We’ve all made this mistake…but in 2024 let’s pledge to do better, says Jeff Lucas
Lately, I’ve been pondering how often Christians say things we don’t really mean. Living mostly in America, I’m often greeted with: “How ya doin’?” When first encountering this enquiry, I thought the person actually wanted to know how I was doing. I didn’t know that a standard reply of: “I’m fine” was expected.
Another conversational tidbit exchanged between believers is the promise we make when we hear someone is not fine. “I’m praying for you,” we pledge. But then, in the blur of life, we totally forget. It’s awkward when someone later reports that God has answered our prayer and thanks us for our intercession. Oops.
Personally, I have been poor at asking others to pray for me. This is partly due to thinking my troubles are tiny in comparison to others. But that’s misguided, because pain is not comparable. A six-year-old, distraught at not being able to find their teddy bear, won’t be comforted by the news that there are more pressing concerns, such as war or global warming, to get upset about.
And then there’s the mystery that is prayer. When Doris gets the flu and the call goes out to pray, it can feel like we are signing a petition to convince God to do something. Of course, that is ridiculous. God invites us to partner with him in what he is doing on the earth. Shared prayer is not only a privilege, but a responsibility.
Paul repeatedly asked his friends to pray that he would be fearless and choose the right words as he shared the gospel (Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:2,4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Jesus, knowing that his friend Peter would be tempted, shared a warning and a promise: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).
Irina Ratushinskaya, raised in cold war Russia, came to Christ through reading Russian classics. She did not see a Bible until she was 23, but through the writings of Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Tolstoy, she met Jesus. As a Christian poet, she was sent to the Soviet’s notorious Gulag, sentenced to seven years hard labour. After her release, she found that thousands of Christians worldwide had been praying for her, and wrote about it in a poem, ‘Believe me’:
“Believe me, it was often thus
In solitary cells, on winter nights
A sudden sense of joy and warmth
And a resounding note of love.
And then, unsleeping, I would know
A-huddle by an icy wall:
Someone is thinking of me now,
Petitioning the Lord for me.
My dear ones, thank you all
Who did not falter, who believed in us!
In the most fearful prison hour
We probably would not have passed
Through everything – from end to end,
Our heads held high, unbowed –
Without your valiant hearts to light our path.”
Walking through some serious challenges recently, I awoke the other day with an irrational joy. The torment of an anxious night was gone, and I instinctively knew that someone, somewhere was praying for me. Later that same day, I received an email: a friend had felt burdened to stand with me in prayer.
So whatever our resolutions, let’s make prayer shared and requested our practice in 2024. Have a happy, blessed and peaceful new year.