Jonathan's Perspective  

Jul 22

Prayer in Unsettling Times

Prayer in Unsettling Times

The news is filled with horrors, tragedies, and other unsettling news.  Unfortunately, that is what sells.  People want to hear the bad news.  They are fascinated by it even when it does not touch upon their lives directly, or they can do anything to change it.  So we are inundated day in and day out with dark side of humanity and wonder where God is.  Here are two thoughts that may help.

First, don’t be overwhelmed by the larger picture.  Focus on your own life and potential to make your part of the garden a little more like Eden.  Leo Tolstoy, the wonderful Russian writer and Christian, said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  After the terrible week when we saw several black men apparently shot without cause, and five police officers killed in sniper fire in Dallas, I was blessed to be able to talk with a black friend who is leader of a local ministry to under-privileged black children.  We were able to openly talk about our thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns surrounding the terrible week.  The mutuality of trust, respect, concerns, and Biblical perspective gave us both a greater sense of hope as we talked about what we could do to strengthen our own communities and help one another.  I encourage you to engage people you know to discuss and pray about what God is calling you to do to make your part of this world reflect God’s grace and truth.

That leads me into the second point.  John Wesley said, ‘Nothing happens but by prayer’.  As Christians, and particularly United Methodists, we are a people of prayer.  We believe in the power of God to intervene in our lives.  God desires us to invite him into every aspect of our lives.  C. S. Lewis wrote, ‘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.’  It is in prayer that God molds us and shapes us into tools that he can use.  God wants to heal, encourage, direct, inspire, forgive, and use his children. God has given each of us a sphere of influence within which to bring about his kingdom, his good order.  Are we inviting God into our spheres of influence?  Are we asking God to guide us in the sacred trust of caring for those around us in our families, at work, and in the community?  Nothing happens, nothing, but by prayer.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu exemplified this sense of working within your own sphere of influence and offering all that you do to God in prayer.  In May 2001 journalist Giles Brandeth interviewed South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was a powerful experience for Brandeth, for Desmond Tutu was suffering from prostate cancer and there was a real chance this might be the last interview he would ever give. What might Tutu want to talk about? Perhaps the amazing transformation in the politics of his country, and of which he himself had a leading role. No. Here’s what he told Brandeth: “If this is going to be my last interview, I am glad we are not going to talk about politics. Let us talk about prayer and adoration, about faith, hope and forgiveness.” For Tutu these are the things that are the stuff of life.

You don’t need to be overwhelmed by what is going on in the world.  Instead of focusing on everyone else, offer your own self up to be used by God in your sphere of influence.  Instead of striving under your own power and intellect, listen for God’s voice in Scripture and prayer to guide you.  Paul told the Philippians who were going through tough times to seek God’s will and put it into practice, ‘and the God of Peace will be with you.’(Phil 4:9)



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