For those of you who may be new readers to the blog or happened to miss my last entry, you may want to refer back to Part 1 of the series from a few weeks ago. In it I attempted to telegraph my purpose in offering some thoughts, over the course of several installments, on what can be a complicated and heavy issue. As noted, for our purposes here, I’m more interested in being practical than theoretical (hence the title above). In other words, let’s assume that this is an issue that won’t go away anytime soon and consider, “What do I do about it in the meantime?”
I titled part 1, “Why Pray?” And if you noticed, I didn’t really answer that question specifically. Instead, I used it as a way of highlighting the breadth and depth of this issue. For what it’s worth, I believe that honest questions often have a way of saying far more than we might think, so I thought it beneficial to simply respect the question and let it marinate, if you will. For part 2, I’d like to return to that question by offering what I think is at least part of the answer: to “get in the game,” or, as Nike would put it, “Just Do It.” Sure, there’s a sense here that to pray is a simple act of obedience. That is, I’m commanded to pray, so if I don’t do it, it’s disobedient. And that’s true—and for some of us, it may be the only motivation we need to be persistent in prayer. But I think there’s even more to this than simple obedience.
A few months ago, while studying the book of John, something struck me. I was in John 11, which relates the account of Lazarus’ resurrection by the work of Jesus. It is a wonderful passage, with many layers of truth and meaning. In fact, I wonder if it is precisely this great quantity of truth which prevented me from making this observation before. Now, there is no question that Jesus is the one who performed the miracle, but if you look closely at the text, you’ll notice that He wasn’t the only one involved. He commanded someone else to “take away the stone” and commanded another to “loose him, and let him go.” Stated simply, Jesus did it (we might even say he ordained it), but in performing the miracle, he included the actions of individuals in His act. At this I was forced to pause and reflect that if I were there that day I’d have had to be a fool not to participate in such a miracle. The creator of the universe just asked me to have a part in raising a dead man to life, and I’m too overcome with confusion as to who’s responsible for the miracle to be Christ’s agent? That would be crazy.
Prayer isn’t all that different really. If I’m not doing it I’m not just disobedient, I’m really missing out. I can either wonder all day if my prayers really make a difference, or I can get in the game – be a participant in God’s work in the world. Remember, God does all things for His glory. The resurrection of Lazarus was no exception (see verses 4, 40); neither are our everyday lives (1 Cor. 10:31). So for all my fellow “Christian Hedonists” (as John Piper would say), think of it this way: when we pray, we participate in the Glory of God. What a joy. What a privilege.