Make your petitions known
Recently we have noted that in Matthew’s prelude to the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says, (Matt. 6:5, 6 and7) “when you pray”. There is no sense that prayer is an optional extra for the disciples of Jesus. In writing to the Philippians, Paul encourages them to pray (Phil. 4:6), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In his letter to the Thessalonians (1Thess. 5:17) he urges them to “never stop praying”. And again in similar fashion Paul encourages the Ephesians (6:18) and the Colossians (4:2) to be in constant prayer. In Romans, Paul notes that at times we are uncertain as to what we should pray, but this uncertainty is no reason not to continue to pray, for the Spirit will plead on our behalf (Rom. 8: 26-27). These are just a sample of New Testament verses that encourage, if not compel us to pray.
As we continue to focus on prayer as a congregation, it is vital that we understand that we need to be aware of what is happening in the world around us, locally and globally. What we see in many cases will break our heart. When we see the injustice, the brokenness, the homeless, the victim, the tragedy and on and on our heart should break and our tears should flow. We live in a broken world, as we look forward to a world that will be new and never break again. As we pray, your kingdom come, your will be done, our view of the world will shape our prayer. This should lead us to ask, what or how should the local church respond?
Karl Barth (renowned 20th century theologian) wrote this about prayer, “The heart of prayer is not the greatness of God, nor the unworthiness of mankind. It is rather, that a great God has come near to an unworthy people with the nearness of Father and child. So, it is coming as a petitioner before God that the praying person makes the most genuine act of praise and thanksgiving, and therefore worship; and again, that in doing so he makes the most genuine act of penitence. By coming before God as one who asks he magnifies God and abases himself.”
So I encourage all of us to enter this season prepared to pray. Praying with our eyes open and our heart attentive to God’s guidance, and let us come before God in boldness and confidence and expectancy and not be afraid to ask. And join with the psalmist and declare,
Psalm 116: I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe!