|It may seem old-fashioned, but perhaps these are times|
when it would help it we remembered to pray.
It’s sometimes said that when you point a finger toward someone else, at least three fingers point back toward yourself. And as I write today, that’s exactly what I’m doing – pointing at myself.
Many of us, in one way or another, carry considerable concern about events transpiring in the United States – and around the world. We fret over terrorism and its ever-present threat to our safety and well-being. Issues of racism and other forms of discrimination weigh heavily on many of our hearts. Every morning the chatty news shows darken our moods, telling us about new dangers looming before us.
There are myriad other matters, ranging from poverty and economics to the present and future leadership of our nation to the incessant, often embittered cultural clashes going on all around us. We wring our hands. We mutter, grumble and complain. We verbalize our views via social media, as well as in casual conversations that can quickly escalate into debates and arguments. But in the end, we often feel dispirited and helpless, powerless to do anything to facilitate changes we believe are so needed.
What’s a person to do? At such times, I’m often reminded of the exhortation, “When all else fails…pray.”
Too often prayer – even for those of us who profess to follow and worship Jesus Christ, not only as Savior but also as Lord – becomes that last resort, something we turn to when nothing else has seemed to work. Admittedly, that’s the case for me. I worry, fret, vent my frustrations, even wonder how I could intervene directly. Then it occurs to me that maybe it might help to pray.
In actuality, prayer should be one of the first things we undertake, definitely something we continue to do as we are pursuing other courses of action. However, this doesn’t necessitate stopping in our tracks and dropping to our knees, or scurrying to some location that seems appropriately spiritual. Prayer should be as simple as the act of turning to a friend to converse, or picking up our cell phone and making a quick call.
One of the first Bible verses I ever learned was 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.” (How hard can it be to memorize a passage consisting of just three words?) If you prefer an even more concise version, it’s translated, “pray continually,” in the New International Version.
As I pondered these simple yet profound words, it occurred to me we’re being told to remain in a continual attitude of prayer, rather than restricting it to specific times and places. And I think that’s as God intends. One of the last things Jesus declared before ascending to heaven was, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Yes, prayer can take the form of comfortable, casual communication, but there’s also a sense of urgency surrounding it. Repeatedly in the Scriptures we instructed to pray. James 5:16 states, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Despite his lofty status as a leader of the early Church, the apostle Paul also understood the importance of prayer: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
I’ve made mention of this passage before, but in 2 Chronicles 7:14 God assures, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
The fact is, praying fervently can be extremely humbling. It’s an admission of our need for and dependence on God, and if we’ve waited “until all else fails,” we’re also acknowledging we’ve exhausted all other alternatives.
I know there are some who would disagree, but I’m convinced one of the reasons our great country has reached a crossroads of conflict and dissension, seeing a growing divide instead of unity which once defined our land, is because we’ve eliminated God from the equation. Instead of turning to Him for answers, for His mercy and grace and love to be manifested in us and through us, we’ve determined to do things our own way, apart from Him.
In the coming days and months, if the past is any predictor, divisions and disunity and discord figure to escalate rather than evaporate. Civil discourse seems virtually impossible anymore. So we can give up, conceding all is beyond hope. Or we can pray, humbling ourselves – getting over ourselves – and surrendering to God’s sovereign intervention as He responds to our persistent intercessions.
As we’re advised in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I wonder what would happen if we determined to do this consistently and continually. When tempted to gripe and moan, instead we would pray. When inclined to type a sharp retort on Facebook or Twitter, instead we would pray. When moved to lash out in anger, instead we would pray.