The New Year’s resolution game can sometimes profit a person, but I don’t put much stock into it. I have found that people often need to be at a place of desperation before they are willing to change. There has to be the recognition that what is going on must not be allowed to continue. There must be a holy dissatisfaction, whether it be with one’s health, or walk with Christ, or some other point of defect. Rarely is it continued though, for that initial motivation is often forgotten at the first sign of progress.
Instead, I think what we need more of is a long car ride. We are so addicted to the soma of podcasts, audiobooks, and music that we don’t know how to sit still. We don’t know how to sit comfortably in silence. Our own presence and lack of stimulation can be overwhelming to us. We can’t allow these gaps of silence, because if we sit still for too long we might have some unpleasant thought or reality bubble up, and then, well we need to distract ourselves again. Why is that? What are we so afraid of?
One place in Scripture that seems useful here is Philippians 1:19. From a dark prison cell left with little other than his thoughts, the Apostle Paul penned these words, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,” (ESV) How rarely do we consider our dour situations as settings to display God’s power and might? The Apostle found himself void of escapes. There was no Spotify then. No true crime podcasts. No audiobooks. No Twitter. No YouTube. Nothing. All he had was himself, a cloak, and some less than savory characters.
Isn’t it fascinating that he didn’t resort to the escape hatch known as “the pity party”? Instead, his moments of silence, and his stationary cell afforded him moments to reflect on what God was doing.
When was the last time you purposefully placed yourself in a position of silence to reflect on God’s work in your life? When was the last time you purposefully turned off the radio, or silenced your phone, or took a long drive for no other reason than to talk with God?
We so rarely do these things likely because we don’t see them as important. We think in these ways, “Why would God want to hear my prayers?” or “Isn’t He a bit too busy for that?” Paul’s language slices this idea to pieces. But perhaps such thoughts are merely a veil guarding deeper assumptions in our hearts; namely, that we don’t believe that we matter all that much. The hesitations to our prayer take a different form, “Why would God want to hear my prayers?” or “Isn’t He a bit too busy for someone like me?”
Paul calls us to action. He identified the prayers of the church as God’s ordained-means of accomplishing God’s ordained-ends. Paul’s call to prayer is nothing other than a reminder that God intends for us to play an active role in the building of His kingdom. We don’t simply sit around. We are agents of change. We do so, not by any act of presumption on our parts, but because God calls us to action. What sort of action are we called to? The chief act is that of prayer.
What do we pray for? We pray for the deliverance of our Christian brothers and sisters in horrible situations. We pray for the little hearts of our children to grow in their love for Jesus. We pray for nations to bend the knee to Christ because He has called us to disciple the nations (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). We pray for the sick to be healed. We pray for those who are sick and won’t be healed, that they might use this difficulty to draw nearer to Christ. We pray for the lonely, for the fatherless, for the widow, for the abandoned and forgotten. We pray for the presumptuous who think that they have no need of Christ. We pray for mercy, especially as our nation departs from Christ more and more. We pray for future generations to know Christ. We pray for churches that they might abound with godly men to pastor them and faithfully lead their churches, homes, and communities. We pray for peace at home and abroad. In fact, as we look quickly through this limited list, we soon find that we have far more things to pray for than time to pray.
My prayer for you is that you would see how special you are in God’s sight; that you have some role to play in all of this. My prayer is that you might know that you bear God’s image and nothing you do can erase that. My prayer is that you might know that you were created for more than food and drink, and sex and games, and were made for the eternal weight of glory. And I also pray, that such knowledge would lead you to come and worship the eternal King who has tasked you with praying for the good of the world, beginning with your heart, and your family’s heart, and your church’s heart, in the name of Christ the King who calls all people everywhere to repent and believe in Him.