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What the Bible says about Diligence in Prayer
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Mark 13:32-37

Our Savior Himself sets some necessary ground rules regarding understanding prophecy. He gets the timing of His return out of the way first: No one knows but the Father, not even Himself! So that should not be an issue with us—we should not worry about it or even be eager to figure it out, as it is a futile task, a time-waster. We will never be right, and it is unverifiable until it happens. Besides, most importantly, doing so provides little-to-no spiritual benefit.

What, then, are we to do? “Take heed, watch, and pray.” Because we do not know when He will return (notice He uses the more general “time” in verse 33, not just the specific day and hour), we must be ready for His return constantly. We do this by taking heed and watching.

“Take heed” is Greek blepete, which means “to notice carefully,” “to be ready to learn,” “to pay attention,” “to be prepared to respond appropriately.” The word-picture within it is a runner on a starting line who hears, “Ready. Get set. . . ,” and is poised to explode out of his stance as soon as the gun fires.

“Watch” is Greek agrypneite, which means “to keep oneself awake,” “to remain alert,” “to be sleepless,” “to be on the lookout,” “to be vigilant,” “to be on watch [duty].” The obvious illustration is a guard standing watch, keeping himself awake and alert to notice anyone approaching.

These commands are modified by “pray,” which implies being in constant communication with God. This modification suggests that our taking heed and watching are spiritual, not physical. The parallel verse in Luke 21:36 says explicitly that our watching and praying are focused on being counted worthy to escape the dangers of the end times and to stand before Christ.

That is how true Christians will be prepared for the Master's return—and for the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, for that matter: by being diligent in keeping themselves on the straight and narrow path to God's Kingdom. This advice is the essence of Jesus' three parables in Matthew 25: We are not to sleep but to keep our lamps full of oil, faithfully use our talents for growth, and serve the brethren as we wait for the coming of our Savior.

Even so, Jesus also gives us signs of His coming so we will know when our redemption draws near. These prophetic guideposts are necessary to motivate us to trust Him and endure to the end.

In Matthew 24:3-8, Jesus lays out the first four seals of Revelation 6, but He twice emphasizes that these kinds of things will happen almost as a matter of course. He says, “All these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (verse 6), and “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8). As such, they do not indicate that the end is imminent. At best, these sorts of events mark the beginning of the end. Of course, religious deception, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes have been happening all along, from before Jesus spoke this prophecy up until modern times. Their value in assessing how close we are to the end lies in their frequency and intensity.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The End Is Not Yet

Luke 11:11-13

The sleeping friend had to be awakened and pestered into lending the bread, but God does not sleep and is never disturbed when we approach Him. We do not have to force Him into giving because He never gives reluctantly; giving is a major part of His nature. Although God is generous, we should pray perseveringly as David did, not being afraid to ask repeatedly according to His will (Psalm 86:1-7, 15-17).

The intensity God desires in our prayers is emphasized by the admonishment to "ask, seek, knock." All asking is not considered seeking, but only patient and persistent asking. All seeking is not considered looking in the right place, but only seeking the truth. All knocking is not considered attention getting, but only energetic and persistent knocking. The threefold admonition is in itself an admonition to ask diligently, repeatedly, and long-sufferingly. By this parable Christ exhorts us to be patient, persevering, and persistent in prayer. If the persistent friend who sought the bread for his visiting friend was not discouraged by a negative response but continued to ask earnestly, how much more diligent should we be in beseeching God who willingly and abundantly gives (Matthew 6:30-33)? God does not answer our diligent prayers to be rid of us but because He loves us (Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 49:15).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend

Ephesians 5:1-4

Do we see a similarity between this passage and Romans 12:1-2: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice. . . . And do not be conformed to this world"? Paul is saying the same thing here, also mentioning the shunning of fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, and other things, that is, sinful behaviors, how the world does things. The point is that we fulfill the showing forth of God's praises through being a godly example to the world. Showing forth God's praises involves our witness of how God lives.

But to do so requires sacrifice—putting human nature to death and overcoming indwelling sin. It is not easy. It requires disciplining ourselves, controlling ourselves, saying, "No!" to ourselves. On the other hand, it also requires us to say, "Yes, I need to do this good thing"—in service, in kindness, in mercy, in love. Either way—positively or negatively—we will have to sacrifice as a sacrifice is involved in almost any act of love.

If we conform to the ways of the world, how can we possibly show forth the praises of God? We would be just like the people of this world. Peter means that, in showing forth the praises of God, we must live contrary to the carnal ways of the world. The principle also includes the preaching of the gospel to the world, giving it a verbal representation of the praises of God through explaining His purpose.

Now, making acceptable sacrifices through Jesus Christ involves doing activities more frequently thought of as being "priestly." Such sacrifices include things like prayer (which we do privately) and study (which we also do on our own). When there is nothing else to distract us, we carve out private time with God's Word—come right before Him, into His presence. Making acceptable sacrifices also includes meditation, whenever and wherever. God tells Joshua in Joshua 1:8, "You shall meditate in [the Book of the Law] day and night." In Psalm 119:97, the psalmist says, "[The law] is my meditation all the day."

It includes praying about the multitude of subjects God reveals in His Word. It means praying for leaders in the church, both the faithful ones and those who have gone astray, at least for a time. It also includes the activities that Paul mentions in Hebrews 13:15-16: offering "the sacrifice of praise to God" and doing good works and sharing our blessings. Jesus advises in Matthew 6:3 that in doing such things, we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. Most of these deeds are things that we are to do privately.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part One)


 




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