(#3 in Series)
LET US PRAY!
During the past week we came to the “one month” mark since the terrorists’ attack upon our country, and we saw our country begin its response to the attack.
Not only during the past week but in all the weeks since the attack, many people have offered many prayers. Prayers that have been offered out of faith in the one true God (the Triune God as revealed in Holy Scripture) have surely been heard by God and answered according to His will and wisdom. Prayers that have been offered apart from faith in the true God have only been words that disappear into the air (see Hebrews 11:6 and 1 Peter 3:12).
Calls to prayer, prayer meetings, prayer vigils, and prayer services have been frequent in these recent weeks. Because so many people with so many views about “god” have been offering what they consider to be “prayer,” a confusing mixture of messages has developed around the whole concept of “prayer” and “praying.” The following are a few thoughts of what God teaches us concerning prayer–thoughts brought to mind by “prayer in the news.”
People often seem more active in their prayer life when catastrophe hits. Praying in times of trouble is God-pleasing. God says, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble . . . ” (Psalm 50:15). Yet, prayer is much more than a distress call.
Prayer is anything we say (or think) toward God. If the conversation between a child and parent only consisted of “Mom . . . Dad . . . HELP!” we would conclude that the child/parent relationship is lacking. Children and parents can talk about trouble and needs but also successes, joys, sorrows, the way things are going, things that are on the mind . . . in short, anything! Likewise, we are able to go to our heavenly Father in our troubles and needs (Matthew 7:7), but also to thank Him (Psalm 107:1), worship Him (Psalm 95:1ff), and simply to “just talk.”
Although it is true that crises will underscore the value of prayer, prayer is a blessing at ALL TIMES and should occupy our time each day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
In times of crisis we pour out our hearts to God and boldly take our pleas before the throne of the Almighty God. As important as prayer is in times of crisis, it is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT that we turn to God’s Word for direction, assurance, hope, strength, and confidence.
In prayer we go to God and unburden our hearts; but through His Word God speaks to us and brings into our hearts the power and effective working of His gracious Word of salvation! Going to the WORD of GOD–and not just praying to Him–is something that has been largely lacking in many of the “prayer functions” since the disaster.
A temptation for someone speaking a public prayer is to make the prayer into a sermon or political speech. At least one prayer that was heard in the Sunday afternoon ceremony held at the Minnesota Capitol fell into this trap. The speaker began by addressing a “god” (a generic, undefined, Christ-less god), and five minutes later it occurred to the listener that he was now hearing a political speech about peace. It was difficult to know where the “prayer” had ended and the speaker’s opinions began. Prayer is not a preaching tool. Prayers are not required to be eloquent or impressive and inspiring to an audience. Prayers are not intended to instruct people or to convey any message at all to PEOPLE. TRUE PRAYER conveys our thoughts and whatever lies upon our hearts and minds TO GOD! (cf. Matthew 6:5ff).
Prayer is a form of worship directed to God. For this reason, when we pray with others we will want it to be with those who share in our faith and confession–as is the case with all our worship. Gathering together with fellow Christians to collectively pray and unburden our hearts is good and God-pleasing. However, we may at times be led into the feeling that a prayer offered by many people as a group or in a “prayer vigil” is somehow stronger or more effective than a personal prayer offered privately. This is not true. The prayer of ONE man, Abraham, would have spared the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, if God had found ten believers in those cities (See Genesis 18:23ff). The prayer of ONE man, Elijah, brought an end to the rain and caused it to begin again (see 1 Kings 17:1ff, 1 Kings 18:41ff; James 5:17-18). “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man (a believer — one believer) avails MUCH” (James 5:16).
When we consider the weight that often burdens our hearts and souls, we might well exclaim, “OH! I HAVE SO MUCH IN MY LIFE!” In other words, “I have so much for which to pray!” “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
When we consider how completely in need of salvation we are, we might well exclaim, “OH! I NEED HELP!” In other words, “I will run to the Word of God to hear His words of grace, comfort, and the forgiveness of sins to give rest to my soul.” “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you . . . come to Me and I will give you REST!” (Matthew 9:2; 11:28)
–Pastor Wayne Eichstadt