When a brother or sister in Christ finds themselves in a difficult circumstance, we want to help. Indeed, we are called to do so, as we “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). Love demands we do this.
In that spirit, one will often ask, “How can I help?” or “What can I do?”
Sometimes the answer is obvious, and there is no need to ask. We see what needs to be done, so we end up buying groceries to deliver, we prepare meals, we shuttle kids to and from school or activities, we shovel snow from walkways, or we take the laundry home with us and return it washed and folded. Sometimes we sit and listen with a sympathetic ear.
Other times, we want to help and offer to help, but we do not know how to do so. Thus, we ask the question, “How can I help?” and far too often the answer that comes back makes me cringe.
“Oh … just pray.”
That phrase – just pray – is one that needs to be extricated from our Christianese vocabulary. It needs to be taken out, shot, stomped on, and buried in a seventeen-foot-deep hole, never to be seen again.
In the 1980s, I was listening to a keynoter at the National Campus Minister’s Seminar in Tuscaloosa Alabama as he exhorted us to be men and women of prayer. He described a situation wherein, as a small child, his mother had given him two quarters to put in the collection plate during Sunday School. Later, at home, as he was changing clothes he discovered, to his horror, that the two quarters were still in his pocket. He was devastated and unsure of what to do.
The man described how he propped a chair against the door to prevent his parents from entering and discovering his grievous error. With the door secured, he sat on his bed and pleaded with God repeatedly to take the money as he threw the quarters toward the ceiling. “Please God, just take the money. I’m sorry I forgot. Just take the money.”
It was an adorable story, and we all identified with the child, his stomach in knots, pleading with God and throwing the quarters at the ceiling . . . right up until he said something that stunned me.
He said, “You know, looking back on that, I’m really surprised that He didn’t take it.”
Why was I stunned by that rather than nodding my head in agreement? Do I believe, or don’t I? Is God listening, or are my prayers just bouncing off the walls?
My reaction to the man’s story was an indictment of my own disbelief in a God who is living and active today; a God who hears and responds to prayer. It drops me into the “just pray” camp.
“Just pray” is a minimizing of our communication and communion with God. We do not just pray. We pray!
I am so pleased to know that my local church family has a reputation in our city. We are known as “that praying church.” Just recently my pastor attended a meeting, seated next to a woman he did not know, and when she learned who he was, she exclaimed, “Oh, you’re the pastor of that praying church!”
Yeah … yeah, that’s us. We don’t “just pray.” We pray. Even better is when we combine our prayer with fasting.
This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. – 1 John 5:14, NIV-1978
So, let’s jettison this phrase, “just pray” and immerse ourselves in the power and privilege of being able to converse and commune with the Almighty Creator of the universe. Let’s commit ourselves to praying within God’s will at all times believing, not doubting, that God is indeed good and that he desires what is best for us.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
The longer I walk with Christ, the more I am inclined to pray that God’s will be done and that I understand it, than that a specific thing occur. Through the indwelling of God’s Spirit, we can have a spirit of acceptance of whatever God’s will in our lives may be, and with that, we can always pray in faith!