In the way of a reminder, posts 5-9 are all meant to answer one question: What can Christians do during this time to honor God? So far we’ve seen that we are to give ourselves to hope, not fear, light up the world with love, and work to balance wisdom and risk. In this fourth post on the same question we mean to help you see the need to pray and practice. That is, we want to help you see God’s call on your life to be fervent in prayer and then swift to act.
Pray and Practice
These two spiritual disciplines are always meant to go together in the life of a Christian. To practice without prayer is prideful and foolish (John 15:5), and to pray without practice is useless (James 2:17). I need to clarify what I mean by that, of course, and that’s exactly what this post is meant to do.
God’s Word repeatedly calls God’s people to pray…without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I don’t know that I’ve ever found a Christian who didn’t understand and agree with that. But I also don’t know that I’ve ever found a Christian who felt like their prayer life actually measure up. What, then, is the root of a prayerful Christian? Where does a healthy prayer life come from? In simplest terms it comes two codependent gifts of God: love for God and a recognition of our complete dependence on Him. When it comes to God-honoring prayer, these two gifts are like sides of a coin–you can’t have one without the other. If we lack either of these things our prayer life will be severely lacking. Our love for God makes us want to go to God in prayer and our dependence makes us need to.
What does all of that have to do with the coronavirus? In a myriad of ways the coronavirus reminds us all of how vulnerable we are (to sickness and death, to government overreach, to ignorance, to financial difficulties, to anxiety and fear, to relational conflict, to selfishness, and on and on). Of course we are all always this vulnerable (and more), but when things are going well we have a tendency to forget that. The practical result of the pandemic, then, is that half of the ingredients for a healthy prayer life have been thrust upon us. We know we need God now more than ever. When we combine the eye-opening effects of the virus with our love for God, then, we cannot help but to seek God in prayer.
Let’s go to God in prayer like never before. Let’s acknowledge our need for Him. Let’s tell Him what we love about him. Let’s confess our coronavirus-revealed sin to Him. Let’s give him thanks for his grace, mercy, and limitless blessings for us in Christ. And let’s cry out to God, asking Him to meet the needs of all our neighbors as ourselves. Above all, let’s pray that God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the life of a Christian, prayer will always be vital and central and primary. It is a formal acknowledgment that we cannot do anything apart from God. While it is not hard to imagine a system in which that’s all God requires of his people, that’s not the system God has created. He charges us not only to come to him in dependence-expressing prayer, admitting that we are powerless in ourselves, but also to join him in working for the good of the world through our own actions.
It would be a great tweet, blog post, sermon, homework assignment, or PhD dissertation to examine every passage of scripture that describes God’s sovereignty and His call to his people to act. Though the two might seem incompatible (if God is sovereign and we are totally dependent on Him, why do we need to work?), and yet they coexist everywhere in the bible. One of the clearest examples of this is found in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We need to do good works, but the good works we do were sovereignly planned by God.
And so we go to the Bible–God’s Word–to know what good works God has called us to and then, bathed in prayer, we do them. We are not meant to work on our own, we must also pray. In the same way, we are not meant to pray on our own, we must turn our prayers into action. In this coronavirus-dominated season (along with every other season) God’s people must pray and practice if we are to truly honor God and follow Jesus.
Putting it Together
What does all of this mean in the most practical terms?
- Read good books on prayer: Kneeling Christian. The Praying Life.
- Pray through scripture: Work through a Psalm. Use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide. Find a Fighter Verse to anchor your prayers. Find people’s prayers in the Bible like Moses, David and Daniel.
- Take advantage of small breaks to pray: Go on a walk. As you wash your hands for 20+ seconds. When you are in the Chipotle drive through. As you are up with a fussy baby in the middle of the night.
- Pray with someone else: Call someone from Grace to pray for one another. Go on a walk and pray 6 feet apart. Work through the families in your DG, or the church roster.
- Be creative in finding ways to carry out the things you are praying for. Pray for your uncle’s salvation and then make a video where you share the gospel with him. Pray for your friend to fight against her sin and then call her and share related promises of God with her. Pray for your your neighbor’s needs to be met and then take them some canned soup and TP. Pray for the nations and then send some cash to one of our missionaries. You get the idea.