For many of us the extension of the Lockdown period has brought with it a fresh wave of opportunity to find ourselves fearful and concerned as uncertainty looms over us. In this moment we could find ourselves paralysed by our worries about the future, and how we might face these unprecedented times.
Perhaps it has even caused us to withdraw from God. Maybe we are wondering where he is in the mess of this pandemic. Questions about God and the power of prayer might be at the forefront of our minds.
Over the past few weeks you might have been praying earnestly for God to move in your life, in this nation and in the world at large. You could be discouraged in your prayer life as you wonder why some of your prayers seemingly remain unanswered.
Perhaps you feel disappointed and anxious about the lockdown extension, or the climbing number of infected people across the globe.
Paul provides us with a Biblical perspective on how to respond to situations just like this.
In Philippians 4v4-7 he writes to the church (whilst he himself is imprisoned in Rome facing an uncertain fate) saying: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Wherever we find ourselves this morning these promises of God remain true:
We Still Have a Reason to Rejoice (v4)
This past Easter weekend has been a beautiful reminder to us all of the extent to which Jesus has changed our lives, and of the eternal hope that we have in him. A hope that cannot be taken away from us. Jesus’ death and resurrection secures a future for us that cannot perish, spoil or fade. It is because of this beautiful promise that we can come before God with gratitude and praise, rejoicing in all he has done for us.
The Lord is Near (v5)
God has not abandoned us or left us alone to face the storm. He is in the storm with us, a very present help in our time of need.
All throughout Scripture we see in times of trouble that people often turn to God as they realise their need and dependence on Him. At this moment in time the words of CS Lewis in his book Prince Caspian ring true, as Aslan says to Prince Caspian: “If you had felt yourself sufficient, [this] would have been proof that you are not.”
As we wait on God in prayer, fully dependent on him, we learn to push into his presence, and to seek him more. As we do so the promise is that we will find him because he is near. In prayer we make room in our lives to prioritise the presence of God. When we pray we make space to enter into and enjoy his presence.
The truth is that the answer to prayer is prayer itself.
Prayer is not only about the power it releases but the person it reveals. In prayer we come to know Jesus in new ways and as we do so our hunger and desire for his presence grows. We don’t pray because we are into prayer, we pray because we are into Jesus.
We believe in the power of Jesus and so we ask him for his help by bringing our petitions and requests before him with thanksgiving (v6).
We serve a God who is powerful and mighty. He is a God of the impossible. As we partner with God in prayer we can be expectant that situations and circumstances will change.
Pete Greig writes: “People sometimes ask why God requires us to pray, as if it was merely a form of relentless begging: ‘please, please, please’ in the tune of a child beseeching his father for a treat, or a soccer fan wishing like mad for a goal in the final minute. But to pray is not to plead from the side lines; it is to invade the field of play. In prayer we join the team, actively shaping the outcome of the match.”
As we draw near to God in prayer this week let us be full of faith that we will find joy and peace in his presence, and that our prayers will have an impact even when we can’t yet see it.
PRAYER POINTS FOR THE WEEK:
Prayers of Lament
A more uncommon type of prayer in our culture today, but very popular in the Bible, is prayers of lament. The book of psalms is mostly made up of prayers of lament where people come before God pouring out their anger, disillusionment, frustration and questions before him, in a posture of worship.
Now more than ever we might feel the tension between our love for God, our faith in him and our confusion surrounding seemingly unanswered prayer and why God allows certain things to happen.
We know the ultimate truths of the Gospel but sometimes we still have questions. In prayers of lament we bring our emotions, grief and questions to God honestly and openly, and invite him to speak into them.
- We can bring our specific questions, doubts and concerns to God in prayer and ask him to help us to trust in him despite the circumstances we might find ourselves in at this time.
- Where we feel overwhelmed and afraid we can pour out our hearts to God and ask him to protect us in our weakness. That he would be our strength and our hope, the one we look to and depend on.
- Where we find ourselves panicked by the chaos around us we can pray that God would help us to be people who are full of faith, not trusting in the things that are seen but instead in those that are unseen.
- We pray that where we are feeling depressed and/or full of anxiety, or where we have experienced loss and sadness, that we would bring these to God in prayer. We pray that God would give us his peace, comfort and joy at this time.
- We pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to help us in our struggles, needs, hurts and pain.
- We pray that God would help us to apply the truth of the Gospel to our lives about who He is and what He has done. We confess the sinful emotions, attitudes and behaviours that result from us forgetting who God is, his promises over us, and who we are in him.
- We come to him with thanksgiving and praise as we remember the truths of the Gospel. Pouring out our gratitude and adoration for who he is and for the hope we have in him.
Prayers of Intercession
- That the virus would be contained and that this pandemic would come to an end.
- That people who have contracted Covid-19 would recover and be healed.
- That people who do not have the virus would be protected, especially the most vulnerable among us.
- That Health Care workers would be strengthened and energised as they serve their communities at this time. That they would be protected from the virus as they work to save lives.
- We pray for Scientists and the World Health Organisation. We pray for wisdom when producing policies and procedures and guidelines. We pray for the invention of a vaccine.
- That God would provide for those who are in need, the poor and people whose income has been hugely affected by the pandemic. That God would meet people’s needs through those who are financially blessed, and that a culture of generosity would flourish.
- We pray for the global economy, that it would be strengthened through the innovation and creativity of business leaders, presidents and world leaders, employers and employees.
- We pray for the decision makers of our world: business leaders, presidents and world leaders, health leaders and church leaders. That God would give them wisdom in navigating the path ahead, and that they would make good decisions on how to move forward both during the pandemic and after.
- We pray that the church would be ready to explain the hope that they have in Jesus even in the midst of this global pandemic to those who do not know him.
- We pray for all those who do not yet know Jesus, that they would come to know him. That the Gospel would spread across the world impacting and changing people’s lives and that God would be glorified.
Prayer for Our Relationship with God
- We pray for a hunger and desire for God’s presence. That where we have come to depend on and thirst for things other than God, that during this lockdown period we would turn to God and seek him wholeheartedly.
- We pray that where we have placed God and prayer in the ‘boring but important’ category of our lives that we would find a renewed joy and excitement in his presence, and in our relationship with him.
- We pray that where we have been distracted by other things, that God would help us to prioritise spending time with him throughout our days.
- That we would learn to sit at the feet of Jesus, becoming more like Mary than Martha. That we would learn to dwell in God’s presence, ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
- We pray that our relationship with God would grow and flourish during this period. That our passion, love and commitment to Jesus would grow.
- That we would be captivated by the Father’s love for us, his pursual of us, and in awe of his faithfulness towards us.