Rooted and Grounded Prayer
One of my favorite words in the Bible, and one of the most fruitful for sustained reflection, is the word “therefore”. Sometimes “therefore” can show the relationship between two propositions. Other times it can link our practice with our theology – putting doctrinal ground under our actions and rooting our acting in our believing. This is the kind of “therefore” I was searching after yesterday. Preparing to lead our Summer School of Prayer (Wednesday nights, June-August), I imagined myself standing before the church and laying out a short series of biblical foundations for prayer. What could I say? I wanted something simple, straightforward and solid as a rock. So I went looking for a “therefore.” We know we are supposed to pray. But what ground does Scripture place under the command for God’s people to pray? What kinds of things go on in a biblical sentence that results in the words, “therefore, pray!”? Here is part of what I found:
(1) II Samuel 7:27 and I Chronicles 17:25 record the same event. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house.” Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. So David takes a divine promise and turns it into intercession. He is praying because God has spoken, and he is praying for what God has spoken. So too today, we can find what God has promised in His word, and have the courage to pray for it! He has spoken it, therefore pray.
(2) II Kings 9:4 and Isaiah 37:4 tell the same story. King Hezekiah is being threatened by the Assyrians and so seeks Isaiah’s help. The king’s messenger picks up the story: “This is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of [the Assyrian’s taunt] and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.” The Lord does indeed hear and come with a mighty hand to save Israel by destroying 185,000 Assyrians in their sleep. But the messenger’s point still stands – the Lord may hear, therefore pray. The point being both that the Lord is only Source of help for His people, and that He is sovereign and therefore not under the control of His people. He is a totally free Sovereign! This freedom maximizes His glory when He comes “with vengeance and recompense to save you” (Is. 35:4). He is our only hope, and He may hear, therefore pray!
(3) Daniel 9:17 “Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.” God has great mercy on His people (cp. Eph. 2:7) and great concern for His Name, therefore pray.
(4) Matthew 6:8 Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray then [therefore] like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Father knows your need and loves giving good gifts to His children (cf. Matt. 7:11; Rm. 8:32), therefore pray.
(5) Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The One who is sovereign over the harvest releases workers into His fields through the prayers of His people! We are surrounded by great spiritual need – a spiritual harvest that must be reaped with human hands – therefore pray.
(6) Acts 8:22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. David records a similar experience in Psalm 36:3-6 “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away…I acknowledged my sin to you…and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” Prayers of repentance carry God-ordained power to break the bonds of iniquity, therefore pray!
(7) James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray to one another that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Healing power (both physically and spiritually) is set to work through the prayers of believers for one another, therefore pray.