“When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.”
The sentiment “thoughts and prayers” is being tossed all over social media in the wake of horrific tragedy these days. While I absolutely believe that our prayers are important, I have to agree with my friend Beth who shared a Facebook post that expressed something different:
“Prayer is a holy and significant part of healing… others’ and our own. However, ‘thoughts and prayers’ seem something akin to ‘faith without works’ – empty… and void of life. Perhaps to offer this type of consolation even minimizes the pain of those most deeply affected. I think of when James questions believers in chapter 2 ‘what good is it’ if they simply bless and offer well-wishes to a person who is hungry and cold without tangibly meeting his/her need? It is an incomplete exercise of our faith to allow lip service to stand where something else is deeply needed.”
When we pray, we so often assume God is listening. But he doesn’t have to! He is ever aware of us, but if if feels like God is looking away, covering His ears and ignoring us maybe He is. Maybe He isn’t answering back, not because of the words we pray, but because of what we are or are not doing with our lives.
If we sincerely want prayers answered, we’ve got to do be willing to do something before we even present our prayers. Do we come to God with just sorrows, seeking and pleading for his “fix-it” power, or do we present ourselves and our work to Him prayerfully asking that He order our steps to align our work with His will?
In the book about prayer called the “Circle Maker”, Mark Batterson often repeats the phrase “work like it depends on me and pray like it depends on God.”
He talks about setting goals that are “God-sized” and how goals are the “cause and effect of praying hard.” In regards to prayer he says “Prayer is a goal incubator. The more you pray, the more God-sized goals you’ll be inspired to go after… Goals give you a prayer target.”
Hopers, today before we bow in prayer, let’s claim our targets!
Let’s claim responsibility over God-sized goals and allow him to take aim with the propulsion of our lives.
Let’s be active justice seekers, willful defenders of the oppressed, caretakers of the fatherless, and pleaders on behalf of the widow. Watch and be amazed how, through prayer, God depends on us as we depend on Him.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17