Entrusted with Prayer
Political unrest. COVID. Natural disasters. Economic uncertainty. Organizational challenges. Divisive issues are limitless. While the specifics may differ in each culture, none of this is new to God. We discover this truth while reading Israel’s history. God’s people failed to follow his commands individually and collectively. Rather than be a blessing to the nations, they found themselves in a chaotic, divided kingdom.
God can and will unite his people when we humble ourselves and pray.
The reason for our turmoil today is the same – sin. So is the solution – prayer. God states this clearly in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
God knew his people would fail, sin, and disobey him. In his goodness, he offers us the way back. Despite present circumstances, God can and will unite his people when we humble ourselves and pray.
How should we pray?
Early in my Christian life, I found prayer challenging. In my experience, it was done by a gifted church member who prayed extemporaneously and sounded like a beautifully written Psalm. Then there was prayer before meals and before bed. For me, this was a perfunctory monologue rather than a heartfelt dialogue.
I have come to realize that prayer is talking with God about any and everything, both personally and corporately. When God’s people speak to him in prayer, he responds. God still speaks primarily through the Bible, though sometimes he also may also use circumstances or people.
Prayer is as unique as the individuals who are praying.
Prayer is as unique as the individuals who are praying. Prayer takes on many forms, from liturgical to extemporaneous, and we will not always be uniform in how we pray. Why we pray differs as well.
Throughout Scripture, we see prayers for guidance, lament, wisdom, praise, and many others. Each prayer has its own unique posture. Sometimes desperation. Sometimes expectation. In Lamentations, the author composed prayers through poetry. Though the methods of prayer are diverse, God’s people were, and are, united in their need to pray to the one true God of heaven and earth.
What happens when we don’t pray?
A verse from the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” sums it up nicely: “What peace we often forfeit, what needless pains we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
1 Kings 12 tells about the painful consequences of King Rehoboam neglecting to pray. The people rebelled and claimed Jeroboam as their king, dividing Israel into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Tragically, Jeroboam also neglected to pray. This led both nations down a dark path for generations.
Two Kings. Two Nations. No prayer. No peace. Could this pattern be said of Christians today? Lack of prayer has personal and corporate implications.
Corporate prayer unites God’s people
King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced a national crisis. After years of peace, several neighboring countries prepared to attack. 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 records, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
Jehoshaphat’s first response was prayer, and together, the people united before the Lord. While I am sure they were divided in how to respond to the national crisis, prayer united hearts to God and to each other. He sought the Lord first, the nation prayed, and God won the battle. I wonder how many outcomes would differ, and how many hearts would unite if this was the normal response of Christians to crises? God blesses unity.
Individual prayer promotes unity
When division threatens God’s people today, we can pray for one another. Through individual prayer for others, even those with whom we disagree, God softens our hearts and gives us renewed patience.
Prayer matters because we live in a fallen world where sin affects every aspect of life. However, Christians have a powerful weapon that is often underutilized. Each of us has a choice. We can continue trying to repair our divided “kingdoms” today on our own or humble ourselves and pray. May we be a people that come together to seek the Lord united through prayer.
Karen McNary, SPHR, is the Director of Global Cultural Engagement with Bible Study Fellowship, Intl. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management from Purdue University, and a Masters of Arts in Human Resources Development from Webster University. When she’s not spending time with family, you’ll find her uncovering overlooked jewels at the local thrift store.
Karen McNary is teaching a workshop “Entrusted with Organizational Unity” at The Outcomes Conference 2023 in Chicago, March 28-30. >> Register to Attend