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Speaking Of Prayer…

  |   Words of Grace

 

One of the things I really enjoy participating in during our Sunday morning gathering is praying with folks during our praise and worship portion of the service. All sorts of folks come forward to pray with me, Pastor Lucas, one of the elders, or others that we have asked to be available. We pray with the elderly, young, longtime members, visitors, brand new Christians, little children, couples, the sick, the hurting, the grieving, the angry, the anxious, the happy – some with very serious needs, some with simple childlike requests, and some praising the Lord for answered prayer.

All are acknowledging the same thing: “I can’t solve this on my own. I need the Lord to intervene.” The moment they step away from their seat to come forward they are expressing faith or trust in the One who cares, the One who is able, the One who loves them as a Father, and the One who desires to encourage, comfort, correct, extend mercy and forgiveness, and to heal their tired soul. And of course, this probably ought to be are attitude whether we step out for prayer or not – our Lord God can be trusted.

I am especially thrilled to see all the little kids that come forward for prayer. I think, “How wonderful that these little ones are learning already at this early age to be dependent on their heavenly Father and bring their petitions – their concerns – their questions – to the Lord.” Their’s is a childlike faith that just simply knows that someone outside of myself – someone MUCH bigger than me – is the ultimate One who I can go to.

Of course, on the other hand, when I see the faith/trust of the little children I begin to wonder why more adults aren’t coming forward for prayer? Do we reach a point in our Christian walk where we decide: “Although I love Jesus and trust my life in His hand, I don’t want or need to share that request and have someone agree together in prayer for me. I’ll be fine dealing with this on my own.” Well, that’s between you and the Lord, but I think you’re missing out on a beautiful opportunity to be touched by God’s grace.

The one disadvantage of praying for folks during this time is that those up front praying miss out on the singing aspect of worship that goes on during that time. That’s why we generally wait until the first song has ended. We get to join in on the first song, and often we are finished praying so we can join in on the last song.

Even though I’m honestly listening to the one requesting prayer, and sincerely praying for them, I often hear over us a beautiful song/hymn being sung and in the spirit I’m enjoying the melody/message. That happened this past Sunday when we sang the great old hymn “What a Friend We Have In Jesus”. That song is so very, very special to me. As a child we would often sing it in the church of my youth – First Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dover, New Jersey – and as a child I was more interested in the melody and the very basic message: Jesus is my friend – than any other deep and abiding truth found within its lyrics. It wasn’t until I came to a saving faith at the age of nineteen that the great hymns I sang in church really began to not only make sense to me, but deeply touched soul because of the amazing biblical truth and doctrinal soundness found in the heartfelt words.

What I soon came to realize was that the song wasn’t really about Jesus being our friend – although that is absolutely the starting point – but rather that because Jesus is a friend to those who have come to a saving faith through His grace, He sincerely desires His children to come to Him in prayer. It’s a hymn about prayer more than a hymn about the friendship between our Lord and each of us. But again, remember that the reason we have the ‘privilege to carry everything to God in prayer’ is because those who have come to faith are “in Christ” (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; Ephesians 1:3-13, 2:4-13; Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:26; 1 Corinthians 3:16). Here are the beautiful lyrics from this great hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged – take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised, Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded, there will be no need for prayer –
Rapture, praise, and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Two of my favorite lines from this is song are:
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

So many of us as followers of Christ tend to hold on to the ‘stuff’ of this life and instead of sharing that burden with others, or especially with the Lord in prayer, we walk around with a dark cloud hovering over us – a dark cloud of anxiety, sadness, discouragement, worry, physical/spiritual/emotional pain, and the debilitating sense of defeat because of our deceptive over-confidence in our self – and it’s all needless. This isn’t to mean that we are totally helpless and not able to deal with or work towards facing the stresses of life, because many times we face an issue at work, school, wherever, and we make a decision and/or deal with the issue correctly based on our maturity, experience, understanding, and the wisdom that we have acquired throughout life. BUT the other side of the coin is that we all have become so self-reliant that we often subconsciously say, “I have this one Lord. You can leave it in my capable hands”, when there is no way we are capable, and we end up flat on our face.

There is NO shame in admitting that we can’t handle something. Instead of thinking that you (or I) are weak, inadequate, impotent, insecure, or incompetent, when we seek help – ESPECIALLY when we bring everything to the Lord in prayer – we are acknowledging our natural limitations (when speaking to other people) and recognizing our dependence and trust – which is actually quite humbling and a sign of spiritual sensitivity and maturity – in the One who truly is adequate, omnipotent, secure, competent, and who desires to answer our prayers according to His perfect will, His pleasure, for His glory, and for our maturity. And this is reflected in another two favorite lines from the song:

Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Although we should be humble enough to share our concerns with a good friend in Christ, we realize that they don’t always have the right answer, and that they may very easily (and hopefully not deliberately) let us down. But Jesus is a faithful Friend; who is well acquainted with our grief (Isaiah 53:3) who has experienced the very same temptations we have, but without sinning (Hebrews 4:15); and He already knows our weaknesses and the frailty of our flesh – yet still loves us – so we CAN confidently approach His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

So, my first (of two points) is that we must continually – moment by moment – recognize and acknowledge our need for the Lord in all things, and go to Him in prayer – in our own personal prayer time with the Lord, or to share with with a trusted brother or sister in Christ who can pray with/for us. Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Secondly, prayer isn’t just about talking to the Lord about our problems, concerns, anxieties, or decisions we have to make, but prayer is also the time that we pray for others. We often find it easier to pray for others than we do about our own concerns, but either way, the principle is still the same: Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Again and again and again the Scriptures tell us to pray for others, for our leaders in government, for our church leaders, for our missionaries, for the unsaved, for the saved, and for our enemies. And we are told to pray together (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 4:24-31, 12:5-18; Joel 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12; 2 Corinthians 1:11, etc.). And with that in mind, I want to encourage ALL OF YOU to join with me and fifty other pastors and their congregations tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7:00PM at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater as we pray together for our nation (National Day of Prayer), our military, our local governments, our schools, our churches, for the unsaved, for our enemies, for those who are being persecuted worldwide, and for God’s will to be done, for His Kingdom to come; and for His name to be glorified.

As believers we are ALL called to be in prayer, so please join us for this special time of worship and prayer. You may or may not see others from Grace at the stadium, but it really doesn’t matter because you’ll be surrounded by other believers who are all there for the same purpose – to worship the Lord, to seek His faith, and to fulfill the Lord’s command for His church to be of one heart, one mind, one church united together in Christ. See you there (I’ll be out on the field with the other pastors, but I hope to be able to greet you before or after the prayer celebration!).

 

 

Prayer is not a ‘spare tire’ that you pull out when in trouble, but it is a ‘steering wheel’ that directs the right path throughout life.

Image credit:  Flickr