The Balance of Our Prayers
To my Newday Family:
I remember once reading about someone who was asked about how to balance life – you know, work, family, vacation and the like. The person who answered asked, “If you see someone walking on a tightrope with a long pole for balancing, tell me, when is that person ever out of balance?”
And the answer is, she isn’t. Or she is. In truth, this person is constantly fighting against gravity and the work of staying on the line (and alive!) doesn’t happen only at one certain point along the way. It happens as she is on top of the line, moving forward.
And balance as we move forward in prayer is what we are seeking. The gravity of living – in my life, distractions – is constantly pulling at me to be off balance. And it seems our challenge is to constantly push back against the gravity pulling us in other directions.
This week’s email is about balance, but not necessarily in the sense I just described. I guess I seems obvious to me so many distractions or other priorities compete for my attention, when prayer should consume it.
I am more talking about balance in the prayer life, not just to be in prayer. Do you see the difference? Questions that come to mind helping better distinguish these can be:
When I pray, who are the prayers mostly about?
If I don’t pray, will anyone notice?
If my prayers get answered, who benefits?
The balance I seek in my prayer life should be unbalanced. Heavily unbalanced. In other words, my prayers should be outwardly focused on the needs of others a lot more than for my own. And I cannot give you a proportion here, like for every one need I have I should pray for the needs of 3 others. Prayer isn’t about the math, it’s about conviction and connection. The best “math” is simple: more of Jesus, less of me.
It’s a simple lesson and practice that will take me from praying about my own life to the lives of other people and when that shift happens, time becomes far less important. It’s not like I neglect how long I am praying, but I can only pray for myself for so long. I know my needs and I when I have exhausted the list, what then? Do I repeat myself, as if God needs reminding?
Which is why this time of focused prayer here in June 2019 is a wonderful opportunity for us all to learn the simple lesson of looking beyond ourselves. So yes, let’s pray to God for our daily and moment-by-moment needs. I believe God wants us to do that. But, I have the reminder not far away in the words of Jesus: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:7-8
A small irony here is when we are praying for the needs of others and for our church, we are also praying for ourselves. Because we are the church. When we pray for space, we are praying to find a location that best serves others as we are with them. Praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit means it gets poured out on…us. And naturally as we pray on how to join God in bringing others to better know of him, I am definitely asking to be a better witness.
However, I am not placing my needs at the top of the list. This short list to focus our prayers should move me out of myself and allow more room for Jesus to come in and do what he does best: reach the deepest need of another person.
Those deepest needs are definitely reflected in each of them:
The need for space reflects the deeper need of community, which is also the outward manifestation of the need for intimacy.
The need for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit reflects the need to know what we do for God makes a difference, again manifesting something else: purpose.
The need to have Newday members involved in bringing other people to know him reflects our need to less selfish, in a word, to serve.
All of these reflect the larger need for us to pray ourselves into the larger story we are all a part of. It’s a story that had a beginning and will be soon ending. Whether the story’s ending is good depends on what side we choose to be on, doesn’t it?
The invitation we once agreed to, sweeping us into the larger story still needs to be given. My prayer life is a part of it. How we live is definitely a part of it. The more we receive from God, the more we should be giving back in the form of our story as we are with others.
Based on the 3 major needs, here’s a sample prayer for us this week:
God, it is with thanks we come to you because we are running out of space. What a good problem to have and for it, we are simply grateful. And yet to be stewards of what you have blessed us with, most of all the people who come to us as a church, we want to show you to our community in an inviting and winsome way. Help us to know what to do, seek the good of others and be willing to serve others in any capacity you see fit. Amen.
Some Prayer Counsel from Ellen G. White
Finally, I would like to share one of the more powerful paragraphs from the pen of Ellen G. White I have come across. It’s found in volume 7 of Testimonies for the Church on page 30:
Christ, in His mediatorial capacity, gives to His servants the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is the efficiency of the Spirit that enables human agencies to be representatives of the Redeemer in the work of soul saving. That we may unite with Christ in this work we should place ourselves under the molding influence of his Spirit. Through the power thus imparted we may co-operate with the Lord in the bonds of unity as laborers together with him in the salvation of souls.
And then we are left with this last line in the paragraph, which almost comes across as a wakeup “slap in the face” as it were, to remind us of what we have access to:
To everyone who offers himself to the Lord for service, withholding nothing, is given power for the attainment of measureless results.
This echoes and expands on the simple words of Gabriel to Mary when we she was wondering out loud how she would become pregnant: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
I will be the first to say there is no formula in prayer. God is not a vending machine. And yet the line has the components of a formula, doesn’t it? It’s a most wonderful open-ended formula to plug ourselves into to:
We offer ourselves to the Lord + withholding nothing =
Power for the attainment of measureless results
These words beg the question: What am I withholding?
If we were stunned with the seeming impossible as Mary was, would we also with Mary say, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”?