Poverty of Our Prayer

Yesterday I received the following in an email:

I just wanted to tell everyone that I am so grateful to have each of you in my life. I pray you all have a blessed day. It was difficult for me to decide who I thought would DO this because many people claim to pray, but not everyone does. I hope I chose the right twelve. Please send this back to me (You’ll see why). May everyone who receives this message be blessed. There are 12 months/ 12 disciples/ 12 tribes of Israel / Jesus’ birth celebrated in the 12th month. There is nothing attached. Just send this to twelve others. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost, just a lot of reward. Make sure you pray, and pray believing God will answer:

“May today be all you need it to be. May the peace of God and the freshness of the Holy Spirit rest in your thoughts, rule in your dreams tonight, and conquer all your fears. May God manifest himself today in ways you have never experienced. May your joys be fulfilled, your dreams be closer, and your prayers be answered. I pray that faith enters a new height for you; I pray that your territory is enlarged. I pray for peace, healing, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, true and undying love for God.”

Now send this to 12 people within 5 minutes and remember to send this back…. I count as 2, you’ll see why. Suggestion: copy and paste rather than forward.

Generally I ignore such demands for forwards, but this time it came from someone I love, and the request for prayer is not one to be dismissed lightly.  I don’t mean to be a bore, and I don’t want to sound critical of the people who enjoy such things, but in order for me to participate I had to change the prayer.

I do pray, and was a bit put off by the original message, though the person who forwarded it on to me knows I pray.  As the character of C. S. Lewis said in the movie “Shadowlands” , I “pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

Like Lewis, I’m not sure God wants our territory enlarged, contra Jabez and the American gospel.  I think He wants His territory enlarged.  Suffering sucks, but it’s also “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  God, according to Lewis (at least in the movie), “wants us to get out of the nursery and to grow up.”

Our prayer is deeply impoverished by our culture.  I did email this to ten people, but for the prayer to be one I can say “amen” to, I had to change it.  We know that we ask according to God’s will when we pray His words back to Him from Scripture.  Scriptural prayer is powerful, not impoverished.  Here’s my version:

May today you be all God needs you to be. May the peace of God and the freshness of the Holy Spirit rest in your thoughts, dwell in your hearts, and conquer all your fears. May God manifest Himself today in ways you have never experienced.  May you experience the joy of knowing Christ, and may you be obedient to His will and determined to honor Him in all you do even to the point of death.  I pray that faith enters a new height for you, so that you may toil tirelessly in God’s vineyard and His territory may be enlarged as a result.  I pray that you will “be transformed through the renewing of your mind.”

I pray that you “make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love,” trusting that “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”  I pray that the “word of Christ dwell in you richly,” and that you will “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.”

I pray you grow in grace, that you pursue holiness, that you put on the armor of God, that you manifest the fruit of the Spirit, and that you “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and…run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”  I pray that you will have the faith to hope in His love, so that you may proclaim with Job that “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.”

Finally, I pray that you will seek His kingdom above all else, and that you will be content in all circumstances, so that through “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ” you will “count all things rubbish for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus,” and in so doing  you “will be his witness to all the world.”

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