The Profitable Prayer
I want to say that we have created the most self indulgent society that has ever existed, as Christmas so aptly illustrates. It's all about me, it's all about mine, it's all about what I want and can achieve. But that isn't true, we aren't the most indulgent. Man is self serving by nature, and that is why Jesus' commands to serve others was so radical.
We bring our self centeredness into our prayers, and we find ourselves praying like Job,
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’" Job 21:15
The word pray occurs about 93 times throughout the Bible, and in the Old Testament it most always exists in he context of deliverance. The petitioner seeks to be delivered from his enemy, sickness, draught, famine, and mostly from God's wrath due to sin. It answers the question, what profit is there?
In the New Testament prayer is less about deliverance then it is for the welfare of others. We pray of our enemies, we pray for the sick, we pray for the sinner, and we do it in a closet, in seclusion, and constantly. But one of the focus of prayer in the New Testament revolves around the proclamation and dissemination of the gospel. Let me illustrate by quoting some verses.
- Luke 10:6 "Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
- Colossians 4:3 "pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ."
- 2 Thess. 3:1 "pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you."
- Philemon 1:6 "pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ."
- Ephesians 6:18ff "To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel."
Deliverance is the theme, but it is a permanent deliverance from the root of all our ills, sin. Everything else is treating the symptoms. You want to stop the violence and racism in Ferguson, MO? Preach the gospel. You want to end terrorism? Preach the gospel. You want to end political corruption, abortion, theft and murder? Preach the gospel. Legislation and outrage against the atrocities of the world are only stop gap measures. They are necessary, but useless to instill permanent change. History bears this out. Unless the heart is changed, transformed, then sin will find an expression and hate will continue.
Therefore, we pray for people willing to share the gospel. The harvest, Jesus said, is ready, but we need more people. In fact we need everyone on board, ready to give an answer for the hope of Christ in them.
We need to pray that God will open opportunities with our neighbors, coworkers, family, or neighborhoods and countries around the world. Often the opportunities are there we just need to take them
We need to pray for boldness. Sharing the gospel is risky. We risk ridicule, rejection, persecution, and even death. We risk losing friends and career opportunities. We risk being labeled fanatic, weird, self righteous, and irrelevant. We need boldness to rise up and risk it all for the sake of Christ.
We need to pray that the word of God and our efforts will be effective. God's word never returns void and it is powerful to cast down worldly speculations and shine light in the darkness. The gospel is the power of God displayed through his reconciling grace and life giving resurrection. We can only share it, God must explode it in the hearts of people.
There are a lot of other things I can pray for, but none that can have an eternal impact. This past week our church highlighted all we are doing around the world to proclaim the gospel. It is a major focus of our money, our efforts, and our prayers. We need the constant reminder. Preaching the gospel is easily lost in the business of living, but it doesn't have to if our lives are permeated by it.
What profit is there in prayer? Only the salvation of the world! I'm just saying...