Saturday, October 11, 2014
It All Begins with Prayer
It all begins with prayer. Everything of value begins with prayer. Jesus knew this. That’s why he left his followers occasionally and went off by himself to pray. He knew he needed to communicate with his Father.
For generations the children of Israel prayed to be freed from the captivity and tyranny of Egypt. God heard their prayers and called Moses to lead them to freedom.
For generations—centuries—Israel prayed for God to send the promised Messiah to lead them to a brighter future. Finally, in God’s own time, Jesus was born—the Messiah God had promised, even if he wasn’t the one Israel expected.
When the disciples tried unsuccessfully to heal a boy with an unclean spirit Jesus told them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
When Jesus asked in Gethsemane if he could avoid the torture and death he knew lay ahead of him, it was undoubtedly communion with his Father that gave him the strength to endure.
When Jesus said farewell to his disciples, he told them to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. While they waited, Luke tells us they devoted themselves to prayer. We know what happened—Pentecost and the change from disciples to apostles.
Several times in his letters Paul tells his readers he is praying for them. Often he asks for prayer for himself and his companions. He understood the value of prayer to the success of his ministry.
James tells the believers to whom he writes (James 5:13-15) to pray for the one who is sick, anointing the person with oil and asking God for healing.
Prayer. Nothing happens without prayer. We can have the best of intentions. We can work diligently to bring about the results we want. We can recruit the greatest minds to solve problems. All these are good, but without prayer, they won’t accomplish much.
Do you want to see your church grow? Pray for God to open up opportunities for members to witness to God’s saving power and God’s efficacy in changing lives.
Do you need leadership for your youth programs, your women’s association, or your men’s group? Ask God to speak to those whom God would call to lead those ministries.
Are you running out of Sunday school teachers; or, conversely, do you have teachers but no classes for them to teach? Ask God to raise up committed Christians to teach, and to instill in people the desire for Christian education.
It all begins with prayer. Setting loose the worker bees in your church won’t do it. They’ll only burn themselves out droning away at the task you’ve set them to.
It all begins with prayer. Developing elaborate plans to bring people into the church, or starting leadership classes, or opening up new Sunday school classes or study groups will fall flat unless sufficient preparation time is spent in prayer, asking God for direction and blessing.
It all begins with prayer—and not just by the minister or ministers. God wants a praying people, and that includes all of us. No matter what we do to earn a living, our calling as Christians is to pray—pray constantly and deeply for whatever need your church has.
It all begins with prayer.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Everything Happens for a Reason
“Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together.”
So said that eminent philosopher, Marilyn Monroe. Yes, I know, we don’t usually think of her as having had thoughts this deep. Part of that is because of the image Hollywood created for her. Part of it is our natural prejudice. We believe anyone that glamorous can’t be smart as well. How wrong we can be!
We might also have a difficult time believing she said this because we know things didn’t turn out so well for her. Despite her glamor (or perhaps because of it) her life story is not a happy one. Still, the quote is attributed to Marilyn Monroe, so we have to accept that at some time, in some set of circumstances, she did say it.
Many people say, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s a way of finding meaning in difficult situations. When it seems things aren’t going right for us, someone will try to cheer us up by telling us there must be a reason for the tough times we’re going through. Trouble is, when we’re in the midst of those tough times, it’s hard to see anything good about it. Someone saying there must be a reason doesn’t usually make us feel much better.
Paul was trying to help the Christians in Rome see that the suffering they were forced to endure might mean that God was working in and through their difficult circumstances. In Romans 8:18, we hear Paul saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Whatever happens to us in times of trial will be surpassed by what God has in store for us in the future.
Paul places the Roman believers’ troubles in perspective. He says that all creation is waiting for God’s future, and not waiting patiently, but groaning as if in terrible pain. Our suffering is merely a part of the universal suffering that will continue until Christ’s return.
Even our prayer life can suffer as a result of this creation-wide trial. Paul spends several verses assuring his readers that the Spirit understands the trouble we often have communicating in prayer, and intercedes for us before God’s throne.
Let’s go back to the second part of Ms. Monroe’s quote. Remember? She says, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together.”
Is this reassuring? Does it help us to know that when our lives—or a significant part of them—crash and burn it may be clearing the way for something better? Can we be sure that whatever lies ahead will be an improvement? Don’t we know people who lost their jobs, their home—practically everything in the last recession—and haven’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel? Isn’t this just a rosy-colored lens we look through to convince ourselves that something better must lie ahead.
Perhaps. Perhaps not. We know there are people who hit a major bump in life and never overcome it. Whether it’s an economic downturn, an incurable disease, or the loss of a loved one, there are situations that look hopeless. How do we see God’s hand here? Can we see God’s hand here?
We must remember above all else that we serve a God who goes through the troubled times with us. God is there, even in the worst situations we can imagine, right beside us, sharing them with us and giving us the strength to pull through.