Prayer has always been an essential part of the people of God's corporate identity. This truth is evident from Genesis to Revelation. I will admit to you, I’m often challenged, convicted even, that I often treat prayer more as a Christian platitude. Prayer is a gift. It flows from the life we have been freely given by Jesus. It is an invitation to listen, speak, lament, rejoice, and petition the Creator God who has taken up residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Prayer is transformative and missional; it is one of the ways the Holy Spirit grows us into maturity as Jesus’ community. I can unintentionally approach prayer as a last resort, a powerless, “it’s the least I can do.”
I don’t pray as often as I should. I often read about prayer, talk about the need for prayer, and yes, even write about prayer more than I pray. As sincere and honest has these endeavors are, they are not substitutes for prayer itself. Paul’s encouragement to “pray without ceasing,” and to make “our requests known to God with thanksgiving through prayer and petition,” come across as unrealistic exhortations more than a Kingdom reality. I’m comforted by the request the disciples made to Jesus, “Teach us to pray.”
Jesus, more than willing to do so, taught his friends, including you and me, to pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a bold prayer, for it anticipates that what happened at the Fall is now being undone through Jesus and his community of followers. That perspective can only come through a prayer-bathed life. After all, we are often surrounded by what seems like evidence to the contrary.
This January 4-6, our association will embark on a crucial journey together: Three Days of Prayer. Our churches need it. Our communities need it. Our association needs it. For some, this will be a continuation of an already grace-filled posture towards corporate prayer. For others, this will be a time of reorienting ourselves to the call of making prayer central to the life of our congregations. Prayer illuminates the vision for the Kingdom, moves the community forward and transforms the church into the image bearers ready for the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.
Pray with faithful expectancy. Anticipate that God is ready to speak with us individually and collectively about how he is making all things new. Discern his voice and follow his leading. He can be trusted.
Three days. It may not seem like a lot of time. Yet, that’s how long Jonah spent in the belly of a fish, coming to terms with God’s desire to save the Ninevites. It was on the third day that a wedding took place in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, setting him on a trajectory that would take him to the cross. It was on the third day, after lying lifeless in a tomb, when Jesus’ body began to breathe with the life of the new creation, defeating the final enemy, death. A lot can happen in three days.
My prayer is that we experience a resurrection-shaped renewal, living in the new creation, trusting that Spirit-led, grace-filled, life-giving, fruitful service awaits us. Paul’s 2,000-year-old prayer for the church is as needed for us today:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:17-23, NIV
Come, Holy Spirit, come.
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