The sixth reflection in a series, “Hope to See Us Through,” by the Rev. Terry Elsberry.
These are desperate times. And there are certainly things we desperately need going forward. We need the best minds in medicine and medical research to care for the sick, to greatly reduce the number of lives lost, to develop a vaccine. We need brilliant economic decision making to guide our economy through the perilous days ahead. We need to find ways to get food to those who are facing major shortages. I could go on. The needs are immense. They mount daily.
We need something else. We need prayer.
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you,” the Lord tells us in Psalm 50 verse 15.
Those words are as true today as they were all those years ago. God is still our deliverer. When have we as a people needed Him, needed His help more? If ever we knew we can’t go it alone, we know it now.
You may say, “I’ve been praying, and I don’t see things getting any better. People still dying, suffering physically, financially, emotionally. People in the depths of misery of all kinds.”
Yet as the people of God, it’s our obligation, our opportunity to cry out to Him for help, for deliverance, for healing of all kinds.
Prayer connects us to God. Prayer brings God on the scene. Prayer brings Him actively into our lives and into the lives of the people we pray for–to bless, to help, to act on our behalf.
It’s always been that way for God and His people. When the Apostles were launching Christianity, they know the importance of prayer. When they realized they couldn’t oversee distributing food and other necessities to the needy and still do their job as spiritual leaders, they made a decision. They called a meeting of the elders (vestry) and asked them to appoint seven men who could manage this ministry. Those seven missioners became the first deacons.
While the new deacons met the needs of the underprivileged, Peter and James and John and the other apostles would be doing what? The Bible says, “They were giving themselves continually to prayer”—one version says, “they continued steadfast in prayer”—”and to the ministry of the Word.”
In other words, the apostles were devoting themselves to prayer and to studying, preaching and teaching the Bible.
There you have it. There you have The Big Three. Three foundations of the church at its founding, that ought ideally to be the big three foundations of every church today. Prayer. The Bible. Helping the needy. The fourth? Worship, in which God manifests Himself as we pray and praise and worship Him together in community.
But how did the apostles, the deacons and a relatively small group of other men and women in the greatest group effort in history manage to start the church? How were they able to overcome otherwise insurmountable odds to bring Jesus to a hostile pagan culture?
Here’s how they did it. Here’s the key to their astonishing success. They did it by prayer. Prayer to the God who was present with them, the God who through prayer guided them and protected them and helped them succeed.
God is with us now just as He was with the first Christians. Like them, we need to turn over our lives to Him. We do that by prayer. By praying for wisdom and guidance in the carrying out of our responsibilities, and in our relationships.
In this day of the Pandemic, we need to remember there’s a force stronger than Covid-19. It’s the Spirit of God. And He’s on our side. He longs for us to communicate with Him, turn to Him in our time of need.
So let’s pray for guidance. Pray for understanding. Pray for our church, pray for our nation and our fellow Americans, pray for our families and the people we love. Pray for the sick and the dying and for those who are in the front lines, made heroes by their faithfulness.
And as we pray, He’ll be there beside us to show us the way through.