Within just a couple of days, I have personally seen so much pain near and dear to me and to some very dear friends. From the unexplained passing of a young child, to the death of a man that held such a great place in my heart.
This life is filled with trouble and strife...we know that...the Bible tells us that it is short and full of troubles. This life is filled with hurt and with death. We know that. The writer of Hebrews clearly shows us in his writing that we will all meet that appointment with death, unless the Judgment draws nigh first.
What do we do when we get so bleak and so worn and torn from those things in our lives that can really tear us down?
The common answer is "all we can do is pray."
Is that truly the answer and the attitude that we should incorporate?
Let's look at a few thoughts here and then let us all pray for those situations in our own lives, and more importantly, the lives and struggles that others are facing this very hour.
Remember from the late 90's when this was the popular statement to....well, almost everything? What Would Jesus Do? It was a sort of rhetorical question considering that we have record of many things that Jesus did while on this earth, and how He would handle certain situations. So, what would Jesus do in your situation? Would there be a statement of "all we can do is pray?" Let's think about it.
In John 17, Jesus is shown in His very last hours praying such a beautiful prayer on the behalf of others. Certainly, when we consider this passage, we can see that Jesus would definitely pray...but, is that "all we can do?" This eloquent prayer to God, the Father demonstrates much more than just a "last resort" of prayer for His own, or others behalf. It shows a true spirit of love and reverence for the Father above.
2. "Pray without ceasing..."
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes this short verse in the midst of a number of exhortations to the church. In essence, those words are also carried down through time and still find relevance in our lives.
What is interesting to think about with the question or statement of "all we can do is pray," is that Paul iterates here how important prayer is in ALL of our lives, not just in times of struggle and distress. As I recently heard B.J. Clark speak on this particular topic, I would be amiss to tell you that Paul meant that we must walk around continually with our heads bowed, or on our knees for the majority of our days. When we grasp what Paul is saying here - in a thesis of exhortations contained in the context, we can certainly realize that prayer is not a last resort; yet, more importantly, it is a way of life that we should desire!
3. "You receive not because you ask not..."
James writes this statement in the 4th chapter of his book. What does he mean by this? Does God not know our every need, even before we ask? Certainly, God knows every need, every desire, every thought, every intent....you get the picture. God is omniscient. He is all-knowing! The scriptures also teach us that even our murmurings are offered up to God through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.
So, should we ask for help with the things we are struggling with? Do you sincerely want help? Answer the second question, and you find the answer to the first question. The answer is a very strong and bold "YES" in both questions.
What does this really mean to us?
I have been saying for months now - "if you pray for rain, you better bring an umbrella!" If you don't bring preparation and you are caught in a storm, you must expect a tougher road to travel in order to find relief.
So, the question remains...when tragedy, dismay, or even spiritual weakness finds its way into our lives, is "all we can do is pray" the right belief, thought, statement, and attitude to have?
Going back to John for a brief thought, when Jesus finishes His prayer, He returns to His disciples, who go with Him into the garden. In the garden, Jesus continues to show His kindness to others, His love, His discipline....His ministry. Then, He shows His love, compassion, tenderness, and selflessness by dying on the cross for you...and me. Kind of makes "all we can do is pray" seem a bit small to me.
Here is what we see Jesus doing - besides just praying - during the time in His life when things were not the "greatest." Maybe we can learn to do some of these things as well:
- Prayer - yes, He prayed
- Teaching - He continued to teach through His life, and His death
- Ministry - Notice the concern for others
- Submitting Himself to the will of God
- Loving others
- and much the more...
What can we do? Early today, as I mentioned, a friend and brother in Christ lost his 2.5 year old son. He never awoke. I cannot begin to imagine how he must have felt. I know that there were those that made the same statement that I did - "all we can do is pray." This brother showed me a new perspective throughout this sorrowful day for him and his family. He wrote. He wrote about his son. He wrote about his love for his son. He wrote about the blessings that he received from his son. He wrote about things that made him smile. And, he wrote, in a way, his own prayer. You see, in his hour of adversity, this brother found his faith pressing him to use this struggle to help others. His thoughts are not selfish, as we may all tend to be in this type of situation, but instead, he put on the heart of Jesus, doing many of the things beyond just prayer that Jesus Himself did. He taught, he ministered, he submitted, and he certainly loved his son and others.
What a humbling heart to witness. I think we can all learn from his heart. I think we can all learn from him that there is so much more to do than just say "all we can do is pray," as we see that blessing in his life taking place in which he is finding peace.
When we approach prayer as a "left over" means of "fixing things", I truly believe that we miss the entire heart of God. How much more would it be if we can change our mindset to "I am already praying, now what can I do to help?"
Pray with me. Pray with your elders. Pray with your preacher. Pray with your family. Just don't wait until it is a tragedy to find your "prayer-life."
In Him and blessings to you,