Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: Tips for the Prayer Civilian

I am not a prayer warrior. I don’t have a lot of discipline, so my prayer time is loose, unstructured, and hey-look-something-shiny in nature rather than a focused, prolonged time of bringing a list of requests before God. I’ve skipped merrily away from any mention of prayer meetings or extended times of intercession during Lent, because God doesn’t believe in drafting people into places where they’re not gifted, right?

Well, not really. Obviously, as believers, we’re all called to pray as part of building up our relationship with Jesus and responding to the needs of others. (This also applies to areas like hospitality, evangelism, and service where the “I’m-not-gifted” excuse tends to come out.)

But what if that’s not your comfort zone? I’ve always found it very difficult to pray for the world, at least once I got past my second-grade, “And God, please help all the missionaries” phase.

My heart is very small. I ask the question of Luke 10:39, “Who is my neighbor?” and then panic because, in a time when we can know what’s happening nearly everywhere in the world, the answer overwhelms me. I don’t think that God is asking me to do something about every famine, genocide, or epidemic I hear about in the news. Even covering those situations in prayer would be far too much for any one person.

Some people have hearts that are large enough to absorb the world and its needs, sufferings, and injustices. If that’s you, thank God for giving you that passion. But that’s not me.

You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “If you want to change the world, change people.” Well, I took this and applied it to prayer: “If you want to pray for the world, pray for people.”

Pray for the media communication major who’s going to make movies that speak to something real and true. Pray that he will do it with excellence, and that his passion for God is as obvious as his passion for film.

Pray for the youth leader who instantly builds relationships with others and makes them feel welcome and loved. Ask that just the right teens be brought into this person’s life, and that they would come away ready to pass on that love to others.

Pray for the businessman who is constantly under pressure to compromise his Christian witness, the jr. higher who wants to be a missionary, the guy in your class who cares so much about the Word of God that you can hear it in his voice. Pray for those people, for what they want to do for God and in His strength, and you pray for the world.

I’m sure you can already think of a long list of people to pray for. Chances are, God will bring certain people to mind over and over again. The best place to start is by getting to know others and what they’re passionate about, and bringing that before God.

As a writer, I often pray for the other writers I know, because the written word has incredible power to create culture and change people’s minds and hearts. I don’t pray for fame and fortune, but I do pray for inspiration to create something beautiful and meaningful, grace to accept both rejection and success, and courage to live up to a high standard of integrity.

By praying for others and for what they will do for God, I can pray for the kingdom in ways that are far beyond my individual reach. This is not the only way to do prayer. (Operation World is an excellent resource for a totally different way of looking at this topic.) But it is a way that’s helped me.

I still feel small at times, but when I pray that God will use others, I feel like a small part of a large, incredibly gifted family. Most days, I honestly don’t believe that I can change the world, no matter what the inspirational books and slogans tell me. But I do believe that we can change the world in the name of Jesus and through His strength.

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