It has been sarcastically said that most prayer meetings are organ recitals. People come together and pray for themselves and those they love, each lifting up a particular hurt or medical condition. Prayers for relief and healing are heard for all manner of body parts and functions (thus the play on words). But not many are answered. We wonder why that is, even as the number of those gathered dwindles, and the mean sum of their age increases. Surely it cannot be that prayers go unanswered because God does not care, for the Bible encourages us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” So He does care, and it is not wrong to pray for relief from physical pain anymore than it is wrong to pray for basic human needs. God cares for individuals. Nevertheless, praying for myself is helpful to me only. Praying for others is helpful to them, and therefore is more closely aligned to God’s “other-centered” character.
Yet is is not just us and our friends & family that God cares for. It must be observed that God cares deeply for whole people groups. Although He doesn’t forget the one, He most often works to answer prayer in view of the greater group. History itself makes it clear that His purposes for the whole far eclipse a selfish focus. In fact, if we learn anything from the history of Israel in the Old Testament, it is that He will even suffer the hurt of large numbers if it means the people group as a whole can be saved, even if only through a remnant. God is focused on the whole, “For God so loved the world.” It is His ultimate plan to restore the whole world back to Himself by bringing the blessing of Himself to the whole world.
This is the fundamental lesson of the cross. The cross is worth the sacrifice and the pain. The one suffering ultimately triumphs, and the many suffered for benefit enormously. God is glorified when we have the same focus Jesus did. When we are willing to suffer for His sake, so that the other can benefit. If that be so with something as tangible as personal pain, how much more so with something as intangible as our conversation with Him?
Jesus wants us to start praying from a position of intercession, not a position of personal want. When we start our prayers from the vantage point of ‘Our’, we immediately set ourselves up to pray for the other. This then the better way to pray:
Not me, but my house.
Not my house, but my greater family.
Not my greater family, but my neighborhood.
Not my neighborhood, but my community.
Not my community, but my city.
Not my city, but the nation.
Not the nation, but all nations.
Not us the created, but You the creator.
Having a focus outside of ourselves points more clearly to Him who made us. Ultimately that is the greater help to us also – for we are always blessed when we look, sound and act a bit more like Him. Amen.
There is nothing whatsoever anywhere in the Bible that suggests that man is the victim of an irretrievable circumstance. The whole concept of redemption argues against that. Christ’s coming and reversing the power of death—transforming the future by His resurrection—is in itself a statement that nothing is irredeemable. But His action is also a statement that says though things may be redeemed, they are not redeemed without someone stepping in.Stormie Omartian & Jack Hayford
Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” Knowing He lives in us and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, how much of our prayers are for the nations?