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April 6, 2008

I talked very (very) briefly this past Friday night about prayer. Christians know they’re supposed to pray. We know most of the scripture that urges us to pray. We know most of the clever analogies. Most of us would agree that we need to pray more.

And yet I contend that we (myself included) don’t understand the heights and depths of the power of prayer. Case in point:

One of the last teaching sessions of a seminar I attended yesterday was on Effective Ministry. The young lady that led the “class” was, at one point, exhorting people to get involved and do something with their teenagers – whether it involved Global Expeditions or not. She made a comment about how she loves prayer, prayer is invaluable, it’s powerful, we need to pray pray pray … but “if we do nothing, nothing gets done.”

And at first I was with her. Christians need to mobilize. We need to get out there and put our money where our mouths are. Yes. “Faith without works is dead.”

Later yesterday evening, however, I suddenly couldn’t decide if prayer fell into the “faith” category or the “works” category. At best, now, I think it’s maybe a little bit of both, but it struck me how low an opinion we – Spirit-filled, prayer-advocating Christians – have of prayer.

We say it’s invaluable and it’s powerful and there’s nothing like it and we need to do it more, but do we secretly believe that spending two weeks on the mission field actually accomplishes more than two weeks in a prayer room would? Do we pray in hope and go in faith, instead of the other way around?

The power of prayer is as limitless as our God who calls us to it. I can pray for people I will never meet. I can pray for people who no Christian may ever meet. I can pray for situations larger than I could ever begin to remedy. What would it be like if a dozen people who wanted to go on a missions trip pooled their resources to send three of them while the other nine got together every day of the trip to pray for those who were sent?

Because prayer is not necessarily easy, but we treat it, sometimes, like the warm-up for the “real” work. In James, the Bible tells us that it’s the fervent prayers that “avail much.” Webster defines fervent as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” The Young’s Literal version calls it a supplication, which is “to ask for earnestly and humbly.”

That’s difficult to do. You can’t fake fervency with God. A fervent supplication necessitates genuine intensity, earnestness and humility – all of which also have to be solicited from God. I wonder if we can pray fervently for anything without first petitioning God for His heart on the matter … and from that place, begin to pray.

I realize that someone has to go. I just thought it strange the way we sometimes very subtly communicate our relatively low opinion of prayer.

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