Friday, May 15, 2020

Prayer In Difficult Times


Regular daily prayer can be challenging, even for the most ardent believer. Sometimes, when someone begins a daily routine of prayer, there is an excitement that makes it easy. As the days and years move on, it can be a challenge to maintain that excitement. Congratulations to you if you are an exception and still have that enthusiasm. For the rest of us, regular prayer is an effort.
Many have said it before: if all our prayers contained was thanksgiving, that would be enough. Prayer is, by its very nature, an expression of gratitude to our Creator and can also draw us more deeply into an awareness of God’s presence.

Prayer can also change us and help us be more fully aware of what God intends us to be. An example of this is found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44) It is not easy, sometimes impossible, to pray for our enemies and Jesus knew it. First, our attitude towards our enemies needs to change. It is easier to pray for them when we start thinking of them as friends. If we think of them as friends, we will treat them as friends. Maybe they even start thinking of us as friends. When we are no longer enemies, then the prayer is answered.

We pray, in part, because we are human. Even people who profess no faith will pray in the face of hardship (just in case it helps). Why wouldn’t we? Jesus is reported to have said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (John 14: 13, 14) Yet, it seems that prayers for the health or safety of a loved one often go unanswered. In the context of John’s Gospel, the “anything” we ask for is life in Jesus Christ.

In the early Church, when the stories about Jesus were collected, they kept the story about Jesus’ prayer that did not get answered. “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus prayed that the impending crucifixion be avoided. It was not and somehow, amid all this, God’s will is accomplished.

We pray, not to try and change God; not to change others; not to change the laws of nature. We pray because it is a natural human response to our concerns. We pray because the one thing prayer can change is us and it can help us meet the days ahead in the comfort of a holy and certain hope.

The transforming power of prayer is that it can move us from hating others to caring for them. Peace with enemies, however, is not the only challenge that we feel a need to pray about. Prayer in times of hardship comes naturally to people of faith. Who amongst us has not prayed for an end to this pandemic?

Christians endure suffering in life to the same degree as everyone else. Christians suffer pandemics, accidents, illness and tragedy. If this were not so, insurance companies would offer deals to Christians who could prove that they prayed regularly. Insurance companies do not offer Christians reduced premiums.



In the early Church, when the stories about Jesus were collected, they kept the story about Jesus’ prayer that did not get answered. “And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’” (Matthew 26:39) Jesus prayed that the impending crucifixion be avoided. It was not and somehow, amid all this, God’s will is accomplished.

We pray, not to try and change God; not to change others; not to change the laws of nature. We pray because it is a natural human response to our concerns. We pray because the one thing prayer can change is us and it can help us meet the days ahead in the comfort of a holy and certain hope.

Saturday, March 28, 2020