By Rev. Kyle Norman, Crosswalk.com
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it; Christians are called to pray. Prayer is to be a constant activity, a relentless pursuit. As members of the Body of Christ we intercede for a world in desperate need of Christ’s redemptive love. Prayer is the primary way we impact the world around us. Without the firm bedrock of prayer, all witness and ministry are but vain efforts. Prayer matters.
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Why Should We Pray for Our World?
We pray for our world because this is the world that God created and loves. This is the world that Christ longs to redeem. The taint of sin and imperfection does not discount God’s original vision of creation. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth shows God’s good work (Psalm 19:1). John writes that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16). As God loves this world, so ought we.
We pray for our world because creation itself, in some way, longs for its own redemption. All creation groans in expectation, writes Paul (Romans 8:22). The spiritual force of sin and death did not just affect humanity, it affected the very nature of the world. Christ’s work on the cross, therefore, addresses the tangible stuff of life. God’s kingdom is concerned with things like rocks, trees, freshwater, and crop production. Christians are not called to a “pie in the sky” faith; our faith, and our prayers, are deeply rooted in this life and this world.
Most importantly, Christ has commanded us to pray for our world. Jesus modeled this in his high priestly prayer. Here, Jesus prays “that the world will know that you sent me” (John 17:23); he prays for a world that knows him and follows him. Furthermore, prayer for the world is the first petition of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. When we pray, Jesus says, we are to pray, “thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We are called to pray for God’s will to be done on earth before we ever get to praying for our own wants or needs.
With so many needs in the world, where do we begin? How do we know what we are to pray for? Below are 5 impactful ways to pray for our world. We can pray these prayers boldly, confidently, knowing that God has promised that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
1. Prayer for Healing
Whether someone suffers from Covid 19, a common cold, or is battling cancer, myriads of people face a daunting fight against disease and infection. Similarly, accidents and tragedy can take a physical toll on our lives. Some walk away unscathed, some do not. Healing, however, is not just about our bodies. Healing can also be about tending the deep wounds of the heart and soul. For many, the wounds they battle are internal, below the surface.
Whether the struggle is against an illness or a sense of dis-ease within, people need the healing touch of Christ. It is no wonder, then, that a large part of Jesus’ time on earth was spent in the ministry of healing. Everywhere Jesus went, he was inundated by people needing his healing power. All of us know people who could use a deeper sense of God’s healing in their lives. By praying for healing, we enter this healing ministry of Jesus.
Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain, knowing that whenever danger threatens, your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them, and restore them to health and strength. Give skill, sympathy, and resilience to all who are caring for the sick, and your wisdom to those in research. Strengthen them with your Spirit that, through their work, many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayers about the Outbreak: Church of England.)
2. Prayer for Peace
Jesus longs for his people to be immersed in his peace. This peace, however, is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). The peace that Jesus gives is a deep sense of wholeness in our lives. We feel united to God, and to each other. The peace of Jesus is not simply the absence of conflict but a unity with the kingdom of God. Hence, peace is one of the defining marks of life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).
Deep seeds of conflict run throughout our world. Nation revolts against nation. Despite cease-fires and political stratagems, violence continually erupts around us. War begets war as the cycle continues. On top of this, there is the absence of peace in our homes and on our streets. Individuals fight, and harm, and kill; families are torn apart. The overwhelming prevalence of mass shootings, suicides, and race-based violence points to the heart-wrenching need for peace in our world. Christ’s followers must boldly, and continually, pray for peace.
O God of peace, send us peace always, by all means. Sword of the Lord rest and be quiet now; and may the gospel with its benign influences spread over all nations, till there be no selfish clutching, no rapacious grasping at territories, no oppression of one race by another; but may the laws of the King of Peace be universally proclaimed and obeyed even by those who perhaps yield not their hearts to His sway. (Charles Spurgeon)
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3. Prayer for Troubles and Distress
We can too easily overlook the connection between our prayers and God’s power in people’s lives. The prayers of the faithful provide blessing, even miracles, to those who face times of trouble and distress. Prayer brings relief, help, and support. Our prayers can address the largest of struggles and the smallest of hiccups.
Acts 12 illustrates the link between the prayers of the community and one’s relief from distress. The chapter describes Peter’s miraculous release from prison. Upon his release, Peter immediately finds the house “where many people had gathered and were praying” (Acts 12:12). Peter’s miraculous release from prison is seen to occur because of the faithful bowing their heads in prayer. In a similar way, our prayers may impact someone’s life. It may even cause a miracle to be experienced.
God of love, whose compassion never fails; We bring before you the troubles and perils of peoples and nations, the sighing of prisoners and captives, the sorrows of the bereaved, the necessities of strangers, the helplessness of the weak, the despondency of the weary, the failing powers of the aged. O Lord, draw near to each, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Saint Anselm of Canterbury)
4. Prayer for People to Know Jesus
Behind every prayer we pray for the world, or for the people in our lives, there is a desire that Jesus be known. Whether we pray for one’s healing, or for peace within, we ultimately pray that people everywhere uncover the love and grace of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, this is what we long for. It is appropriate, therefore, that Christians articulate this is in their prayers. Perhaps the biggest impact in this world will come from people being brought into a life-giving relationship with Jesus.
Eternal God, who by a star led the Magi to the worship of your Son; guide by your light the nations of the earth that the whole world may know your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for Epiphany, The Anglican Church of Canada)
5. A General Prayer of Intercession
As we give ourselves to pray for our world, it can be difficult to discern the exact topic we should hold in prayer. Praying for the world may, at times, feel daunting. Beyond prayers for peace, healing, distress, and the knowledge of Christ, there are environmental concerns, issues of injustice and poverty, the right use of scientific advancement, and the correct governance of the people (just to name a few). There is so much we could pray for!
A general intercession is a prayer that gives voice to a myriad of topics, all with the aim of releasing Christ’s power in the world. It is rooted in the belief that God already knows the needs of this world. It is therefore useful in those times when we do not know what to pray for, or what words we should use.
Be mindful, O Lord, of all thy people bowed before thee, and of those who are absent through age, sickness, or infirmity. Care for the infants, guide the young, support the aged, encourage the faint-hearted, collect the scattered, and bring the wandering to thy fold. Travel with the voyagers, defend the widows, shield the orphans, deliver the captives, heal the sick. Succor all who are in tribulation, necessity, or distress. Remember for good all those what love us, and those that hate us, and those that have desired us, unworthy as we are, to pray for them. And those whom we have forgotten, do thou, O Lord, remember. For thou are the helper of the helpless, the savior of the lost, the refuge of the wanderer, the healer of the sick. Thou, who knowest each need, and hast heard our prayer, grant unto each according to thy merciful loving-kindness and thy eternal love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer).
In the end, we need to make all these prayers our own. We are to add our own voice as the Spirit prompts us. The above prayers serve as guides for us when we want to pray in a particular way. Or, if we can’t fashion the words ourselves, the above prayers can serve as our own voice. In the end, however, prayer is about the longing of the hearts not the words of our mouths.
The dynamic between the Spirit’s power and the impact of our prayers can be hard to understand. It is not like Jesus sits on the sidelines of the world until His people call him into action. The Holy Spirit is continually at work. We do not make God act. The reason we pray for our world is because we are invited to participate in what God is doing. In love, God encourages us to join in the work of the Kingdom. Yes, God can do all things without our help. Yet because God is gracious and loving, God desires our prayers to be a part of that work. Our prayers have an impact on the world because God desires our prayers to have an impact.
Given this promise, let us pray.
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