I was privileged to preach this morning at the Deer Run Church of Christ as part of the launching of the “A November To Remember” church-wide prayer initiative! The challenge point of the message came from the conclusion of Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians about the complete armor of God. Because of the spiritual battle that we are engaged in that fights for our very soul, Paul concludes the teaching of the necessity of the armor of God with this command, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)
How are you doing in the “keep on praying for all the saints” department? Do you take seriously this command to pray for one another? How important is it to you and to those you should be praying for? When life hits us at 60 miles per hour and we’re not real sure which direction is up and because we often view prayer as a very passive activity, we fail to be encouraged by the statement, “Just Pray!”. Instead, because of our doubts and uncertainty, many view it through the lens of skeptical questioning, “Just Pray?”. We’re not always sure it does that much good and instead of taking our cue from the disciples who ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, we simply give up.
So, how do we go from “Just Pray?” to “Just PRAY!”? I believe the answer lies in living and practicing a better understanding of prayer. We begin that move when we include a foundational element of “Just Pursue!” Our wholehearted pursuit of God is critical to our finding Him. God tells Solomon that when He brings judgment or discipline upon the people and they suffer uncertainty and hardship that it is then that if His people “will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” that He will hear their cries. Throughout scripture it has always been that way. Prior to the giving of the ten commandments to the Israelites, God tells them that there will come a time they will be scattered and that from wherever they are if they will seek Him they will find Him when they seek Him with all their heart and with all their soul. As you “Just PRAY!”, just pursue God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength!
A huge stumbling block to adopting a “Just PRAY!” mindset is this next element of “Just Repent!”. A wholehearted pursuit of God will most likely reveal sin that God calls us to just repent of. Many times it is “out of sight, out of mind” and hinders our prayers unbeknownst to us. More often though, it is not so deeply hidden and we hold back in our prayer life thinking we can avoid God pointing it out and calling us to repent of it. We let society convince us that if I am sorry about it that is enough — no reason to actually get rid of it, I’m sorry and that attitude of remorse ought to suffice. God would say nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible teaches that true sorrow, Godly sorrow, leads to repentance. God doesn’t simply want us to be sorry for our sin, He wants us to repent of it and no longer walk in that manner. When Peter and John are called into account for healing a lame man, Peter addresses the crowd and calls them to repent and turn to God so their sins would be wiped out and “that times of refreshing would come from the Lord”. I don’t know about you, but the promise of times of refreshing from God should make it easier to give in and “Just Repent!”.
While “Just Repent” can be a stumbling block in our prayer life, we often enter into great confusion when “Just PRAY” calls us to “Just Act!”. This is the result of living with a very passive view of prayer — a view that sees it as us giving God our list of things He ought to do and act upon and us waiting for Him to accomplish it through miraculous means. The idea that we would be the instruments and means through which He works to accomplish His will and purpose often seems beyond our comprehension. Paul prays for the Thessalonians that by God’s power He would fulfill every good purpose of theirs as well as every act prompted by faith. It is a prayer connected with faith that prompts us to “Just Act” when God seeks to involve us in His work. He says that we are His workmanship, created by Him to do good works which He created in advance for us to do. When our pursuit of God and repentance of sin prompts us to act, we need to be ready to work. It is always fascinating to me that when Jesus teaches about the harvest being plentiful but the workers few and asks His followers to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers that the very next action recorded is the “pray-ers” being sent out as the workers!
Finally, all of the change of attitude from “Just Pray?” to “Just PRAY!” is wrapped together in the mindset of “Just Yield“. Jesus teaches us that our prayer should be surrendered to God’s will — “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Many times our prayers “fail” us because they are prayed with expectations that it is our will that should be done. We become upset and disillusioned with prayer when God doesn’t answer according to our expectations and timing. As a repentant pursuer of God who desires to act according to His purposes, we must yield fully to His will and lordship. The call to discipleship is a call to give up everything and follow Jesus. We pray the effective prayers of the righteous when we just yield.
So, where are you in the journey from “Just Pray?” to “Just PRAY!”? I pray that you are well on your way in pursuing God wholeheartedly, that you fully and freely repent as God’s Spirit convicts you of sin, that you are not only called to action through your times of prayer but that you actually do it as you yield fully to God.