“Pray constantly.” I Thessalonians 5:17
Accounts of 9/11 seem to be surrounding me lately. It has been 19 years since that fateful day in our nation’s history and those of us who remember it are not likely to soon forget. Even as I type these words, I am taken back in time, and memories flood me. I can tell you exactly where I was standing as I heard the news and clicked on my television. I don’t think words exist to sufficiently describe the torrent of emotions that flooded my mind and soul as the events of that day unfolded. It was devastating, heartbreaking, and terrifying. Earlier this week, I was listening to a podcast of a teaching that was recorded the week of 9/11. I even read my own personal recorded accounts of that day in my journal. The fear was palpable. Yet so was the faith. What amazed me then and amazes me now was the overwhelming unity of our country during that time…and even more so, the desperate pleas of prayer that came in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Yet, years passed. People healed. Many forgot the nearness of God during that time. I don’t know that had we been told 19 years ago that our country would be so divided and further from God than ever before in the year 2020 that we would have believed it. Yet here we stand.
Why is it that times of calamity are what brings us to our knees? It is so often quoted (or some similar version) that may we remember we need God on our best days as much as we need Him on our worst days. Yet, why do we not live that way? The election is merely days away. The country is divided. Tensions are mounting. But God is still in control. He will be just as much God on Wednesday as He is right now. As the children of God, we have a responsibility to pray, not only for our own families and lives and needs. But we also have a duty to pray for the leaders of our churches, the leaders of our counties and cities, the leaders of our schools, the leaders of our communities, the leaders of our states, and certainly the leaders of our country. Where we struggle to feel love and to demonstrate love, pray for God’s love to fill your heart and then pour out His love on your fellow man. Prayer changes things. Prayer may not change our immediate circumstances but prayer changes us in the midst of them. Prayer strengthens us. Prayer fortifies us. Prayer empowers us. Prayer invites the God of the universe into the details. Prayer acknowledges dependence on God. Prayer recognizes our weakness apart from God. Prayer reminds us of who we are and who God is.
I have this tendency to share my woes with those closest to me. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to whine or complain. Other times, I want a listening ear and validation and affirmation of my feelings. Then there are times when I am looking for wisdom, advice, input, and feedback for accountability. Philippians 2:14 says to “do all things without grumbling.” Strike one for me. If my motive in sharing my woes is to complain or grumble, then I am not walking according to the Spirit but instead am walking according to the flesh. In the other two scenarios, however, my motives are sincere. I am learning the hard way of how I really should be handling the first scenario. Beth Moore calls it tattling to God. Why don’t I do more of that? In reality, He is the only One who can really do anything about it anyway. When I tattle to Him about my feelings, my hurts, my fears, my insecurities, my failures, my dreams, my hopes, my disappointments, and my complaints, I am safe. My feelings are safe. My thoughts are kept safe with Him. And He usually calms and settles my heart. He whispers gently to me who I am in Him. He changes my mood. He changes my attitude. And He is always faithful to show me His perspective and what His Word is on the matter at hand. Yet why is that what I remember to do after the fact? I Thessalonians 5:17 shows me, and you, a better way. Pray constantly! If my heart attitude is that of automatically taking it to the Lord in prayer, then when the tidal waves hit–or the hurt feelings, the insecurities, the bad mood, or the impulse to lose my temper–I will not have to be reminded to take it to Him in prayer. I have this stirring in my Spirit to pray the words of the psalmist in Psalm 141:3, “Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” This prayer alters my response mechanisms. Pray Scripture back to God. He has provided us so many ready-made prayers that speak the words of our hearts to Him. Isaiah 43:19 says, “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” Oh that God will do something new in me and in you. God is the God who makes rivers in the desert--why are we not tapping into the power of Almighty God? May my first response–and yours–always be to pray. God is capable of doing far beyond what we can even begin to ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20), but it must begin somewhere. We must ask. Matthew 7:7 says, “Keep asking, and it will be given to you.” Ephesians 6:18 says: “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request.” May our thoughts become prayers before they ever become words that exit the door of our lips. God can handle all of our thoughts and feelings. Taking them to Him will prevent us from sinning against Him and sinning against others.
In a time of great division, it is time for the household of God to take its proper place, on our knees before Him, interceding for each other, our country, our world, and ourselves. When I was searching for the perfect picture to hang above my desk, I was looking for something that would be simple yet profound. I wanted some beautifully motivating quote or Scripture to encourage me each time I looked up. Yet what I found was not what I was looking for…it is a picture with two simple words on it that remind me daily of one of the most important things. It says, “just pray.” How many times I have needed that reminder. Sometimes I gaze upon it while trying to find just the right words to string together. Other times, I look at it and mindlessly observe it when its impact hits me and I usually smile or even laugh. “Just pray, Dawn, because your God is bigger than this. Your God cares that you find the perfect pairing of words. Your God never wants you to forget how much He loves it every single time I say, Father…” Friends, just pray. Pray for revival. Pray for our country. Pray for Israel. Pray for strength to fight the battle. Pray for wisdom. Pray for each other. Just pray. God wants to do something new–in me and in you. Let’s offer up ourselves to Him to do just that.