May2WedMay 2, 2018
This week is one in which prayer will get national attention. Perhaps you will hear news reports of prayer gatherings among state leaders or community members on May 3rd for the “National Day of Prayer.” Perhaps you will even join other Christians from Grace Church, New Castle Bible Church, and First Mennonite Church in our Sanctuary on Thursday at 7pm for a time of prayer…and I hope you do!
But a lingering question which can often detract Christians from praying is “why?” If God is really all-knowing and all-powerful, won’t God just do or allow what He’s already going to do or allow? In case you wrestle with this, keep reading!
The late Charles Spurgeon, an influential English preacher, once described prayer as “the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength and the honor of a Christian.” For him, and many other Christian leaders over the centuries, prayer was the source of their strength and deepest peace. And they considered it an honor to pray. You see, when Jesus died on the cross, he tore down the barrier between God and sinful human beings. Now, by faith in Jesus, we have direct access to God and can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Therefore, one reason to pray in order to draw near to our powerful, almighty, holy God who invites us nearer because of His grace. In other words, we pray because it’s a privilege to approach God.
A second reason to pray is that the very act of lingering before God and laying out our need increases our dependency upon Him. Faith (individually and corporately) grows as we pray. This is very important because when God’s people begin to replace humble dependency with self-reliant effort, God may actually choose to limit what He does! Consider Mark 6. When the Nazarene’s rejected Jesus, the Scripture says, “he could do no mighty work there, except heal a few sick people…because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5-6). Or consider Jesus’ warning to the Christians in Ephesus in Revelation 2. If they continued to replace their dependent love of Jesus with their great ministries, Jesus told them that His power would leave them – as signified by the analogy of a lampstand (Revelation 2:4-5). Now to be clear, God never removes His Holy Spirit from Christians. His Spirit is a guaranteed deposit (2 Cor 1:22). But He can, and does, limit the Holy Spirit’s power and work among Christians when we stop depending upon Him and cease to pray.
A third reason is joined with the second. Jesus’ parables about prayer give the indication that sometimes God waits to work until His people come together with earnest, fervent petitions. In Luke 11, he invites his disciples to ask and keep on asking – to knock and keep on knocking – like a friend who needs to borrow something from his sleeping neighbor. In Luke 18, he invites his disciples to cry out to the Lord day and night like a discriminated widow who is asking the judge to finally listen to her case. Likewise, in Luke 10, he pleads with his disciples to earnestly ask the Lord to send more laborers out to spread the gospel! We pray because of this mystery – sometimes God waits to act until we, collectively, plead with Him to move.
So, this week, I invite you to pray. Why? Because there is more work that He yet to do in us and through us – as individuals, as a local church, and as a people connected to the global Body of Christ. Let’s pray!