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Prayer: The First Resort

October 20, 2010

I was struck the other day by the way in which a pastor made reference to prayer. Almost in passing, after hearing of a tragedy in someone’s life, he said, “Well, all we can do now is pray.”
All we can do?
Still, such a dismissive attitude toward prayer is all too often the norm – in practice, if not in theory. When we are confronted with a problem, we would much prefer to have the money or the wisdom or the medicine to correct it ourselves. We seem a bit dismayed when prayer is “all we can do.” Yet ought that not be the absolute highest and primary method of dealing with a difficult situation?
Prayer is too often regarded as a “last ditch effort” to deal with a problem. In reality, it ought to be our chief concern. From a broad perspective, prayer is an event of indescribably magnificent dimensions: for it is communion with the Almighty God of the universe. It is His world, after all, and our obstacles, while insurmountable in our own strength, are certainly no challenge to Him. And His Word makes plain His desire that we “cast all of our cares upon Him.” And how do we do that? With prayer, of course.
From a narrower and far more personal perspective, prayer is one of the most common and essential elements imaginable: it is the sustaining breath of spiritual life. To deny the soul prayer is akin to denying the body oxygen. Without it, the believer withers; with it, however, the child of God is more than a conqueror indeed. By grace (and by grace alone), we have been granted access to the One who holds the answer to every question, the solution to every dilemma. His answer, of course, may not always be the answer we want to hear. Perhaps that is why we so often try to solve the problems ourselves first. That way (we erroneously think), we might get the results we think are best. But we cannot solve anything ourselves – at least not rightly or for very long. We are helpless and hopeless apart from Him.
So prayer is, in the first instance, an act of humility. By its very nature, it is a confession: a confession that we acknowledge where the power lies. We accept that the One to whom we pray can actually do something about whatever it is that we are struggling with. However, true and effective prayer demands something else. We must not simply acknowledge that the power is His; we must admit that the authority is His, as well.
He may intervene – or not – in accordance with our best laid plans. We must not come before His throne in prayer dictating, but humbly petitioning – all the while acquiescing to His will and His purpose. Coupling this humble submission to His authority with the confession of His power will lead to an acceptance of His will for – and His work in – our lives. Prayer may effect change in our circumstances. But it will always effect change in us. Let us eagerly approach prayer as the first resort, trusting that He who loves us most knows us best and has only ultimate good in store for us.
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