Prayer and Self-Control
In the light of an impending crisis, Peter urged his readers to be “self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7b). Simply put, when you pray, keep a cool head. Keep your wits about you.
There is a mental and emotional balance that must prevail when we pray, lest in uncontrolled passion we request what is improper or in fearful reluctance fail to pray for what is needed. Peter would have believers lead a disciplined life, with their faculties well under control. After all, who would know this better than he whose lack of discipline proved disastrous in Gethsemane (Mark 14:37-40, 66-72)?
Peter’s advice seems especially appropriate today. All too often people fail to maintain a distinction between fervency in prayer, on which the biblical authors insist, and careless frenzy. R. C. Sproul has words of sound and sane counsel for us:
“Fervency is an appropriate form of active prayer. Frenzy is not. A fine line exists between the two. Both possess passion; both are loaded with emotion. Fervency crosses over into frenzy at two points: the mental and the emotional. Fervency becomes frenzy when the mind stops thinking and the emotions slip out of control [or perhaps we should say, “into” control]. The frenzied prayer lapses into the incoherence of the whirling dervish, and God is not honored. Frenzy, the counterfeit of fervency, is a contrived attempt to simulate godly fervor. Those who deliberately manipulate people’s emotions are served warning here. There is something holy, something sovereign, about genuine spiritual fervor that cannot be manufactured artificially. It is easy to confuse frenzy and fervor. The confusion is deadly” (Effective Prayer, 45).