Time to Pray

Blind Faith (No. 3, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for January 19, 2017
Time to Pray

Many faith leaders with media platforms are calling believers in
God to be sure to pray at this crucial moment in American life. We certainly
can pray generically for government leaders during the transition of power.
Praying for our leaders and institutions to promote God’s genuine justice
and the common good of all people is always fitting. Beyond these common
global prayers, praying for the President or President-elect specifically,
individually, by name is not a partisan pursuit. Barry Howard wrote
recently, “To pray for a leader is to affirm the power of God in providing
guidance and to intercede for that leader to be receptive to God’s
direction, to grow in their moral and ethical conviction and to govern or
lead in the best interest of all people.” We should be able to offer such
prayers to God honestly, regardless of our political leanings or evaluation
of the official for whom we are praying. Howard went on to recall bumper
sticker theological observations from several years ago: “The first simply
read, ‘Prayer changes things.’ The second advanced the idea by stating,
‘Prayer changes people. People change things.’ I am committed to praying for
God to change people and to empower people to enact change – morally,
ethically, socially and politically – in all the right places.”

Most people gladly endorse praying for government in general and
individual leaders in particular, but our most candid thoughts often succumb
to wondering if prayer really does any good after all. We lack intimate
views and insight into the evidence of leaders we are praying for being
transformed by God’s Spirit. We only know what we see and hear in the news –
or in FaceBook posts and on Twitter. But we can know how prayer has had
transformative power in our own lives and in the lives of people closest to
us. From those confirmations we can gain confidence for praying for our
leaders.

Ardent prayer taps into great depths of our hearts and minds of
faith. We may listen and concur as public prayer is offered by someone
representing people of faith gathered in one place or linked via technology.
At its core, however, prayer is a personal conversation into which God
invites us one-on-one spiritually. We can focus our attention upon matters
for which we are thankful, or that arouse our praise, or petitions we lay
before God as we join with others in prayer. Sharing prayer with others
draws us into closer relationship with one another and in the community of
faith. Transformative power is amplified when we are united in spirit and in
the practice of our faith.

But the transformative power of prayer is not generated from our
own earnest pleading or from confidence boosted by group participation. The
Bible tells us that active conversation of prayer goes on constantly on our
behalf among the persons of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and
the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks to the Father about our needs and God’s
promises of blessings and salvation for us. The Holy Spirit intercedes for
us, even at times when we are too overwhelmed to pray for ourselves. John
records Jesus’ prayer for his disciples gathered for the last time before
his crucifixion – and for all believers who will come after them. Jesus’
prayer for our well-being may be especially poignant for our President and
other leaders: “[Jesus prayed] ‘I am not asking you to take them out of the
world but to keep them safe from the Evil One.. {17} Make them ready for
your service through your truth; your teaching is truth.'” (John 17:15, 17
NCV) To be guided by God’s truth would steer any of us away from petulant
indulgences of self-serving power. Prayer is powerful because Jesus,
himself, is praying for us! Jesus prays for our growth in faith, our
increasing understanding and application of what the Bible reveals of God’s
love and truth, for the purpose and mission we live, and that we will draw
closer and closer to himself, discovering the great joy of loving and
serving God and all God’s children.

Paul delivers a confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s prayer for us.
In Romans 8 we find this assurance:

The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we
should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us
with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. {27} And the Father who
knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for
us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26-27 NLT)

When you are in distress, having a bad day, don’t know what to
do, the Holy Spirit prays in ways beyond words for you, directly to God the
Father. Your deepest, unspoken needs are included in the Holy Spirit’s
prayers. Since our concerns include the conduct of our leaders in carrying
out the duties of their offices for the common good, I am certain that the
Holy Spirit expresses prayers that we can’t quite put into words to God for
our leaders.

Remember to pray. Amid all of the bluster and repetitive
commentary beleaguering the presidential inauguration, pray that our leaders
will find their hearts and minds turned toward God’s truth and actions that
conform to God’s justice. Share your prayer with others who can join with
you in confident prayer and practice of your own faith. Let others know that
you are praying for our leaders. Post, Tweet, e-mail, or write about your
prayers. Let leaders know that you are praying for them personally and with
your community of faith. Don’t forget that you are simply agreeing with God,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who are already in conversation among themselves
on our behalf. And pray for yourself, those close around you, and for your
community to draw ever closer to God. Prayer can be the catalyst for God’s
transformation of our own lives, the lives of our leaders, and our
communities and nation. I pray that it will be.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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