Baseline Weekly - Winter Decided to Stay. So We Pray.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
A friend from our prayer gathering shared this verse with our group last week. Of all the subjects to write about, prayer feels most difficult right now. Here I am in the middle of summer, yet I find myself in a winter-like season, wondering, “What good does it do?” Last week my granddaughter Violet confessed, “Nana, I’ve lost all of my questions” as she hung her head low. I thought to myself, “Oh child, I’m stuck in my questions lately like a broken record: How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:1-2) Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion? (Psalm 78:9) Recently, when I was encouraged to pray about a challenging situation, the enemy of my soul whispered, “That won’t help.” My heart felt very brittle. Maybe you have felt the same way. The burdens, trials, and challenges people are facing are overwhelming. Life is difficult for so many right now, including many of our dear brothers and sisters at Baseline. Our country is in intense turmoil. Why am I not continually on my knees?
What does it mean to “pray continually”? In her book Invitations from God, Adele Calhoun invites believers to “live entirely with and in God-relating to Him at all times and in all things.” Quite the invitation, right? Jesus uses the illustration of the vine and the branches in John 15 to encourage us to set our orientation towards the Father from the time we wake up until bedtime. That seems daunting, and, I confess, I don’t make the head and heart space for it often enough. I feel feeble in my efforts.
Yet often God forces us into that discipline and we need to be ready. A few nights ago, as Mark and I were finishing our walk, a group of dear neighbors was sitting on a driveway talking. I had already determined in my mind that I was not going to linger long (You know… Covid). But our friend came out to the street and asked us to join them in prayer for our neighbor’s son, who is newly married and battling an aggressive form of cancer at the age of 37. Of course, we would stop and pray. These same women prayed over us five years ago when Mark was going through his cancer battle. So we stopped. And they asked Mark to pray. Through his mask, he prayed for the presence and power of God to come through for Matt and his young bride. And he asked our gracious God for a miracle. God reminded me that He had placed us in that sacred space where Jesus was there, already interceding. Sometimes we don’t realize Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have (Corrie Ten Boom). So we pray.
Romans 8:26-27 encourages us to lean into God’s presence with our deepest hurts and longings—the things we struggle to say: Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
In Together in Prayer, Andrew Wheeler wrote: To pray kingdom prayers for people is to directly invite God’s presence into the lives of individuals in a way that He delights to answer. So, we pray, and prayer changes us.
These three practices help my feeble legs to continue to walk the path of “continual prayer”:
Just show up! Scripture is our guide; no need for fancy words; groans are accepted. Keep it real. The Holy Spirit will help.
Acknowledge that He alone is sovereign over all; He can be trusted in every situation.
Recognize that prayer takes place in all kinds of situations and places, and even driveways can become altars.
About those questions I’ve been stuck on? I now desire to have these on my lips like a broken record… Whom have I in heaven but You? (Psalm 73:25); What is humankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them? (Psalm 8:4)
What have you been learning about prayer in these trying times? No request is too big or small; He wants to draw us all to Himself and to each other in prayer. As important as the things I pray for, is the person I am becoming in Christ as I fellowship with Him in this way. My prayer is that you are experiencing the richness of His grace and mercy as you spend time with Him and others in prayer, even during this present winter of our souls.