Apr 8, 2016

Prayer Should Not Be An Afterthought (But Action Should Not Be Either)



Prayer is necessary to the Christian life.  One may say that it is a part of the lifeblood to abiding in Christ.  For how can you develop a relationship with a person, the Person (specifically our Lord), without true and open communication with Him.  So then, prayer is a two-way street with our God.  But He is not just a friend, neighbor, or family member; He is our Creator, our Lord, our Sustainer, our Savior, therefore, we should be more attentive to what He is sharing with us of His Will for our lives.

Listening to and for God's Voice is an imperative to knowing His Will and acting upon the knowledge received in a manner that is pleasing in His sight.  Praying to God is a part of our piety made all the more beautiful by seeing our Lord praying (as an example for us) while He walked on earth (see Matthew 26:36-46 / Luke 11:1-13).

It worries me though that some may think of using prayer as a means to an end, instead of having a robust view of all that may happen with prayer and what prayer is truly about.  Prayer should not just be the Christian telling God all that they want and need and desire, but allowing God to tell the Christian all that He wants and needs and desires and, ultimately, has for them.

Too many times, people say that they will pray for someone or for a particular issue as kind of a nonchalant response to a tragic event or an unfortunate tribulation that someone they know is experiencing.  I have always wondered how many people mean it when they say, "I will pray for you!"  It has become such an issue for me that I will put down a reminder for myself to specifically pray for that person or that issue because I believe prayer works for one and I do not want to just say that I will pray for someone without actually doing it.  The act of getting on our knees humbly before our God is not just some cliché thing for many Christian people (and people of other religions as well).  I imagine that many people would not even take the time to pray before a meal or to show solidarity with a fellow brother or sister who may be coming up against a major trial in their life.  Outside of a supernatural context, where the Christian believes that we are connecting with our maker, prayer (in a "natural" sense) may help in some cathartic fashion.  The simple gestures of bowing one's head and closing his/her eyes and focusing on the issue at hand, be it good or bad, has a way of bringing one of bringing one into a peaceful place to a path of healing or just some reflection.

Recently, there was some hoopla back in December of 2015 over the front page of a newspaper called the New York Daily News dealing with statements (dealing with prayer) from different GOP presidential candidates trying to show respect to a tragic event in San Bernardino, California.  On the front page of the paper were these words: "God Isn't Fixing This!"Front page of the New York Daily News for December 3, 2015 about mass shooting in San Bernardino, California - GOD ISN'T FIXING THISNow, most people would know right away that this is just a ploy or a tactic of sorts used by the paper and its "journalist" to get people to read the paper and give their liberal commentary on the conservative candidates making statements but showing little action on planning to stop the kind of violence that took place in San Bernardino.  Of course, what was interesting is that they did not show the same kind of vitriolic and biased attack on the presidential candidates of the Democratic party.  The GOP candidates made these statements through a social media website called Twitter.  I am not sure if the Daily News knows this, but you cannot give much of a plan dealing with a social issue through 140 characters in a post called a "tweet".  Another issue is: how does this newspaper know what God is doing?  Do they have some sort of supernatural and metaphysical means to know His plan?  Or maybe they pray as much as the conservatives that they are writing about and God has given them the authority to speak for him?  If that is the case, then maybe they would like to show us like Elijah going against four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18) and enlighten us to what God has next for the country.  But what they did point out in a small way was that too many people have said that they were going to pray about something or that something would change, while they showed little action on making that change.

For too long, many Christians have made prayer out to be an afterthought.  It is something that we do, when we remember to do it.  Then, we do it without little thought to what should do after we get up off of our knees, open our eyes, or hold our heads up.  Moreover, we forget that we can still pray, having the faith that God will answer our prayer, while still moving ahead with wise counsel and making thoughtful and well-planned decisions.  We can see this take place in Scripture: prayer and action can go hand-in-hand.  If you look in the fourth chapter of Nehemiah, there you will find Nehemiah and the people of Israel desiring to rebuild Jerusalem's walls, but finding some opposition.  They prayed that God would change their situation and went ahead with rebuilding the wall.  Their enemies was plotting against them and wanted to fight them, then we come to verse 9 of this fourth chapter, which really grabbed my attention.  Nehemiah 4:9 says:
"But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat."
They prayed to God and still prepared for a fight.  They hoped in the Lord to keep them from harm, while preparing to me danger head-on.  This reminds me of our Savior as He prays in the garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26.  Jesus asks God the Father to take the pain and anguish away, but He (knowing that the Cross was His destination) said that the Father's Will is to be done.  Jesus and Nehemiah and the people of Israel give examples that prayer should be our priority, but action should not be placed aside, nor do you have to wait to act (every time), even if that means we are to face something that may cause us pain, even physical pain.  However, action should be predicated upon rational planning and wise counsel with premature reflection on possible outcomes of said action.
 
Was prayer ever meant to be a means to an end?  Was it ever meant to be done alone without any action?


9 comments:

  1. Yes , you went to Nehemiah! He is unique (especially in the OT) - no direct revelation from God-yet prayer plays a SIGNIFICANT role in this obscure book. Jerome-love the post!!! It may find its way on EATV!

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  2. Great stuff, Jerome! Anyone struggling with the concept of prayer should read Paul Miller's 'A Praying Life' as it's incredibly helpful and straight-forward.

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  3. Jerome, once again you have helped your readers to see clearly our need for a personal relationship with God!! Prayer is a vital part of that relationship and draws one closer to Him, filling us with wisdom, peace and joy.
    Thank you for your deep insights and for following God's call on your life!!
    Excellent post!

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  4. Well said! Excellent and thought provoking.

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  5. Jerome, you have certainly captured the intent of prayer, especially in the light of how Jesus instructed his followers to pray. We should notice that "The Lord's Prayer" (See Luke 11 and Matthew 6), as it has come to be called, is actually a prayer of praise to God that includes a humble petition to be kept from spiritual challenges and harm. It's as if Jesus instructs His disciples that the fundamental prayer should include offering God praise while asking Him to keep one free from those things that might destroy a believer's relationship with Him. Thus if this reading of The Lord's Prayer is correct, we can see prayer as a means to remain connected to God by placing praise to Him in the forefront of our prayers and by offering Him a petition regarding our spiritual lives. Prayer then is not so much a request for material goods and physical health as it is a humble petition, even an imploring, to "lead us not into temptation" and to "deliver us from evil"; that is, we pray to God so that He will keep us from going astray and from becoming disconnected to Him. In this regard I believe Jerome has successfully hit the mark concerning prayer. He has suggested that we should pray as a means to allow God to speak to us and as a means to allow us to commune with Him and to listen to Him. Seeing prayer in this way helps us to understand St. Paul's mandate concerning prayer---this we find in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 wherein St. Paul quite directly and boldly tells believers to "pray without ceasing." Indeed, to elucidate St. Paul's words one might state something like this: Never stop praising God while incessantly imploring Him to keep you close to His side and spiritually fit and healthy. Yes, prayer is essential to the life of the believer, just as Jesus taught and illustrated this principle for us; but prayer is essential more so as a means to remain close to God than as a means to solicit Him and to receive specific blessings from Him. Therefore, I pray that we all remain close to Him and that He does indeed keep us from the temptations and the evil we find in this world because it is in facing temptations and evil that we run the risk of falling away from God and losing that communion with Him that is to be found only through prayer.

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this. It makes you think and do a self-check on your life and how you are living it. Keep writing Jerome and continue to make us think about life.

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  7. Well done Jerome. I'm going through a time in life right now that finds me questioning whether or not my prayers are even being heard; whether or not they're reaching the ceiling so to speak. It's just a time, and I understand that. I pray for various mission trips in which I participate and wonder if I'm doing any good for those we serve or if I'm serving myself because I enjoy just going. I pray I am doing some good, but I don't want to stop enjoying it either. I just want to serve others and find God's joy in my life. But how do we distinguish between our own enjoyment and and finding God's joy? Or should it even be different?

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    1. I would say that we distinguish our own enjoyment and God's joy by checking the reasons behind our enjoyment. So, you should meditate on the motives for your desires to do mission trips. I kind of doubt that God is not taking joy from seeing His child doing what He has called all of us to do. Read and meditate on the Scripture below too!

      “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
      John 15:1-8 HCSB
      http://bible.com/72/jhn.15.1-8.HCSB

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    2. I would say that we distinguish our own enjoyment and God's joy by checking the reasons behind our enjoyment. So, you should meditate on the motives for your desires to do mission trips. I kind of doubt that God is not taking joy from seeing His child doing what He has called all of us to do. Read and meditate on the Scripture below too!

      “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
      John 15:1-8 HCSB
      http://bible.com/72/jhn.15.1-8.HCSB

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