1Pe 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
This is an interesting verse in its motivation of prayer to be self-controlled and sober-minded. We probably would think that we should exercise self-control and sober-mindedness in order to be godly and effective in service or to save ourselves from fleshly addictions and so on. But here Peter exhorts us to be vigilant for the sake of our prayers.
I see two ways to take this. He could mean that we need to be careful to be godly so that our prayers will be heard. This would be in keeping with chapter 3:7 where he tells husbands to live in an understanding way with their wives so their prayers are not hindered. This is assumed to mean that God won’t answer your prayers if you are living in known sin especially in your relationship with your wife. I think there is something to be said about this interpretation but there also might be more here than just having our prayers heard; especially in the text above.
Perhaps Peter is thinking back to the night of Jesus’ betrayal when instead of praying he and the other disciples slept. It is clear from the Gospel accounts that the disciples had no clue as to what Jesus was about to face in his cross work. It is also clear that Peter was overconfident in the flesh as seen in his encounter with the girl where he ended up denying Jesus three times. He does this after promising the Lord that he would never deny him.
So as they enter the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks them to pray with him but they are not being vigilant, sober-minded, and self-controlled because they are not aware of the danger they and the Lord were in. They are overcome with the flesh as they grow weary and instead of praying they pamper the body with sleep. There is nothing wrong with sleep, of course, but in this case prayer and the sustaining power of God both in their lives and their Master’s was much more needed.
So perhaps the point Peter is making in 4:7 is not to be diligent in godliness so that God will answer our prayers but more so that we will recognize how important praying is and be vigilant to pray often. Too often we look at prayer as the last resort; “When all else fails, pray!” But I think we are better off to be proactive and always be praying and anticipating our needs rather than walking through life unaware of the enemies of the flesh and our souls. Had the disciples not been “intoxicated” with a kingdom in which they had positions of honor over their enemies and had they been more in tune with the will of Jesus they would have realized how important prayer was that fateful night. Instead they run; they deny; they fear and the only thing that gets them through all this was that Jesus prays for them that their faith will not fail.
Peter’s point then could be that we have to see life as it really is; to have a biblical worldview. God uses our payers to keep us dependent on him and his Word. We are told to prayer constantly, 1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing, because we are dependent on the Lord at all times for everything. When we have the mindset that God just wants me to be happy and have ease and health and things, we will not have any real need to pray and seek God’s face, his help and his will. At best our prayers will be a quick prayer at meal time because we have no real sense of our need for his power.
Part of godliness and successful service is having an attitude of prayer. It isn’t a last resort, it is how God sends his power and blessings to us so we can be effective for him. If we aren’t vigilant and spiritually minded, we will not be effective and constant prayers. In fact, we might not pray much at all.