It’s Tuesday morning as I write, and at this moment a group of women are down the hall investing time in a study on prayer, specifically, The Daniel Prayer a study written by Anne Graham Lotz. I’m glad they are engaged in that study. In addition, on Sunday evenings for weeks now a group of us have been engaged in our own study of prayer and feeling a need to take prayer seriously rather than seeing it as not much more than a way to open or close a meeting. I had a friend who when someone would begin a meeting with “Let’s pray,” would jokingly ask “Has it come to that?” A joke, yes, but the joke was funny because it betrayed an attitude that is easy for us to fall into. We think more depends on us than depends on God. We think more depends on our hard work and skill than depends on the will of God or the favor of God. And so we work and worry until we’ve done all we think we can do and only then does serious prayer ever begin. It’s come to that.
What’s prayer? A simple definition I’ve always heard is prayer is talking to God. True enough. It is. But it’s more. Prayer is not only talking to God, prayer is talking with God. Prayer, rightly understood and done, is a two way conversation. We speak to God and God speaks to us. As we pray, His Word and His Spirit give guidance, challenge, reassurance, and conviction. We become God’s friends, confidantes, and partners and this is on a bigger scale than maybe you’ve ever realized or even dreamed. Here is what I mean.
In the Bible God so often is depicted as being surrounded by what we can think of as helpers, assistants, or as counselors. Job begins with a scene in which the “sons of God” are coming into God’s presence to present themselves to God. There are Psalms, 82 and 89 among them, which speak of God presiding in the “heavenly council”. I Kings 22 gives an example of members of the heavenly council playing a role in deciding how to deal with Ahab, a king of Israel who had decidedly gone to the dark side. There are other examples, many of them, but we tend to not notice them because we don’t have the same eyes and ears as the ancient readers of Scripture. These pictures are not just in the Old Testament but in the New as well, and this is where things get interesting. On this side of the cross and resurrection, the heavenly council doesn’t include only angels and other spiritual beings. It includes human beings, the church, you and me. Let me say it simply and as directly as I can. God is asking us to join him in running things. He wants to know our thoughts. He wants to hear our opinions. God wants us to help him run things. And we have already started. That’s what happens when we pray.
What does that look like? It looks like Abraham standing before God not letting him go to Sodom until Abraham has been heard, and there is a hope for Sodom. It looks like Jacob wrestling with God until he’s muddy and exhausted and pronounced the victor over God. It looks like Revelation with people surrounding God’s throne saying “How long, O Lord?”, and it looks like saints everywhere on bended knees talking to their God about loved ones and places where the will of God isn’t being done and staying there until God is moved and moves. And this is how the world is changed.