More Than A Tradition
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What have you done today?
Did you eat breakfast? Did you drive to work? Did you get on a plane and fly across the country? Maybe you went to the doctor. Did you tell your children goodbye as they left for school?
Did you pray?
The research can be quite confusing, some saying America is quickly moving to a mostly atheistic society while others say the majority of Americans claim to be Christian. But regardless of those statistics, prayer still plays a role in our lives. (Unfortunately, notice I didn't say it played a "major" or "important" role, or even in our "normal, everyday" lives.) Yet, prayer does exist, even if it's mainly just tradition.
You just lost your job and now you are lost in an endless sea saturated by hundreds and thousands of highly qualified individuals in the same boat. Or, your doctor just came in and said your child has cancer and she will need chemo right away. It could be the middle of the night and the winds are howling and the rain, hail and lightening are battering against your home. What do you do? You pray.
We've all heard the line, "You can't take prayer out of schools. As long as there are tests, there will be prayer."
Why is that?
Is it because you feel better afterward or because you actually believe in a Supreme Being who controls all things? Maybe you just see others doing it and you fell like it is what you're "suppose" to do.
Whatever your reason, prayer happens. And, whether or not you are praying for safety, healing or a simple "C+" on that final exam, you're hoping for a positive result, according to you, of course. When that result comes, perhaps you will feel compelled to pray even more. But what if a different result other than what you were hoping for occurs? Or, what if nothing happens? What do you do?
The truth is that prayer without faith in the One you're praying to is nothing more than empty words uttered in desperation. You hope for something, yet you believe in nothing. It's like running a race without believing you can win. As soon as that gun fires and your opponents gain a lead, you mentally, and possibly physically, give up. The good news...you have at least successfully lived up to your low expectations. You walk away apathetic, but not surprised.
Conversely, when one offers a prayer, in faith, to the One and only Living God, that person becomes empowered to win regardless of the result. It is because of the faith and trust of the individual voicing that prayer that allows them to "run in such a way as to get the prize." They know, regardless of the outcome, God is on His throne and that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him."
Here's a real life example:
As our forefathers gathered to discuss, and sometimes argue, the details of forming "a more perfect union," it became quite obvious to the assembly that something was of foremost importance. Benjamin Franklin spoke up and said,
"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the builders of Babel: we shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."
What strikes me as extremely intriguing in this oration by Franklin is that he didn't just say, "Hey...maybe we should pray," but rather he gave detailed reasons for the utmost necessity of prayer that day, and EVERY day. It was because of Benjamin Franklin's faith that he became aware of those "convincing proofs," therefore he believed prayer was not only proper and civil, but necessary and mandatory. And he knew without the people of God choosing to "humble themselves and pray and seek [God's] face," that the "assistance of Heaven" would surely not come.
Prayer was not an after-thought or a trite ritual done out of tradition for Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers.
Nor was it for the Son of God. Jesus, time and time again, sought opportunities to talk to the Father. And when He did, it was mostly about you and me, not Him.
"I pray for them...Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name - the name You gave me - so that they may be one as we are one...I have given them Your word and the world has hated them...My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one...Sanctify them by the Truth; Your word is Truth...My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me because of their message, that all of them may be one...May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me." (John 17:9-23 NIV)
Jesus prayed for protection and unity among His people. He knew it was necessary to sustain us. He knew because He became one of us! Because of His human nature, Jesus realized the importance of time with God the Father in prayer.
If we are to find ourselves with protection and unity, we must follow our Lord's example.
Now more than ever our homes, our communities, our states, our nation and our world needs Christians to rise up and band together, for protection and unity. We must pray for each other, for our civic leaders, both local, state and federal (even if you don't agree with their policies). This is not an arbitrary, haphazard plan given by God, but rather He wants every child of His to pray, regularly.
Prayer will be the first key to effecting significant and lasting change. It should be more than just a tradition or fad. Our individual prayers can be highly effective, but only if we offer them. James 5:16 says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Make it a habit in your life to pray, in faith, for your needs and the needs of others.
Then, increase our sphere of influence and organize small groups to pray for our communities, our state, our nation and our world. Sure, you can do this at your church, but what an amazing testimony it would be to have families of one neighborhood gathering together each week to pray for their community. "Powerful" AND "effective!"
Then and only then will we hear from Heaven.
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