Prayer is without question one of the greatest blessings God gives us as his people. When I read commands like “Pray without ceasing” or “in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” it is challenging. It is even more challenging to read “Don’t worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” But I have to admit it isn’t the commands to pray that challenge my thinking the most. It is in reading the recorded prayers of Jesus or the apostle Paul about the churches that he worked with that get to me the most.
Think about a couple of prayers closely tied together in Philippians 1 as Paul prays for them. “I thank my God every time I remember you, in all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Then a few verses later he picks back up on his prayer, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of Righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”I would like to think my prayers for people I love and for the church would always run along those lines but to be honest, that isn’t always the case. One of the easiest things in life for us as Christians, I think, is for our prayers to become quite selfish, thinking mostly about us, our health, our family and our needs. Perhaps it helped Paul to keep the focus on things in the church and with fellow Christians that he wasn’t married and didn’t have children or grandchildren as fas as we know. But think about your prayers when you do pray for the church. Are they about everyone that has asked prayers for sickness in the family or about ones that have lost loved ones in death? Are they about growth in the church or special needs in the local body? If our public prayers are any indication then these things tend to dominate our prayers. They certainly aren’t bad things for us to pray about.
But wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear or even to pray a prayer that mentioned how we always remembered the church in our prayers and thanked God for the partnership we felt with the body. Wouldn’t it be great to hear a prayer that God will carry to completion the good work he has started in us and that we aren’t left to our own devices to figure out the best way to handle things in the body? I would love to have a public prayer prayed where the plea to God was that our love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so we might be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless in the day of Christ. It would even be good to hear the prayer that we would be filled with the fruit of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. This kind of prayer definitely moves beyond the physical side of life in the church and moves to the spiritual things that we all need to be the people God calls us to be.
The huge question that needs to be answered by all of us is do we really believe that our prayers can make a real difference in what happens in the life of the church or even in our family or ourselves. If we do, surely our prayers can move deeper and involve more than just the physical hurts and challenges of our life.