“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” ~ Oswald Chambers
I have to be honest. Prayer is tough work. Far too often it’s approached as a last-resort position we, with reluctance, succumb to. Prayer is not our plan A, plan B, plan C or sometimes even our plan D. Instead of viewing prayer as the greater work we live as though it’s nothing more than a default contingency plan. We cry, we research, we seek out friends, family, professionals, anything. It’s our nature to want to fix what’s broken, to have an answer for the hurting, to DO something, anything. When all else has been exhausted, THEN we pray. And sometimes we don’t. I don’t know how many times I have found myself listening to expressed needs and requests for prayer only to promise something and not deliver on it. Really, what I wish I had to offer were the right words to make things better or a solution that would fix everything. Often there’s an awkward silence as I search for words I simply can’t find and solutions that don’t exist. Eventually the silence is filled with an “I’ll be praying for you”. Prayer becomes something I say I’ll do when really, I don’t know what to do. I may believe that prayer is effective and powerful but I certainly don’t consistently live that belief out. Nearly fourteen years ago I was convicted of this very reality when a speaker brought it to my attention that far too often we say we will pray for someone and then go and do nothing. We drop the ball in such a big way when we take the prayer requests of others and then fail to do anything with them. Our words become nothing more but trite empty attempts at empathy. Ever since my eyes were opened to this reality I’ve tried to take prayer more seriously. I think twice before telling someone I will pray for them because I truly want to mean what I say. But often, even in my sincerest intentions, I still find myself dropping the ball. Why? Because the position of knees feels like such a helpless place to be. I too easily forget that prayer is so much more than empty words or a religious discipline as some are wrought to make it. Prayer is not a waste of time. Prayer is powerful and prayer does CHANGE things. Prayer can change me. Sometimes I need that reminder. No, not sometimes. OFTEN.
I need reminded of the people and circumstances prayer changed. Scripture says in James 5 that the fervent prayers of Elijah, a man with a nature like ours, both initiated and ended a three-and a half year drought. In Exodus 32 we see Moses pleading to the Lord on behalf of an idolatress and sinful people who were very near disaster and God in response relenting. In Isaiah 38 God saw Hezekiah’s tears, answered his prayer, and extended his life. It’s a poignant reminder to me that lest I forget God’s compassion and concern He not only hears our prayers, He sees and takes into account our tears as well. And who could forget in Acts 12 Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison as a group of believers gathered in prayer and petitioned God on his behalf?
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20
There you have it. The promise of God’s presence in prayer. If that’s not power I don’t know what is. Prayer turns us from a position of hopelessness to one of hope. It removes us from isolation and connects us to the great I AM himself. Prayer AVAILS much. When we seek the Lord He is there. How many marriages could have been saved if instead of isolation they had turned to a God ready and eager to deliver? And not only turned to God in prayer but had the church body bathing them in prayer as well? How many countless lives could have been given hope and encouragement? How many lost could have been saved? How much could we see God do when we are on our knees? If you would dream with me I dare say quite a lot. I’ve been convicted as of late that on my knees is exactly where I need to be. It’s not the last place I should seek but the first place I should turn. If you have read my previous two posts then you know that life for me is a little messy in it’s current state of transitions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let me say that again. It’s not a bad thing. The reality is life is messy. Life isn’t Face-book, picture-perfect. If we allow the veneers we paint to wash away then we could see we all have areas that look more chaotic than put-together. We might even be able to experience true and genuine fellowship. These “messy” days have reminded me of whose hands they were first filtered through in the first place. They have reminded me that God is a very BIG God. He is and already has answered prayer in some pretty big ways. And in the process of that prayer being answered He’s in the process of changing ME. He can change you too. But don’t take my word for it. Take His.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. ~ Psalm 107:28-30
Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! ~ Psalm 66:20