Prayer is the foundation for everything we do together as Christians. Without prayer, we become easily disconnected from the important work of listening for God’s will in our lives. We rely only on our own knowledge and intuition, which most often leads us astray.
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. ~Ephesians 6:18
God holds a deeper knowledge that sees what we cannot – value where we see only junk, a path where we only see obstacles, and the hearts of others, which can elude even the most empathetic. We may also be asked to do things in ways that are counterintuitive. We are used to leading a certain way in our regular work lives – efficiently, proudly, finding the route that produces the most return for our investment. But God often asks us to work in different ways – to move slowly, to listen to those who may not be experts, to invest with no expectation of return. Is that any way to run a business…I mean, church?!
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. ~Luke 18:1
As a matter of fact, God says it is. And we see this lived out in Jesus the Christ’s life. The story of Mary and Martha is difficult every time because so many of us are like Martha, and we understand the frustration of trying to do the work of hospitality, which is built into our practice of faith, and Jesus saying, “Mary has chosen the better part.”
Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. ~Hebrews 13:18
Even when we try to do the things we are supposed to do to follow Jesus, sometimes it is not the thing we are supposed to do in the moment. And how are we to know? What Jesus was telling Martha was to take some time to have a conversation with him, and to listen. She was so distracted she couldn’t see what was most important in that moment. Whether pastor or church member, we can get so distracted by the task in front of us that we can miss a more important moment happening right in front of us – helping someone even if it means what we are doing goes unfinished.
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. ~Romans 8:26
If we stop to talk and listen to our God, we would hear the voice of Jesus, our friend, helping us figure out how to keep a posture of ceaseless prayer – that we remain open to the possibilities that God offers throughout our day. If we remain open and flexible, we might keep ourselves open to some holy moments we might have missed otherwise.
Pray without ceasing ~1 Thessalonians 5:17
This posture of ceaseless prayer, an openness and willingness to discover these hidden holy moments, is also important when facing conflict. There are few people in the world who actually like handling conflict, but those who are adept at handling conflict seem to be the ones who have a hidden well of calm and reason. Though some may naturally have more patience and grace in difficult situations, this well of peace they draw upon is most often replenished through a strong prayer life. And a strong prayer practice can help even the most conflict-averse find a flexible strength when dealing with the anger and rigidity that comes with disagreements in the church.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ~Matthew 5:44
Though many people think of the church as a place of peace, those of us who have been Christians for even a short while have been unpleasantly surprised by the ugliness we can find there. However, there is hope. Where our leaders exemplify lead to calm heads, openness in finding the ways God is leading us, and love throughout, because they are sustained and guided by prayerful hearts, we can teach others to do the same. If your leadership is anxious, the congregation will be also. If the leadership shows faith and love even in stressful times, so will the congregation. And do we make better decisions and do better work when we are anxious or when we are at peace?
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. ~Romans 12:12
And we do not just pray for our own benefit, but we pray to encourage one another, and that God will bless the ministries of others who are in this with us – in this presbytery, and throughout the Body of Christ. We pray to ask for intervention and healing when life hurts those we love, and those we do not even know. We ask for open hearts to abound all around us, so that we might all be listening in the same ways for God’s will. We pray for our enemies not just that their hearts might be softened, but our own as well. Sometimes we are the obstacle in a relationship, not the other person. We pray that we may be released from our sin so we don’t get in our own way.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. ~Luke 6:28
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ~James 5:16
We pray to open ourselves up to the Other. We pray so that we are not alone, so that our voice is not the only voice in our heads, but is accompanied by the love and wisdom of a God who knows us better than we know ourselves, and everyone else, as well.
So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ~Mark 11:24
Let us pray for our ministries, our spirit, our leadership, for one another, and for all we do together as we engage the communities in Newark Presbytery, and follow wherever God is leading us.
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you ~2 Thessalonians 3:1