It’s a new year, and you’ve just started as a ministry trainee, or perhaps you’re in your second year. How are you feeling about the year ahead? And more importantly, how are you praying about the year ahead?
Before joining 9:38 as their Administrator, I spent two years as a trainee at Christ Church Cambridge. I have much-loved memories of my time there (often including such props as bouncy castles, golf clubs and piñatas) but the most precious ones include prayer. And so I want to encourage you, trainee to trainee, to pray. Not just as your first response, nor as your last resort, but unceasingly. Here are a few reasons for prayer which God has impressed on my heart these last two years.
Prayer is… the most powerful response
Have you ever felt that prayer is too inadequate a response to meet a particular difficulty? I have, frequently. Sometimes, of course, prayer should be accompanied by action (James 2:15–16). But sometimes there’s nothing that the listener can do in earthly terms. Prayer is all we can offer. And it seems so insubstantial. What’s prayer in the face of worries about the future? Or against a loved one’s sickness?
In God’s sovereign mercy, prayer can turn drought to rain, sickness to health and raise the dead to life.
But don’t forget: in God’s sovereign mercy, prayer can turn drought to rain, sickness to health and raise the dead to life. ‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective,’ James 5:16 tells us. And that, trainee, means your prayers and mine. If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus to save you, you’re counted as righteous – and your prayers are the very opposite of insubstantial. And God has promised to use your prayers powerfully for his glory and the good of all who love him.
Prayer is… the joy of the church
Have you ever said you will pray about something – and forgotten? (And then avoided that person the next couple of Sundays in case your forgetfulness comes out in conversation?) I have. But the example of Christ Church family members was to pray with people at the point of talking with them, rather than saying I’d do it later. And that meant the prayer got prayed.
However God answered our prayers, the biggest encouragement was seeing him work in the hearts of those involved. Because I saw hope written on faces where before there had been fear and anxiety. There was hope on the faces of those who prayed, knowing God has empowered them to stand alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ. And there was hope on the faces of the prayed-for, knowing they weren’t alone in bringing the situation before the Lord.
Prayer is… not just for current crises
How often are your prayers driven by whatever presses your panic buttons? Crisis hits – pray! Problem arrives – pray! Turbulence threatens – pray! Yes, that’s me again. I tend not to pray for things when they’re going swimmingly; I blithely wait until the waters are high and my fears deep. This is particularly true when it comes to relationships. I take them for granted when they’re going well, and then I start praying desperately as they fray at the edges.
Don’t wait for things to go wrong before you take a situation to the Lord in prayer.
So let’s learn from this, you and me. Who will you encounter today? Choose one person, or group of people. And choose a relationship or group of relationships where things are going well – because this isn’t where you (if you’re like me, at any rate) are likely to turn your prayers. Give thanks for the blessing of friendship and unity. And ask that the Lord would safeguard that unity. Don’t wait for things to go wrong before you take a situation to the Lord in prayer.