It has been a tumultuous few weeks.
Everywhere we look, things are far from normal, far from what they used to be. I believe some of this is for good, but I also look at others with trepidation.
In amongst everything that’s happening there is also a sense of powerlessness. That sense that things are so out of our control and that we are subject to the current that we’re swept up in. I have certainly felt that way at times.
There is also a great sense of confrontation that has arisen in this time. I have felt confronted about how I spent my time before and during COVID-19 and how am I going to spend it afterwards. I have faced confrontation from the protests around the world of views I have held and things I have or have not done, and what the way forward is for myself, for others and our world.
In all of this, a phrase keeps coming to mind: all we can do is pray.
I don’t particularly like that phrase because it suggests prayer is a last resort, which I do not believe it is. I also do not like the phrase because it reminds me that in many situations I have turned to prayer as my last resort.
Prayer must be our first resort. There have been many sermons preached and articles written about this, so this is nothing new, but I do feel a reminder is necessary, especially in the time we are currently in.
The Bible frequently tells us to pray. Philippians 4:6 tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 tells us to pray without ceasing, and James 5:13-14 urges us to pray when things are going well and when they’re not:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.James 5:13-14 NKJV
These verses, only a few of many, remind us we should pray at all times, whether we are in a good time or a bad time.
But why is it that prayer still takes a backseat in so many of our situations?
I wonder if one part of the answer for that is because we do not fully know what prayer is. Or at least I grapple with it.
I find that I struggle to fully comprehend and appreciate what prayer is. I believe prayer is a mystery, and while we can understand elements of it, I do not know if we can fully understand all of it. Not this side of eternity anyway.
Ask anyone what prayer is and I reckon the first answer you’ll get is “talking to God”. Some may also say it’s talking to God and listening to what He says. All of this is true, but I think we rob ourselves of tapping into something much greater if we stop at those definitions.
The Bible has many examples that show us other aspects of prayer and what it can do:
When Elijah prayed, the prophets of Baal were defeated, and the people acknowledged God as Lord.
And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”1 Kings 18:36-39 NKJV
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”
When Nehemiah prayed, the plots of the adversaries to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls were foiled.
Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.Nehemiah 4:7-9, 15 NKJV
And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.
When Job prayed, his friends where pardoned.
Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.Job 42:8 NKJV
When the disciples prayed for boldness to speak God’s word and that He would follow it up with signs and wonders, they were imparted with the Holy Spirit and boldness.
And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.Acts 4:31 NKJV
Again, when the apostles prayed, it brought impartation of the Holy Spirit.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.Acts 8:14-15 NKJV
Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
What these verses show us is that prayer is so much more than simply a conversation. Please don’t get me wrong when I say that. I so value the conversations I have with God, when I can share the deep things in my heart with Him and where He shares the deep things in His heart with me. If that was all prayer was then that would be beyond incredible. But as we have it, prayer has many aspects to it. Deep conversation and ministry is one; power is another.
As the verses above show, prayer changes things. Prayer makes things happen!
If all we can do is pray, then we are already at an advantage.
It is a privilege to pray and an honour to be able to bring situations before God and petition for His intervention.
As we look at the world in this moment, let us pray.
Let us pray like Elijah, that the people may come to know God again.
Let us pray like Nehemiah, that the plans of the enemy may be foiled.
Let us pray like Job, for the pardoning of the sins of others and our own.
Let us pray like the disciples and the apostles, for an impartation of the Holy Spirit so we as God’s people may speak His word with all boldness while He stretches out His hands to perform marvelous signs and wonders.
If there is only one thing we do in this time, let it be to pray.
And let it be to pray boldly.