Commentaries / Commentary
Happy February! First of all, it has been a number of months since my last bit of communication; I trust you all had a blessed holiday season. I kept thinking I would hold off on a message until I could also announce the readiness of the new website; alas, before I knew it, a number of holidays had flown by – all of which would have been opportune days on which to reflect. I’m not sure that February 13 represents anything especially interesting in greater world events or commemorations, but the time is now to let you know that the new website is up! We’re very happy with it and I will continue to work with the site and learn how to manage it; it’s been a much steeper learning curve than I ever would have requested! It seemed this day would never come, and I’m grateful that this step has been accomplished.
I could share multiple lessons learned through the process of developing this new website, but it is on my heart to share some reflections on what I think God is doing on a larger scale and what He is teaching me about how I might participate in His work.
Let me lay the context first. For those of you who follow what modern-day prophets are speaking and movements in revival, you might be aware that there seems to be a heightened sensitivity to the urgency of prayer in this year of 2012. A number of nations are undertaking non-stop prayer during this year (the U.K. and two Sudans among others) and as I converse with friends both across the country and internationally, there is an increased emphasis on teachings on prayer and encouragement to seek God’s heart and pray into HIS will. In my own at area of upstate New York, we see God networking revival-minded individuals, breaking down denominational barriers, and laying the groundwork for giving us a strategy to break down spiritual strongholds. Concurrently, there are a number of groups across the region who meet together both for “listening prayer” (where we just sit quietly and wait to hear from the Lord and then pray what we hear) and intercessory prayer (which usually is focused on revival in our churches and our region). Interestingly enough, my Bible study is working through Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s excellent study “Live a Praying Life” and a prayer warrior friend of mine has recently put together a devotional on prayer that is being used at her church as they focus on prayer this year (see InJesusName.gatewaypeople.com). Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Obviously, entire books have been written on the topic of prayer and I can hardly claim to be an expert, but I know that I’m pretty fired up about it and desperate to see God move as only He can to bring His kingdom to both my little section of New York and to the whole globe. I know that many of us pray for change in our nation and have different concerns both socially and politically. We tend to get a picture in our heads of how it should look – what we think would be “proof” that God has answered our prayers. It might be a change of political power, a repeal of certain laws, a return to a certain social standard…whatever the picture looks like to you, I think we might agree that the majority of us tend to pray against what we see as a problem. Our prayers tend to go something like this: “God, please fix ___________; don’t let __________happen; please intervene in ________” (and then we describe for Him all the gory details of that terrible picture).
What He has shown me is that He already knows the full scope of whatever we see as disastrous; praying into the problem does nothing but declare that it is so, and why would we want to reinforce that which is not of Him? Remember that our words have power – God created with them, and as believers, we are co-creators with Him (see Genesis 2:20 where Adam names the animals and calls forth their identities). We see over and over in Scripture that places and peoples have destinies; note that in Psalm 48: 1-2, God (speaking through the psalmist) describes Jerusalem. Yet the city was far from perfect. Was God unaware? Or is there a Divine purpose, potential and possibility for what we see in the natural as a problem?! The story of Elisha’s servant in 2 Kings 6:16-17 is a revealing one. Note that the disaster viewed in the natural world was the opportunity for victory in the spiritual world.
A major purpose of prayer is to pull God’s Kingdom from the spiritual realm to the physical realm. How do we do this? We pray into the potential of a situation. What is God’s vision? What is His heart for a people, for a situation, for a nation? We do ourselves and Him a disservice when we pray that a certain candidate be elected, or certain laws get enacted or repealed, or certain situations work themselves out in ways that seem logical to us…Instead, we ought to be on our knees praying that He reveal His heart and vision to us that we might be the conduits to bring His will to the material realm. In this election year, I doubt He is concerned with political parties; but I do know His heart is for justice, mercy, care of the orphans and widows, and restoration of that which has been stolen, exploited or lost. It is in His character and in the saving work of Jesus that there is hope, and it is to Him that we must point a hurting world. John Dawson in Taking Our Cities for God observes that the Israelites got themselves in trouble when they murmured against their environment (see Numbers 13:22). Don’t we often do that when we pray? Instead, the JOY of the Lord is to be our strength; God inhabits the praises of His people (Zeph. 3:14-15; Psalm 22:3).
So, to all lamenters out there who see current situations as dire, nothing is impossible for God; take heart and choose to see the glass as half full rather than half empty! Let us wait on Him until we catch a vision and then pray boldly and confidently, knowing that the prayer of a righteous one is powerful and effective (James 5:16) – “effective” meaning to “exercise force” or “create change.” Let us undertake to pray FOR something rather than AGAINST something and let God determine how He will bring about a “Yes!” to those prayers – that we might truly see His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Christ’s love to all (on the eve of Valentine’s Day),
The late Rev. Peter Marshall (1940-2010) was a Presbyterian minister who for over forty years gained national recognition as a preacher on Christian growth and discipleship.
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