What is the most outrageous/challenging/scandalous promise that Jesus made to His disciples and invited them to engage in?
When a research student at Princeton asked, “what is left in the world for original research?” Albert Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer, somebody must find out about prayer.”
The disciples wanted to learn this, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (NOT teach us about prayer). Prayer is an expression of who we are. Do you struggle in the area of prayer? I do. Don’t think I am a bad guy. In a pharisaic mode I have all the ingredients of prayer and at specific times too. All of us pray in some measure. A devout Jew will pray three times a day-Daniel had this routine. Similarly the Jewish Christians, Peter and John. A Muslim will pray 5 times. David would go for seven. But, we are called to be in this ministry of praying without ceasing! Non-stop-24/7. No one need to convince me on the importance of prayer. Most people whom God used in history spent hours in prayer.
Philip Yancy interviewed several Christians and concluded the following. How long did they pray? 5-7 minutes. Did they find prayer satisfying? Not really. Did they sense God’s presence when they prayed? Occasionally.
There seems to be a gap between praying in theory and practice. In theory, prayer is the priceless privilege of point of contact with the God of the universe. It is communion with the creator God – a one man audience. Prayer is the sure weapon that God has given to us, yet it’s commonly used as the last resort when everything else fails. Why not use prayer as a strategy? Will it work?
In practice it is often confusing and frustrating. When I suggested to a friend that we should pray before a journey – He said, “Why? I know my car and the road.” When our pantry is stocked with a month’s supply, how meaningfully can we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread?” Where does God fit into a busy life that is already behind schedule? I keep getting many prayer requests from friends, family and colleagues and am trying hard to be faithful.
We all know the strategic importance of prayer. God has amazing plans for people and nations. He wants His Beloved to seek Him and ask Him.
God invites us to pray.
Jeremiah 29:10-14: God says, “I will visit you, fulfill my word to you and bring you back from exile. I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” God of hope is encouraging our hearts.
Whatever is happening is not random things. Sovereign Lord’s plans are just unfolding. His plans bring Shalom to us. Hence there is hope. Yes God this is great, you know the details, go ahead and do it. He invites us to pray in His presence. Come to me, call on me, your Abba, pray to me. This is a call for intimacy. Ask, pray, seek, behold Him, knock, act in faith.
He wants us to seek Him whole heartedly. To tell Him, all I want is you Lord. I am not seeking for answers to problems, but you. Seeking you as a precious Jewel. He is waiting to reveal Himself. “I will be found by you.” Have you played hide and seek with a 2-year-old? In the end you will say, I found Him.
What a joy this is! He wants us to be involved in His plan and in the end for us to have the joy. This is like the 3-year-old who was serious about helping her Dad to build the steps. Father allowed her to be a part of this big job. In the end she proudly said, “I and Dad built the steps.” He has a plan to restore our inheritance to us. The spirit of the Lord will accomplish this. I feel encouraged to move with God, led by His Spirit into His mission that He has invited me to be a part of.
Jesus invited us to pray this prayer.
In John chapters 14-16, a very important subject on which Jesus taught is a new dimension of prayer: Ask in Jesus name to Jesus and the Father, limitless asking, limited only by His unconditional love expressed on the cross. Anything that comes in such a heart that abides in Him and His love, however scandalous as it may sound, it is yours. Seven times it is repeated: “Whatever you ask….”
He Himself prayed and He continues to pray even today.
Am I convinced? Not really. When things get tough and I can’t handle it, I pray. When I am against a wall and a door needs to open, I seek and knock very hard. I remember certain seasons I prayed such prayers.
Three specific phases of growth I have noticed in my own prayer journey.
- When I asked for impossible things still unsure in my heart, yet God answered and surprised me. My heart was full of joy and excitement and it felt so good to walk with this God
- I asked fully knowing that He is able to do what I am asking but ended up not receiving what I asked. I went through questions, doubts, and fears. My heart still trusted him. I had support from hundreds of brothers and sisters across the world. Jesus himself, my best intercessor was in this prayer. My precious wife Helen who suffered from cancer, intense pain for three years, went to be with the Lord. In that season, someone asked me, “Will you pray again?” Absolutely. That season of wilderness taught me to pray. Where else can I go? I am utterly dependent on Him.
- I tell Him that I know that He is good and that I am excited about walking with Him. Here the excitement is not because of the answer, but He Himself is the reason. We have prayed in many crisis situations and He answered us.
My question to myself is this, “Why is this prayer not my primary strategy?” Prayer helps me to see reality from God’s vantage point. This will bring me to a place of brokenness and contrition. My selfishness, pride, deceit and lack of compassion will be exposed. It will bring out the best heart attitude, that of helplessness. “Only he who is helpless can truly pray.”
In a generation that exalts self-reliance, this is not an exciting invitation. He did not promise, “Try your best, when you can’t, I will be there.” Instead he said, “Without me you can do nothing.” Do I have enough time and space for God? I encourage others to have it. Privilege to meet with God, how many of us will jump for it? Look at the One who encourages us to pray. Jesus, the Son of God. His life was full of prayer. Hebrews 5:7 says during His days on earth, Jesus maintained His rhythm of prayer. We read his High priestly prayer in John 17. And the prayer see other elements of the Gethsemane prayer in the gospels. In Matt 26:38, Jesus says, “This sorrow is crushing my life out.” Mark 14: 35 (MSG) reads “Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out. ‘Papa, Father, you can-can’t you? Get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want, what do you want?’”
I was thinking, how much we have achieved with so little prayer. What if, we dared to ask?
In India, we are thinking of team expansion, expansion of operations, tackling challenges, increasing impact, engaging with changes, looking ahead. In the DAI global context we are doing similar things, looking ahead.
In looking ahead, I ask myself, “How am I going to make prayer intentional in all that I do (also for the team)?”
“How do I understand the scandalous promises of God and claim it?”
“Can I commit myself to a life style of prayer?”
“Do I so desperately need Him?”
“Will I commit myself and be excited about this privilege?”
“Will I intentionally do something about it?”
And I ask the same of you.
Let us pray. Lord, teach us to pray. Help us to pray the prayer that pleases your heart and bring your Kingdom here. Fascinate our eyes with your beauty and convince our minds of our helplessness that we may be drawn to you. We hear your invitation to seek you. We confess that often we have been seeking answers for our problems rather than seeking you. Shake us out of our complacency. Help us O Lord. We pray this In Jesus name, Amen.
Author: Dr. Sam Thomas currently works as the Executive Director of Development Associates Initiative, India; as a part-time teacher at New Theological College, Dehradun; and as a professor for Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership conducted by DAI. Apart from this, Sam and his wife Sashi, are involved with non-formal training of church leaders in India and surrounding nations. They are passionate about seeing servant leaders who are passionate lovers of God.
Sam is a medical doctor by profession, trained as a pediatric surgeon. He worked with various mission organizations as a medical missionary for about 28 years. He was with Emmanuel Hospital Association for 17 years, during which time he also served as the Medical Director of two of its hospitals.