Praying and Looking off the Mountain

photo courtesy of Abby Whisler

photo courtesy of Abby Whisler

The world is absolutely nuts. Think about it. All over the news, we have just witnessed gruesome beheadings, sadistic burnings of innocent civilians, abductions of Christians, brutal sex slaveries, and destructions of ancient sites by Islamic militant groups in the Middle East. On February 27th, Russian opposition activist Boris Nemtsov was assassinated which increased the already-escalating tension between Ukraine and Russia. The Greek economy is struggling to stay afloat amidst its over-the-roof debts, even with the four months extension on its bailout program. The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the US are at a standstill. Although there is not much known about how bad the human rights violations are in North Korea, fortunate escapees have testified of its inhumane practices. Animosity between the police and the black community is at its worst. There are countless atrocities happening on this planet every second. Some are large enough to have media coverage, while some are known only to those affected.

My point here is not to highlight world news. My point here is to make us rethink the way we pray and the content of our prayers. Oftentimes at Covenant when we have Bible studies, prayer groups, or just casual conversations, we ask, “What can I be praying for you?” And of course, we usually go on enumerating our long list of prayer requests that in general revolve around me and my family and friends. Rarely I hear someone say, “Let’s pray for wisdom for Obama!” or “That AirAsia plane that just crashed in Indonesia awhile ago probably needs some prayers.”

I am not saying that we should cease personal prayer requests. As Christians, we are obviously called to look out for our brothers and sisters as one body of Christ, and this means that we should be praying for their personal needs. But I think there is a problem if our personal needs are the only things that we pray about.

The thing that makes Covenant unique is its emphasis on not only educating young people in God’s Word, but also equipping them to engage the culture with the Gospel, not shying away from it. But how are we going to engage the world if we don’t even know what is happening outside of Covenant?

My call today is for us to: 1) Be aware of current world events. If you have smart phones, download news apps such as Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC, or Aljazeera (to get a non-Western point of view). If not, you can always bookmark a news website on your laptop. 2) Pray for our world. James 5:16a says that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” If we truly believe that we are talking to the God of the universe who holds history in His hands, who loves us even more than we love ourselves, who hears our prayers, and who can make anything happen, then we should be confident that our prayers do make a difference. I used to think that because God is sovereign, then my prayers do not matter much. This is faulty thinking. Interestingly, even John Calvin—I have always thought of him as the ultimate, hardcore “God’s sovereignty” believer—said that "it was a notable event for God to put heaven, in some sense, under the control of Elijah's prayers, to be obedient to his requests” (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller). Think about that!

If we can fall on our knees and regularly intercede for our beloved world most certainly, it can be a better place. Just like Dan Wykoff said in chapel a while ago that in the midst of brokenness, there is hope. Yes, the Middle East is still in great turbulence, the Greek economy is still entangled in debt, and the condition in Ukraine is a wreck. BUT God, being rich in mercy and love, can intervene and redeem this chaotic world. If only we would pray for people and events that are “off the mountain.” Thy Kingdom come, oh Lord.