Sickness and death are very much a part of life. In the past few weeks our prayer ring has had prayer requests for eight or nine families who have lost loved ones. We have a constant flow of requests for those who are sick, everything from the flu to major operations. At prayer time yesterday in our worship service the entire congregation gathered to lay hand on and pray for three people who are facing operations this week. All of this is not just wishful thinking to salve our own hurts. Prayer is the real and powerful work of God’s people. Jesus taught us to be persistent in prayer, believing that we do receive the touch of God’s grace through it. God’s people are to be people of prayer. We have seen our Lord work in ways impossible by any other means. Prayer is not a one time shot in the dark, but our ongoing work. Jesus told his disciples “a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”(Luke 18:1) God loves us and works in each of our hearts. We are to come to Him many times a day with all of our needs, cares, joy, and worship. He does hear and respond.
Americans are accomplishment oriented. We call it Yankee ingenuity. We see a problem, we’ve got to solve it. Americans have a longer work week, and work more weeks of the year than most Europeans. We have built a life style on activity. We even work at our play. Activity, therefore, seems to define our idea of accomplishing something. Maybe that’s why we have a difficult time with prayer. It doesn’t feel like we are “doing” anything. Minds wander, doubts creep in, and all kinds of things seem to intrude on the time we set aside for prayer. But true prayer is real work. There is often more accomplished in the time spent in prayer than in any amount of physical activity. Perhaps we need to reorient our thinking about what work is, and set about the real task God has given to every one of us – to come to Him in earnest prayer.
Gracious Lord God, You have created us and all that is. The heavens declare Your glory, and all the earth shows Your handiwork. The mark of Your life is upon all that exists. And You have made me. You knew me before I was born, and created me for Your good purpose. I have not always sought to know that purpose, or follow it when I did. Forgive me, Good Lord. Yet, You have redeemed me through Christ Jesus, and because of Him I can always be restored again to Your grace. You have given me each breath that I take, and You have given me spiritual breath by the presence of Your Holy Spirit in my life. You continue to guide my life, and give me strength for every situation. You have given me family and friends, and material blessings beyond anything I deserve or could earn. For all of this, Good Lord, I am forever grateful. My desire is to come ever closer to You, and to give you thanks and praise for all eternity. To You be glory and honor, now and forever, through Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen
We know that prayer is important, and do believe that God answers prayer. We should never be hesitant about asking a brother or sister in the Lord to prayer for us. God does hear and respond. We are part of the Body of Christ. The needs of one part of the Body are of a concern to all the other parts. As we have a need, we should reach out to our fellow believers, asking for their strength in supporting us with prayer. Likewise, we should be aware of others needs, and ask if we can prayer for them – often, right there on the spot. We should not be self conscious about this. We might be together in a room with other people, or even out on the parking lot. Perhaps end a phone conversation with prayer. The setting doesn’t matter. What matters is that we stand together in faith before our Lord. We are one together in Jesus, in both our strengths and our needs.
Do you struggle for others? The Apostle Paul wrote, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”(Colossians 2:1-3) This is a “struggle” or intensity of prayer to God on behalf of others, even ones he had never actually met. He was asking that they be encouraged, be united in love, and deepened in their understanding of God. This is our desire as well. It is the effort we are to be about on behalf of those we know, or know of. The three things Paul asked the Lord to provide are necessary for everyone the Lord lays on our hearts. We are to enter this same struggle in the intensity of our prayers. It is an effort that does bear fruit.
Do you struggle for others? The Apostle Paul wrote, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” (Colossians 2:1) This is a struggle, or intensity of prayer to God on behalf of others, even ones he had never actually met. He was asking that they be encouraged, be united in love, and deepened in their understanding of God. This is a work we are called to be about on behalf of others, even on behalf of those we only know of, especially our brothers and sisters being persecuted in many part of the world. The three things that Paul asked the Lord to provide are necessary for everyone we know – that they be encouraged, be united in love, and deepened in their understanding of God. As we enter into this same struggle we know it is an effort that does bear fruit.
Persecution of Christians is something we have read about during the first and second century under the Romans, but there is more Christian persecution in various parts of the world today than ever before. It is something that we don’t think enough about, and especially to include in our prayers. An easy web search will reveal numerous statistics and personal situations where our brothers and sisters in the faith are being oppressed, tortured and killed because they believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Prayer is our offensive weapon, and we should use it regularly. We are also challenged to consider our own faith, and the degree to which we are willing to stand against opposition. We are facing it more even within our own land. The persecuted Church teaches us that if Jesus is worth anything, He is worth everything.
Workers are rebelling against the early Black Friday opening of stores, and well they should. But this points to a problem with roots far deeper than merchants wanting to make a profit this Christmas season. Unfortunately, it is one of those problems I point out from time to time that we can’t change. Since the Industrial Revolution we have created a society dependent upon acquiring things. We must sell more. We want more. We must earn more. We make all kinds of changes and compromises in order to keep our way of life going. I said, we are not going to change it, short of a total economic collapse. I’m just as dependent upon goods and services as everyone else. But can we at least recognize it? Can we realize that this is not where the Lord wanted us; that it is one of the idols we’ve created, and bring it before the Lord in repentance and prayer? It was only when God’s people saw their desperate condition that they cried out to the Lord for help, and He heard their prayers.
Jesus counseled persistence in prayer. We have all had times of having prayed, maybe even over years, and not seen any change. It is easy to get discouraged. Yet, Jesus tells us that “we ought always to pray, and not lose heart.” (Luke18:1) God does not take away another persons free will. He works slowly but persistently on that heart. We may not see any outward change, but that does not mean our prayers are not being answered. Then too, God answers in ways that are best, not always exactly as we ask. He is our Father, and has our very best interest at His heart. We may ask for candy, but He knows that we need our vegetables. The ability to pray is a great blessing from our God. It is His invitation to come into His presence. Let us never lose heart, but continue to pray.
There is an old gospel song that says, “prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.” That’s a cute saying with some truth in it, but it gives an overly simple and sentimental picture of prayer. Prayer is about our relationship with Jesus, and every relationship takes work. Prayer is a great privilege. It is a blessing our Lord give us, but effective prayer takes time and discipline. Certainly, we can and should pray briefly and frequently throughout the day. This is a great joy. But a regular time set aside daily for prayer is our real ministry in the Lord. Prayer is a real work and ministry that doesn’t depend upon age or physical ability. Some of the greatest prayer warriors are in their nineties. The more we engage in the work of prayer, the more rich and beautiful that prayer time becomes.