20th September 2020
'would we pray differently?'
What if we believed that our prayers
did impact heaven and impact earth?
How would we pray differently?
Many of us fall into a pattern
where the only times we pray are the times
when we are prompted by crisis or pain;
the rest of the time we rely
on our own strength and cleverness.
This pattern points
to what we really believe regarding prayer.
In most ordinary moments
we are not convinced that prayer
really changes things.
Many people believe
that their prayers won't change
so they ask themselves
what the point is of praying?
The writers of Scripture
viewed prayer very seriously.
In Revelation chapter 8,
John describes a scene in heaven
after the seals have been broken
on the scrolls that tell
the story of human sin
and violence and God's judgment.
Then a remarkable thing happens.
John writes that
"there was silence in heaven
for about half an hour." (8 v 1)
This is a representation of prayers
arising from earth:
The smoke of the incense,
together with the prayers of the saints,
went up before God from the angel's hand.
Following this come great acts
of judgment on the earth -
pictured by rumbles of thunder,
flashes of lightning,
and great earthquakes.
But what is most striking
is that these acts come
in response to the prayers of the saints.
Usually we think of events on earth
being interrupted because
of actions taken in heaven.
However, here it is the other way around.
All of heaven comes to a standstill.
The endless songs and praises
of heavenly hosts suddenly stop.
Because someone is praying.
All of heaven stops
so the prayers of the saints -
your prayers and mine,
every one of them -
can rise before God.
They are heard.
Prayers of real human beings -
like you and me -
What an awesome thought!
And what happens next on earth
happens because people pray.
That this is the message of John's text:
"History belongs to the intercessors -
those who believe and pray
the future into being."
Interceding is what Jesus is doing now.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans
34 Who then is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus who died -
more than that,
who was raised to life -
is at the right hand of God
and is also interceding for us.
Jesus' teaching ministry lasted three years.
His intercessory ministry
has been going on for over two thousand.
The Bible's teaching on prayer
leads overpoweringly to one conclusion -
prayer changes things.
Prayer is a privilege,
not a duty,
but like all good things,
prayer requires some discipline.
Life with God should seem more like
friendship than duty.
Prayer includes moments of delight
and also dullness,
and serious concentration,
flashes of joy and bouts of irritation.
In other words,
prayer has features in common with
all relationships that matter.
If prayer stands as the place
where God and human beings meet,
then we must learn about prayer
so that we can come into a closer
relationship with God.
Most of my struggles in the Christian life
circle around the same two themes:
why God doesn't act the way we want God to,
and why I don't act the way God wants me to?
Prayer is the exact point
where those themes met.