As the pastor gathered with the church elders, the mood was somber. The congregation was passing through one of the lean years. The fat from the budget had already been cut, and now the discussion concerned cutting meat and bone. The pastor suggested that before any decisions were made that they should pray about it. One of the elders responded, “Prayer isn’t going to solve this.”
The ministry of the church involves many practical considerations. The boiler needs fixing, the roof needs to be replaced, and the budget needs balancing. Sometimes we may imagine that prayer is completely impractical. What good will it do? We need action, not words.
We have seen a variation on this theme in recent years. After a tragedy hits the news, many offer their “thoughts and prayers” to those affected. Now we see a predictable series of recriminations. Some claim that “thoughts and prayers” are worthless. Somehow they think that offering “thoughts and prayers” reveals that these people don’t really care about the tragedy or the people hurt. Now is the time for action.
The prayer critics seem to have forgotten what role prayer plays in our lives. They live as if there is a practical realm and a spiritual realm and never the two shall meet. This is surprisingly a problem for Christians as well as non-Christians. We don’t want to follow God too closely because it might interfere with how we get things done. In Proverbs, we read,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The worry is that God will not make our paths straight. Instead, we worry that we will find ourselves meandering down some spiritual cul-de-sac.
In reality, prayer invites God into the practical. It connects the world of the Bible with our daily lives. Not only do we believe that God impacts the situations and people we pray about, but through our prayers, God also stirs us to do something. Whether we are praying about health concerns, finances, or politics, we begin to see those issues with God’s eyes. We are not satisfied until “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Granted, there are times in which prayers are simply platitudes and postures. That has more to do with the people offering the prayer rather than the power of prayer itself.
Starting in February, we will begin a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. Along with that, we will be discussing how prayer can transform our lives, our community, and our congregation. We will be taking practical steps on how to incorporate prayer better into our lives. In doing so, I anticipate that God will be doing great things among us. Let us be a praying church.
Grace & Peace,