Worldwide Wellness Prayer Connection
We share with you here a meditation on prayer from Dr. Brian K. Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary. He considers several aspects of prayer. Not least among those aspects is the subject of “confidence.” It is a confidence “… that God will deliver assistance and inspire action. It is a confidence born from the certainty that God is Sovereign in and over the world.” This is a reminder that we need, particularly in these challenging days.
A Message on Prayer
The primary exemplar of prayer in the New Testament is Jesus of Nazareth.
Nowhere is his representation as the person who prays more evident than in the Gospel of Luke. At every key transitional point in his life, Jesus is at prayer. At his baptism, at his choosing of the 12, at Peter’s confession, and at the Transfiguration, Jesus is at prayer. He does not enter into a landmark situation without seeking God’s guidance and direction first. At Luke 18:1, he directly emphasizes that all believers should be constantly in prayer. Discipleship, then, is directly linked to prayer. God guides disciples in their discipleship through prayer.
Jesus’ prayer life, then, exemplifies the role prayer is to play in the life of the church, particularly in the church’s engagement with the world. For Jesus, prayer is not just a pious exercise, it is a relational activity with God that is at the center of God’s work in the world. Or as Steven Plymale puts it, “Prayer in this context is not a request for personal favor, but a seeking of the will of God.”1 One seeks that will with an eye towards performing it. In the church. And in the world.
Prayer, then, is a turning to God for direction, guidance, support, assistance–spiritual and physical, and inspiration to action in accordance with God’s will. Prayer is all about confidence. Confidence that God will deliver assistance and inspire action. It is a confidence born from the certainty that God is Sovereign in and over the world, . . . that God is near, that God hears, and that God cares.
Only one who believes in God’s sovereignty expects that the God who hears will also have the power to deliver. Prayer, in other words, is connected integrally with faith.
Since prayer operates from faith in the reality of God’s sovereignty, prayer for things in opposition to the reality of God’s Rule and the love and justice demanded by that Rule, are not prayers, by definition, but idle requests or misguided demands. They can expect no response.
Prayer, then, is about our participation in the expression of God’s sovereign rule in the church and world. Prayer, particularly as invocation and petition, are as transformational as they are meditative. And this moment of transformation is not only about changing spiritual existence or physical condition, but transfiguring social and political reality as well.
In this way, the Lord’s prayer, as the prototype for Christian prayer, is more than a spiritual exercise. Jesus’ prayer for the Rule of God to take place on earth is grounded in the human yearning for divine justice and mercy.
In days such as these, we are reminded of the presence and potency of prayer. I hope that we are also mindful of the sovereignty of God, and that we pray in light of that mindfulness. If God is indeed sovereign, then our prayers are as much about petitioning God’s intervention in the circumstance of the social and political world as it is about God’s intervention into our personal, spiritual lives. Knowing that God is in control, we pray that God institute that control in and through the very structure and fabric of our lives. In times of pandemic and disease, we pray for God’s healing. In times of social and political inequity, we pray for God’s justice. In times of broken faith, we pray for God’s spiritual healing. In all times, we pray for the intervention of God’s presence and God’s Rule in our lives. And, perhaps most importantly, we pray that when we recognize the demands of that Rule, that we do everything in our lives, in our churches, in our world to live into them.