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Have you ever heard someone say “well, there’s nothing we can do now but pray?” I have. And in its expression is a subtle inference: “we’ve exhausted all practical means, I guess all we can do is pray.” As though prayer is the last resort. We retreat to it only when everything else fails. But the Bible paints a very different portrait of prayer. It places prayer at the head of the line. For good reason. Prayer is in fact the most practical thing we can do. Unless we don’t think it really does any good. More on that today on Through the Word in 2020.
Prayer plays a central role in all 4 of our passages today. In Luke 10:13-16, Jesus’ instructions to the 72 He sends out will give way to a prayer of thanksgiving in the next few verses. Psalm 119:17-24 is part of a prayer. Nehemiah 8:1-10:27 records one of the most important prayers of confession and thanks in all of Israel’s history. And in 1 Timothy 2, Paul instructs the Church in how to pray, especially in regard to governmental authorities. How timely eh?
In a time of great political unrest and what seems to be a government with its wheels spun off – what can we do? And if our first answers are vote, be vocal, write letters, protest, form pacs, enter into civil-disobedience, etc. We’ve started the list in the wrong place. All of those may be good and well and right in their place. But in fact, they are way down the line from – you guessed it – prayer.
Truth is, that for most of us, even as believers, we really don’t see prayer as either practical or particularly effective. More like a nice religious sentiment we’re “supposed” to do. But not expecting any real results from it.
How foreign to the Bible.
So note a couple of things in 1 Timothy.
4 things we are to hope for from our governments. That under their care, we may lead lives:
Peacefully – Not be war seeking, but warring only when needed to bring peace.
Quietly – Not creating disquiet in society, but calm.
Godly – Nothing interfering with our service to God.
Dignified – Protecting the dignity and sanctity of human life.
Paul’s exhortation in this passage is meant as a truly practical guide to getting those results in our society. In any society. But I wonder if our prayers are actually shaped by a passage like this – or that praying to these ends is thought to be effective? We do need to search our hearts on this. We want to be activists. But few of us think of prayer as activism. That, is a grave mistake. No wonder we’re making so little progress toward the goals we’ve just outlined.
This may serve too as a good guide regarding those whom we are to vote for in elections to government positions: Those whom – as best as we can discern – will be most likely to aim at these very same goals.
But again, how is this CHIEFLY to be brought about? Prayer. Earnest prayer for those on all sides of our political and social discourse. That those we agree with and those with whom we have the most vigorous disagreement, would themselves find peace in reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. That they might be possessed of a quieted demeanor, manifesting the influence of the Holy Spirit. That they would seek godliness in their private and public lives. And that in embracing the truth of mankind created in the image of God, they might seek to walk in and restore the dignity that rightly attaches itself to such.
It is easy to just pray about people. But our call is to pray for them. We cannot legislate, nor vote into existence a peaceful, quiet, godly and dignified society. We can only pray it into existence.
I’m Reid Ferguson. And God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.