Prayer changes things … you know that, I know that, but do our practices demonstrate it?
I had reason to go into Accident & Emergency recently, in a great deal of pain. As soon as I’d given my details into reception I felt my phone ping. It was a text from a friend who sent me some words from Psalm 38 including the prayer ‘do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.’ My friend had no idea of my situation, but the timing was absolutely perfect. Right then I needed to know God was with me and for me. Subsequently, I’ve pondered more than a few times:
… what is more important to me, to know God is with me, or to avoid the difficulty?
On this day it related to physical illness, but I’ve applied the question to the challenge of speaking difficult words, responding to criticism and discouragements, challenging circumstances and bewildering experiences. Too often I’ve realised my prayers have sounded more like a shopping list of demands than an expression of a relationship. Too often I’m looking for present relief, rather than pursuing eternal purposes. Too often my focus is me, rather than God.
AW Tozer used to speak about what he described as pro tem atheism:
“we habitually stand in our now and look back by faith to see the past filled with God. We look forward and see Him inhabiting our future; but our now is uninhabited except for ourselves. Thus we are guilty of a kind of pro tem atheism, which leaves us alone in the universe while, for a time God is not.”
As individual followers of Jesus, we do not believe ‘our now is uninhabited except for ourselves’, but do our lives reflect this? As churches we do not believe this, but do those who come into our orbit of influence pick this up?
Thy Kingdom Come is providing a welcome impetus for us to focus prayer on the need for people to come into relationship with Jesus. However, we need to accept the prompt and build this crucial priority into the regular rhythm of living. My own practice is to pray for five people, not yet Christians, to come to know Jesus, on a daily basis. We may well remember the testimony of George Mueller, but just begin to imagine the impact if we all pursue the purposes of God for five other people on a daily basis!
“One day George Mueller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Mueller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Mueller’s funeral the last one was saved.”
Seventy-two is a catalyst for missional movement and we all know that the reality of this is in God’s hands … and yet the sobering reflection of studying spiritual revivals throughout history is the commonality of the presence of praying people.
A few resources:
If you’re in the West of England you might like to join one of the prayer gatherings being hosted by Baptist churches. You can find dates and info here.
There are some great free resources to inspire us to pray on the Thy Kingdom Come website.
Consider coming along to the Baptists Together Mission Conference later in the year and be encouraged there by stories of how God is answering our prayers through creativity and innovation in mission.