Psalm 138:2 (NIV)
I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.
As I think about our time of corporate prayer last night, I find this Psalm to be an incredible affirmation of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to those who love Him. For those who were gathered last night, I think you will agree that this Psalm captures what our hearts experienced before the presence of the Lord. I will reprint its reflective words for our reference:
Psalm 138:1-8 (NIV)
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. 2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. 3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. 4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. 5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great. 6 Though the Lord is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. 8 The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
It is important for God’s people to “pray without ceasing” and to seek even greater intimacy with the Lord. Though we have always been admonished to continually pray at all times, there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency that has been revealed to His Church to emphasize the intercessory power of prayer. As we contemplate the times in which we live, we need to embrace that prayer changes things … mostly because it inwardly changes our hearts to align with the heart of the Father. It softens and molds our hearts to see the brokenness, oppression, injustice, and darkness that has over taken the lives of so many people around us. God deeply wants to bring healing and hope; forgiveness and salvation; liberty and life to the world … but most often His work is done through people. This simply means the people He uses to address the evils in our world must have willing hearts to do the work needed. Believers need to press into the presence of God until we, like David, can proclaim: “When I cried out, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul!” Indeed, it is prayer that prepares us to be bold … to be courageous … to be servants to those God is calling to Himself…. Jesus shared this perspective with us:
Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
When we pray … we “ask” the Lord. And here Jesus tells us to “ask” the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. Why? There is a vast multitude of people to be brought into the Kingdom of God, but there are few who are willing to work and make it happen. When Jesus said ask, it was not about asking the Lord to send someone else; rather, it was about asking Him to become one of the workers. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Cf. Isaiah 6:8) Oh, my personal prayer is be bold and courageous … to say, “Here I am. Send me!” What is your prayer? When we pray and ask the Lord Jesus to change hearts and to change lives … to change the world … just what are we expecting Him to do? Exert His divine, supernatural authority and power? Indeed He will, but I believe He will do it through His people. Right? Are we not His Body in the world? Are we not the ones supposed to do the work in His harvest field?
James 2:14-17 (NIV)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
So I encourage and challenge us to think more deeply about the role of prayer in our lives and in our walk of faith. It is one thing to ask God to do something about the suffering in this world. It is quite another to ask Him for boldness and courage to be a worker in His harvest field. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Indeed, as His Body, we have been appointed to go into the harvest field. As Paul admonished, we have been asked to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is our true and proper (spiritual) worship. (Cf. Romans 12:1) We have been anointed with spiritual gifts to serve. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) And we have been empowered with boldness. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Yes, it is prayer that will get each of us to that place of alignment with the heart of God to accomplish His work.
One final thought. How often have we heard people ask, “Why does God allow suffering in this world?” Perhaps, you have asked this or a similar question. I know that I have. But the answer I have received was quite unsettling. God asked, “Why do you allow suffering?” I had to stop and deeply consider His response to me. Do I allow suffering? How have I done so? Well, in a word: “Inaction.” Yes, inaction is the opposite of what James and John admonished us to do. Indeed, there are many actions we can take to address the problems of this world if we will but take time and look for the opportunities. So, we need to get bold and get busy! “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Cf. Galatians 6:10)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ~ John 13:34-35