chapter. 

We come to the last five words: for the purpose of prayer.  

We all have some notion of prayer and some practice of it. It is time to take that notion deeper and the practice to the next level. What is prayer? We mostly think of prayer as something we say to God. All of this we have worked through over the past four days of engaging this text is for a reason. Look how it is structured.

Main point: The end of all things is near…
Next step: Therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit…
Outcome: for the purpose of prayer.

What is prayer? The term Peter deploys here is “proseche” (pronounced pros-yoo-khay). We see it at least 37 times across the New Testament. Pros-yoo-khay, or prayer, is a convergence of place, disposition and activity, conveying more than a mere functional practice but getting at an overall orientation and way of being with God, in Christ, for the world. 

There is a beautiful story from years ago about an interview Dan Rather did with Mother Teresa. He was asking her about prayer. Here’s how I remember it. Rather asked Mother, “When you pray, what do you say to God?” She replied, “I don’t say anything. I listen.” He then prodded further, “What then does God say?” She responded, “God doesn’t say anything. He listens.” Then she wryly added, “And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it.” 

We could jump off the diving board of 1 Peter 4:7 and spend the next year working our way through the whole of Scripture exploring the mystery and power of prayer. I scratched the surface in a Daily Text series on prayer a few years back, which I intend to revisit and deepen at some point. If you are interested you can check that out here. 

Prayer is the way our relationship with Jesus shifts from casual acquaintance to deep knowing and from unfocused stuckness to movemental action in the world. It is an ongoing cyclical movement beginning with awareness, rising into attention, becoming attunement, and settling into a deeply secure attachment to Jesus and others. There is a biblical term for the whole process: Abiding. O.K., I love it when an awesome alliteration comes together!! Do I get an A+ for that one? 

See why wakefulness, watchfulness, and sobriety figure so prominently in all of this? This is the deepest essence of the Church Jesus is building—a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. 

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

This is how Jesus saves the world. He calls us to join him. There’s an urgency without anxiety; a power without striving; 

Wake up sleeper and rise from the dead. . . 

Your turn: 


Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. We see in you the life that is possible for us; not because we can somehow do it, but because you would willingly and willfully live in and through us. Lead us into this way of awareness, attention, attunement, and attachment that becomes the fiery illumined life of abiding prayer. Holy Spirit, you are ever whispering this invitation to my spirit. Awaken me to hear it. Bring me into the sober intoxication of this kind of life I was made for. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Do you sense the Lord calling and leading you to a deeper and richer way of prayer? Don’t let it be a burden on you. Consider it an invitation. Don’t launch into a lot of activity. Just tell him you receive the invitation and ask for the next step of guidance. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.