In the midst of these strange times, we are often confined at home.
For those of us who are Christians we find ourselves with more disposable time on our hands than normal.
Extra hours... to do neglected yard work, to indulge in dusty hobbies, to binge-watch the latest shows.
One particularly good application of this new-found time is to simply pray more.
I mean, that is one of the classic things Christians do, right?
It doesn’t matter what denomination you’re in, what tradition you adhere to, or what style of worship you prefer.
Christians of all sizes and shapes and backgrounds know that they should pray.
And I believe, from all I’ve heard and witnessed personally, that Christians are indeed praying more.
And this is good. Prayers for healing, prayers for provision, prayers for guidance.
All absolutely good and things we should be praying for.
But as we are immersed in a time of recalibration and refining, is there anything more?
Should we be praying any differently? Is there anything else we should be praying for?
The Core Question: In these strange days, how should we be praying?
That’s one of the big questions swirling around in my mind.
Because before this pandemic ever surfaced and long after it is put behind us, there are things on Father God’s heart that have gone neglected for far too long. Truth be told, the church often finds itself too satisfied with the things of the world and not quite ready (or willing) to go after what God has His eyes fixed upon.
I’d like to humbly recommend 3 things we should be praying for. Thing beyond what we regularly pray for.
Yes, absolutely pray for the care and protection of your friends and family.
Pray for an end to this terrible coronavirus scourge.
But let’s pray also for some crucial things on God’s mind:
It all starts here.
What has distinguished the church in America? There are, of course, the sheer number of churches that people can freely worship at. In Charlotte alone there are over 1300 churches for people to choose from. There are the larger-than-life mega-churches that God has used to bring many individuals into contact with the Gospel. There is the incredible generosity of our churches that invest so much into their local neighborhoods and give lavishly to address the needs of the world. There is so much good that our faithful God has released through the church here.
But the church here could also be described with another word: DISTRACTED.
Too many years have passed with the church in a state of diffused focus.
We have lost hold of the meaning of spiritual fellowship as the early church understood it.
We have neglected to hold onto the astounding value of sacrifice and suffering for the Gospel
We have forgotten the cross and the power of the resurrection.
I’m not saying we don’t talk about these things. It’s not that we don’t try to keep these things in view.
But we have let other things creep into our lives.
Instead of having a few key priorities to direct us, we have expanded our list of “important things” to include dozens if not hundreds of items.
Many of these things may be good (some not so much), but the end effect is that the biggest things on God’s heart often get lost in the jumble.
His once-clear heartbeat for this world is now so hard to hear.
So, what do we do?
C’mon, church, let’s turn to Him again. Let’s return Home.
Let’s pray as if God is all we have. As if He is indeed all we need.
Pray that we would seek Him afresh with a determination to know Jesus like never before.
Pray that we give God permission to examine us closely and to speak frankly into our lives.
Pray that we would reconsider our independence and self-reliance and ask “Who am I really trusting?”
Pray for each Christian - beginning with myself - to see what unworthy things we have let ourselves fall for.
Pray that we would see where we’ve let idols replace God’s place in our hearts.
Pray that we would be broken with tears over the sin that’s taken root in our lives.
Pray that we would turn to Father God again.
Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
2. For times of pause that lead to lasting change.
One of the blessings during these times is that, in the midst of the transitions and apparent chaos, there is a sense that life has hit the PAUSE button. This may be because we are unemployed now and at home, or it may be that we are students doing all our studying online now, or it is simply because all the busyness of the past in the form of sports or social gatherings have come to a grinding halt. It’s all on PAUSE.
For those who have ears to hear God whispering, they have responded with a change of behavior and new habits. In addition to taking walks and bicycle rides, families are talking more about God, spending more time in worship together. All the precious time that was reclaimed from NOT commuting to work has been used to sit quietly before God to hear His Word and converse with Him in prayer. All the hustle and bustle of modern 21st-century living and non-stop entertainment has yielded to times of reflection in God’s presence.
But one day, trust me, the pause will be unpaused. God will press the Play Button and life will resume. The experts are saying that some things will pick up where they left off, perhaps stronger than ever. In other ways, life as we knew it will never be the same again. What will be different? Will the only legacy be how we elbow-bump each other and the permanent fixture of social distancing? Or will there be MORE? This is what we should be praying ardently for: That all the good habits and heart change God has initiated in this period of history WILL LAST. That what we experienced, what helped us draw closer to God, will truly sink in and become bedrock foundations for us going forward.
Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
The church will come soon to a fork in the road as cities begin to return to “normal”. Will we return to the pre-pandemic standards of normalcy according to the world, OR will we hold on fiercely and faithfully to the new normal God has etched into our lives? Each person, each family, must make a choice. Let us pray that whatever lessons God has shown us during this pause will not be squandered away. Let us pray that God’s touch now will not be brushed away in time. Pray that we experience LASTING change. That we will choose God and His ways now and moving onwards. That we would be TRANSFORMED for good.
I watch Youtube and listen to news daily, just like many other people. I appreciate all the expertise and scientific research and volunteer efforts done around the world. I applaud when people step up with courage and compassion to heroically care for others and for one another during this crisis. Yet I also believe with my whole heart that God is the One who will ultimately rescue us. Of course, He can and will work through the church and in often very subtle and behind-the-scenes kinds of ways.
But, make no mistake, our God is POWERFUL. One of His ancient names is El-Shaddai, which means Mighty God.
Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Isaiah 42:13 says, “The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero; He will come out like a warrior, full of fury... He shows Himself mighty against His foes.”
Just because He can pull His punches doesn’t mean He always will. And when this world needs a Savior, He is not unwilling to step into the fray. Sometimes people assume God will only work in quiet ways because they have never seen Him work in miraculous ways with their own eyes. Or others in society write off the notion of a Mighty God because they’ve already concluded that God is just a nice idea that comforts religious folks. But God has shown in history that He is willing to flex His muscles and do great and wonderful things, both through His people and through direct intervention. He does this to show that God is mighty indeed. He does this because it makes a difference in troubling times. He does this because He cares for people and wants them to know He is here.
So, I want my prayers these days to always include, by faith, a prayer that God would not simply be operating in the shadows. I pray that He would show Himself mighty. Mighty in my life. Mighty in the handling of our biggest problems. Mighty to recapture the affection of the church and the attention of the world. Mighty to save and to rescue those who are still far from Him.
God, march forth, show Yourself mighty, that the name of Jesus would be praised and lifted high in all the earth!
Will the world see revealed in these days a God who is powerful and indeed worthy to be praised?
Amen, Lord, let it be!