And Pray We Must

“Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6)

As I walked to the door of my sunroom, I looked out toward the yard. About 25 feet away, there was one of my neighbors crawling on the sidewalk next to the street.  He was following his young son, who couldn’t be much more than two, doing the same thing. I opened the door, and yelled across the lawn, “Where is a camera when you need one?”  The neighbor just laughed as his son looked back toward me.  Then the boy said, “Come out and crawl with us.”  Thinking I needed to say something appropriate – I simply replied, “maybe some other time.”  As I went back into the house, I chuckled to myself. Then I began thinking how wonderful it was that this father would get down on his bare knees (he was wearing shorts) and crawl on a cement sidewalk, just to meaningfully engage in play with his son.

I was talking with someone recently about a prayer list I maintain, so that I can remember names and situations of those in need. They asked how I find out about these people. “It’s interesting,” I replied. “When people know you pray for others, they will often give you their specifics and ask you to pray for them as well.”  There are times I have received names for my list by simply going for a walk around the neighborhood and allowing myself to become engaged in conversation. It’s amazing how often I have told by an individual for whom I had been praying – “You know I knew someone was, because I could feel it.”  I understood what they meant, because there were times when I had been on the receiving end of the prayers of others and could feel them. There are those who have said to me that they really didn’t know how to talk to God, as though it was some kind of sophisticated or formalized process.  The next time that happens, I will use the example of the neighborhood father and his young son as an illustration. For you see, our conversations with God are not much different than that of a child desiring to be recognized by a loving father who is more than willing to meet them at their level.

When we feel we lack an understanding of how to pray, the Apostle Paul reassures us that the Holy Spirit will search our hearts and pray for us in ways beyond our ability to articulate.  “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans (Romans 8:26, The Message). The important thing to understand is that God wants us to pray and to recognize that our prayers are not for Him but rather for us. For when we pray to our Heavenly Father, we are acknowledging that He is important in our lives. Prayer places the ordinary details of life into divine perspective. On the opening evening of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York began the proceedings with a prayer. Delivered with an image of the New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty in the background, He prayed for our nation with the all-embracing theme . . .  “Pray We Must.”

When we pray we are invited by the Living God to approach Him in intimate conversation, thereby entering into a deepening relationship with Him. While we should pray specifically for ourselves and for others in need, there will also be times we must pray for the greater good. When we feel that we are living in a nation divided . . . we must pray for healing. When we hear about missionaries in other countries being persecuted or the right of others to pray in public places being denied . . . we must pray for those who are suffering for His sake. Who knows how our prayers might serve as comfort to those who are in harm’s way, such as members of the military, emergency responders, or disaster relief workers? Whether one is a new believer or an established one, prayer is a way to acknowledge who is really in control of our lives. When we become practiced at prayer, it becomes like breathing. Prayer is our primary means of seeing God at work, for “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16). Bottom line, our Heavenly Father will meet us where we are when we reach out to Him. If we want to make a difference in our life and the lives of others . . . pray we must!

REFLECTION: Have there been times you have stopped praying because you felt that God was not listening? Are there occasions when you want to pray for a world situation but think it is too massive to make a difference? How might you be more intentional in your prayer life, allowing for God’s will?

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