• Jose Philip

In the Grip of Hope: A predicament that calls for prayer.

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

We are going through the valley of the shadow of death, or at least that is how the current Covid-19 crisis feels. Who would have thought that at the zenith of our collective progress humanity would be brought to her knees like this?

This unprecedented crisis of unimaginable magnitude caused by an invisible virus seems to have put the brakes on life as we know it. And, despite our collective best efforts there seems to be no relief in sight.

We are forced to pause, and yet we must press on.  It is time we gave both life and living some serious thought.

In a time such as this the one thing we can all be sure of is that the vast majority of humanity will be on their knees, praying. And that is a good thing. Crisis, and the ensuing suffering has a way of opening our eyes to see, our ears to hear, our hearts to understand and appreciate the value and beauty of being human; and the privilege of life in community in a way that good times seldom does.

Crisis also has a way of cutting human pride to size and bringing us to our knees. This means that while we will see a global prayer movement, many are bound to go down on their knees grudgingly, not because they want to, but they have to! 

It begs the question, ‘why do humans intuitively turn to God for when crisis strikes’? It does not matter how one answers the question. The fact remains that humans intuitively do turn to God when crisis strikes.

So, then, it matters very little how we come. Gladly or grudgingly. The important thing is that we come, and the fact remains that eventually we will all be on our knees; and whilst on our knees, we will do well to think about who we are kneeling before.

For far too long we have busied ourselves with what we want to accomplish and acquire without giving much thought to what we are doing to ourselves and those around us. It is time we recalibrate. It is time we rediscovered what it means to be human and what it will take for us, humans, to truly flourish?

In that sense, it is time for a massive overhaul. Not just a makeover, but a transplant. And give the magnitude of our predicament, patient trust in prayer is a non-negotiable.

Let us be clear about one thing; our posture in prayer will change us.

Our understanding of who God is will shape how we pray and our posture in prayer will either build us up, or it will tear us apart.

As we pray we will either find ourselves being drawn to a God who loves us and is deeply invested in restoring us; or God will become increasingly irrelevant. 

In the first instance as we are drawn to God, we will find the courage, strength and help we need to love our neighbour as ourselves; as God loves us. However, if God becomes  irrelevant then we have no reason to love our neighbours as ourselves, especially when our survival is threatened by their existence. I pray that day will not come!

But, either ways, prayer will change us and patient trust in prayer is non-negotiable if we are to navigate this crisis well. This is at the heart of how Jesus lived, and how he taught his disciples to pray - in patient trust. 

Because God is a personal, relational, loving and holy God — as the Bible describes him, then neither is our prayer pointless, nor should our posture in prayer be an unreflective one. Think about that for a moment.

Because God is personal-relational, loving and holy neither is our prayer pointless, nor should our posture in prayer be an unreflective one

It is vital that we nurture a posture of gratitude and patient trust in prayer for prayer is God’s way of helping us deal with the predicament we find ourselves in.

Prayer is not something we are entitled to; it is what we are invited to. It is his provision to help us through our predicament.

This universe and the world we live in is not a cosmic accident, while some might like to think of it that way; it is divine love in action. The Bible reminds us that all things were created by Jesus, and for Jesus. Creation is an act of divine love, and so is human freedom.

Freedom is contingent on choice, and the privilege to choose is a gift of love.

Now, if the God who created the world is love. And, if creation is an act of love; then it stands to reason that his continued interaction with us will be in love, irrespective of how we might feel right now. Which is why we can be certain of his accompanying presence no matter of how dark, or deep the valley is. And, why in a time such a s this we need to remember and be reminded often that this is God’s world and God loves the world dearly.

Jesus speaks of God as our ‘Father in heaven’ and this world as our Heavenly Fathers’ Kingdom. A kingdom in which he gives us, humans, the privilege to exercise our authority fully and freely under his sovereignty for the good of all. This is also why we are to seek to do His will on earth as it is in heaven. That, by the way, is what praying ‘your kingdom come’ means.

Prayer is an invitation to stay in the conversation with our Creator as we partner with him in his redemptive work.

Everything - God’s provision, forgiveness, reconciliation, deliverance from evil, everything is our privilege to ask for in prayer so that his will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And from that perspective it becomes easier to see why the goal of prayer is not what we often make it out to be. 

The goal of prayer is change, but not as we suppose. We are looking for a quick fix, God is inviting us into a major overhaul. 

We pray that things happening around us and to us will change. God gives us the privilege to pray so that we will change. And when we change, as God wants us to, the world we live in will change to be more like the world he created for us to live in.

Now, for this to become our way of life we need two things: we need a God-centred perspective and we need a God-centred trust.

It should be plain to us by now that God is at the centre of the universe, not us. This is a Theo-centric universe! We need to come to grips with that.

We also need a God-centred trust.

Let me explain. Imagine walking around a vast farming area. You and I might find it difficult to understand why one part of the field is cultivated and is lush green, while the parcel  of land next to it is submerged in water, and a third section is left unattended, just baking in the sun, and yet another is being used for hay.

If we start with our limited understanding of farming we will be left puzzled in spite of our best effort. But if we engage the farmer in a conversation; when we start with the farmer, we stand a chance at comprehending the intricacies of farming and the wisdom behind his choices. It is his land, and he knows what he is doing.

Just as a farmer knows his land, so does God his world. And the analogy holds except for the fact that we cannot not fully understand God or his ways. We are finite creatures, and we cannot fully comprehend the ways of the infinite-sovereign God. But this does not mean we cannot meaningfully understand God and his ways. We can.

God is not one to keep his ways hidden from his children. He is eager to make his ways plain to us and to invite us to partner with him in his redemptive work.

This is why even though we don’t fully understand what God is doing, or why; we can be confident that he knows best – We can, and must trust Him.

The invitation to pray is an invitation to  be willing to grapple with his ways in the light of his purposes concerning us.

Now, more than ever before when everything seems to be falling apart, we need a God-centred perspective and a God-centred trust. We need to learn to Rejoice in God first, and in time we will see his goodness, through it all.

It is in our nature as humans to strive; to press on. It is also in our nature to pause and introspect. And now it is time for the twain to meet in prayerful action.

That’s the conclusion we see the prophet Habakkuk come to the dust settled.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Hab. 3:17-18

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