It’s later and worser (sic) than it’s ever been before!
Later is a no-brainer, “worser” is a matter of perspective I suppose. Thankfully, “Though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God his grace is wider and deeper still!” (Romans 5:20) When things get really bad in a culture God often inspires his pray-ers to pray.
It seems to me that the “Spirit of supplication” has been busy lately recruiting people to join his initiative to challenge our world’s crash-destined flight path. I’ve noticed more churches fasting and more prayer meetings scheduled this month than I can remember. January tends to be the month for resolution-making and special prayer meetings as part of yearly church calendar, but I think I’m noticing something more Spirit generated than that.
As an aside, I have to say that if the themes of our prayers are predominantly about our own needs and problems, though they loom large in our minds, we might be missing the primary intent of the Spirit’s provocation to pray (James 4:3).
While you and I have needs, they’re not as grave as those in war zones and impoverished ghettos around the world.
Anyway, I think we could all agree, for instance, that terrorists and their victims need our prayers. I’d like to propose a way of praying that I consider to be in keeping with the way that Jesus taught us. I’ve been interceding for our shared humanity using the Lord’s Prayer as a template. I did a more detailed audio podcast teaching on this but decided to give a brief synopsis of that talk.
After the Paris attacks our pastor asked us to pray silently for the victims and the perpetrators of the shootings. Without thinking about it I said the Lord’s Prayer. I hardly ever actually pray that prayer apart from corporate recitations of it in more liturgical settings than I typically frequent. As I slowly repeated the prayer over and over I felt something I don’t remember ever experiencing before. It seemed I was praying solidarity with humanity in a way that was unique for me. I think the Bible refers to this as “intercession.” I was praying for myself, for others, but, more than that I was “interceding.” I was addressing God “in the place of” those who don’t know to – or even care to – pray for themselves.
Though our solidarity with fellow followers comes first and what we have in common with one another in Jesus is profound, we also have something quite profound with the yet to be converted world. They may not have Jesus “inside” them yet but we do have a Creator in common. We’re all divine image bearers. We all come from the same place, the same Source.
Put simply, even a terrorist and I, in addition to a corrupt nature, have a divine image in common. We may not be equal in our standing with God or in our current trajectory to bring him glory, but we’re similar nearly as much as we’re dissimilar. I may have the divine nature infused in my spirit, but I still have the same potential of horrendous evil as the crazed terrorist. “But for the grace of God go I.”
We “born agains” tend to be quite emphatic about the supernatural difference that Jesus has made in us, connecting us to God and to one another, and rightly so. But let’s not forget our profound connection to our fellow human beings by first birth. We’re linked to everyone on the planet, even with those who are currently bent on destroying that planet and its people.
When we pray as intercessors we’re playing our role in the world as “priests.” And as such we’re responsible to not only intercede for our Christian family but for the rest of the human family.
Note the prayers of Nehemiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah; all fairly well respected spiritual / moral leaders of their time:
I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
Lord, the great and awesome God…we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. . . we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. . . . Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill.
Although our sins testify against us,
do something, Lord, for the sake of your name.
For we have often rebelled;
we have sinned against you.
You are among us, Lord,
and we bear your name;
do not forsake us!
Did you notice all the “we’s” and “us’s”? Even though those godly prophets were actually the most virtuous ones in the land, they saw themselves as connected to their sinful nation. I propose that, in a similar way, we are connected to our sinful nation and our rebellious world. I think our prayers, like the prophets, should reflect more of this sense of solidarity with the rest of humanity.
With these things in mind, let’s walk through each piece of the prayer that Jesus taught us, look at it, and consider praying it from the vantage point of our shared humanity. I unpacked this more in the podcast talk, but I offer here some “sound bytes.”
Our Father… we’re all derived from you, the terrified and terrorizers alike.
Who is in heaven… on behalf of those who have and those who haven’t yet looked “up” to you, we acknowledge you’re “above” us.
Hallowed be your name… What you receive back from your redeemed and your unredeemed children is an immeasurably inadequate representation of your due. From the worst to the best of us, Lord, you deserve better!
Your kingdom come… King Jesus, we need your just rulership to replace our lawlessness. Come, Benevolent Ruler, and take your rightful throne in our hearts, in our courts, and in our seats of government.
Your will be done… Help us to so give ourselves to you, be transformed instead of conformed to systemic evil, and experience your good, pleasing, and perfect will. Steer our hearts away from needing to get what we want into wanting you to get what you want.
Give us this day… Help us to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem by consuming more than our portion. Help us be willing to eat a little less so that those who have nothing can have a little more.
Forgive us our trespasses… We’re selfish, sectarian, murderous, and oppressive. Forgive our trespassing on your territory and on the territory of our brothers and sisters. We’ve lost control over ourselves and we self-medicate by controlling others. Forgive us for collaborating with the evil one by stealing, killing and destroying one another. May your blood cleanse us from our bloodguilt, Lord.
As we forgive those who trespass against us… There’s no way to justify or excuse their sins against humanity, but we follow your example and command to forgive our enemies. We refuse to let them control us by hating them. We release them from our judgment and leave the judging to you, Lord.
Lead us not into temptation… Help us resist the suggestions to hurt the weak in order to feel strong. Along with all our sinful family, lead us toward you and away from temptation to make this world a worse, rather than a better place.
But deliver us from evil… We can’t seem to keep from murdering one another. Deliver us, Lord. Set us free from our bloodlust. Free us from the evil inside us and all around us.
For yours is the kingdom… Our “kingdom” has to go in order for yours to come. You’re the King and the kingdom is yours to command.
The power… We need your power to be better to one another, to stop our killing and to start loving like you do.
And the glory forever… Lord, all of this is about you and your glory. It’s for your renown that we pray that you’ll make us a better people. Not just for our own pleasure and prosperity that we pray for a better, safer, more peaceful world; but for your glory. Get glory for yourself, our eternally deserving Savior!