By Not Known
Today’s passage begins, “Hear my prayer, Lord …” How often have we uttered a cry for help to the Lord, perhaps in our times of trials, temptations or trouble? The spiritual discipline of prayer is sometimes an illusive concept – yes, generally, we are discipled and taught that prayer is essentially talking to God, but more often or not, prayer can seem like a one-sided monologue, or a crisis hotline, maybe even a habitual wishlist or to-do list of wants and complaints.
As the youth ministry begins a sermon series on the book of James, we are reminded of a passage at the end which talks about the prayer of faith. It talks of elders praying for the sick, confessing our sins to one another, and the prayer of the righteous man, with the example of Elijah (James 5:13-18). Jesus Himself taught us the Lord’s prayer, which we sing-pray at every Sunday service, yet for many, this often is the one thing that we most often struggle with, both individually and corporately as a church. Why is this so?
Firstly, prayer is a conversation. It was never meant to be a one-way lifeline to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Romans 8 tells us that “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (v. 27) and even “Christ Jesus who died … is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (v. 34). Have you ever thought about it that way? Sometimes when we hear of a friend or loved one in need, we send them a message to say we are praying for them. How about the baffling notion that God Himself is praying, interceding for us? Are we often too quick to speak, rather than quick to listen to what God might be speaking to us through prayer?
Secondly, prayer is a dependence on God. Martin Luther put it this way, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” He would wake early each day to commit his day and plans to the Lord. Contrast our frantic scrambling to get up, get ready and leave for school or work in the morning, with an occasional chance of squeezing in a rushed 10-15 minutes of quiet time. Do we believe and more importantly, live our lives with the conviction that we need and depend on God to work, to bless, to enable all that we are and do with our lives, families, work and ministry? Sometimes it feels like prayer is a paradox. It is one of those both-and concepts in the Bible, to which Augustine wrote, “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” Perhaps this is the challenge we have, we feel that we need to work, as though everything depends on us, and not on God. Like salvation, we both need to depend on God for His grace and mercy, and yet “work out” our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13).
Lastly, prayer is a commitment. It is a commitment to the Lord, a spiritual discipline we have to spend our time and lives nurturing and cultivating. It is also a commitment to one another in the body of Christ. There is a special and valuable place for corporate prayer. The early church in Acts was birthed through prayer, as were several movements and revivals of God in church history. It has to start with ourselves, not the worshipper on your left or right. As we commit ourselves to prayer, I believe that we will hear God speak to us, see God work in and through us, and experience God moving and transforming our church community towards His good purposes and direction. Will you pray?