How many times have you suddenly felt the desire to lift someone up in prayer? You have no idea why or what to pray about, just that you should lift them up– in concern, in gratitude, in remembrance…It might be that someone mentioned their name; or you’ve just seen someone who reminds you of someone you knew long ago; suddenly, they are in your mind–an old neighbor or friend, a classmate or co-worker, maybe even someone who hurt you or betrayed you. But you feel an urge to pray–urgently.
Maybe you’ve been on the other end– you get a sense that someone has been praying for you– something that you were dreading turned out to be less scary that you thought, or you had a “near miss” on the highway.. you don’t know who or where, but you know that someone, somewhere just prayed for you.
God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes we ask others to pray for us; sometimes they let us know that they will be praying for us– but other times, we break into spontaneous prayer for someone “God brought to mind.” We may not know the situation; we may not know the particulars. Sometimes, we don’t even know the names or places– we just know we need to pray for a general group– missionaries, police officers, government leaders, teachers, fathers…
Stories abound of people who have obeyed such urgings– praying for people they barely know, or haven’t thought of for years–only to find that in that very moment, those people were in crisis and in need of help. Such stories help us see the heart of God. God is powerful enough to step in and take control of any situation. He doesn’t “need” us to pray for others in such cases. But He wants to include US in His plan! And by “bringing to mind” those who need prayer, and “bringing us to” the minds of others in our time of need, He reminds us of the importance of interconnectedness and dependence on Him.
Of course, we should be looking for opportunities to pray for those around us–faithfully, consistently, earnestly. But we also need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who works to involve us in His ongoing work. Our hearts and minds may wander or waste time in empty thinking, but the urge to pray is one we should be quick to follow.
As followers of Christ and believers in an Eternal God, we live in the “here and now,” but we also live in something called the “not yet.” Our life here is finite, but our life in the “not yet” is eternal.
Most of what we pray for belongs in the “here and now.” We pray about what we see and know. We may pray for an upcoming surgery, or a looming job loss, or give thanks for something that happened in the recent past, but most of our prayers do not venture into the eternal future.
Yet, God speaks to us of things to come. No, He doesn’t always reveal details or give us a calendar of times and dates; but He does remind us that what we see is not the whole picture. And we need to remember this when we pray and when we look around us.
Much of the Old Testament, plus parts of the New Testament, are given over to prophecy– visions, promises, warnings about the future. Many of the prophecies have already been fulfilled– in detail. Some of the prophets prayed for revival in Israel and Judah; others prayed for the coming of the Messiah. Their prayers were answered– but not always in their lifetime, and not always in a way they understood. The Apostles, writing to Jesus’ followers looked forward to His return– but they never saw it in their lifetime.
Prayer is not just about us and our immediate needs. Today, spend some time praying with an eternal mindset–that God’s will would be done, in His time and His way. And then, trust that whatever is going on in the “here and now,” it is all part of God’s perfect plan. One that we will understand more fully in the “not yet.”
Today is the first of May. This is also known as May Day or Mayday. In many countries, there are traditional celebrations, including dancing around a May Pole, or leaving a small bouquet of fresh spring flowers on someone’s doorstep. It is meant to be a happy occasion, signaling the arrival of spring flowers after a month of showers and growth– the promise of more growth and greenery after a long winter and cool, wet, spring.
This year, many people have been looking forward to May 1 as a potential “end” to the lockdown/shelter-in-place orders. They are eager for a chance to return to “life as normal,” including spending time in parks and gardens, and celebrating with friends. They long to chat, mingle, and dance with their friends and loved ones in the sunnier, greener weather. Others are just tired of being “cooped up,” and want to get out into the busy marketplaces and public squares. But many leaders (mayors, governors, ministers, presidents, etc.,) are extending the orders to continue social distancing during this pandemic season.
There is another meaning for the phrase “Mayday!” It is an urgent call for help. It comes from the French phrase m’aidez– help me–and is used mostly in radio transmissions from ships in danger. Many people around the world today are, figuratively or metaphorically, calling out “M’aidez!” They are calling on their political leaders, financial institutions, hospitals, emergency workers, and others for help– healing, testing, equipment, food, answers to impossible questions, guidance, and comfort. For many, it feels like drowning in a sea of uncertainty and danger.
Even in times of uncertainty and danger, we have a Faithful and Loving God. When we cry out, “Mayday! Help!”, He is ready and able to answer our call:
4 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.
Many times in his life, David had called on the Lord, and found him faithful– to protect him, rescue him, bless him, and forgive him. David danced and celebrated God’s provision for Israel, and he also cried out in anguish and bitterness of soul. And in every situation, God heard David’s “Mayday! M’aidez!”
King David’s descendant, King Hezekiah, also cried out to the Lord. He led the entire nation of Israel in celebrating a magnificent Passover feast and a Festival of Unleavened Bread. He also built up and fortified walls that had been allowed to crumble. He strengthened a weakened nation. In spite of his measures, however, the nation was threatened with invasion and destruction by a powerful Assyrian army. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+32&version=ESV But Hezekiah, along with the prophet Isaiah, sent up a “M’aidez!” to God, and He answered in a mighty way: 20 Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. 21 And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. 22 So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem and precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.
The Apostle Peter called out as he was sinking into the waves. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+14%3A22-32&version=NIV His faith, which made him to want to walk out to Jesus on the water, faltered. Peter knew the danger of open water, he faced such dangers in his fishing boat nearly every day. Without a miracle, he would sink below the wind-churned waves and be unable to make it back to the boat or swim all the way to shore. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” “M’aidez!” And Jesus was there to hold his hand and bring him to safety. Later in life, Peter went forth boldly preaching the Resurrection of Jesus, and spreading the Good News that Jesus Saves! Peter knew from first-hand experience that Jesus not only brought physical salvation from storms, but He offered spiritual salvation, renewal, and hope. In fact, it is in one of Peter’s epistles that we find this verse of hope: “..casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
This May Day, we may call out to God in desperation, or in celebration, or both. But let’s take every opportunity to call on His Holy Name.
The past few weeks have been filled with death for me…last month, we had two family-related funerals in less than three days. In the past two weeks, I know of three people who were on my prayer list who died of illness or disease, and another who died unexpectedly. The internet and news has been filled with two recent celebrity deaths by suicide, and there are continuing reverberations from mass shootings earlier this year…auto accidents, homicides, house fires, heart attacks…we are surrounded by the urgent and shocking reminders that life is fragile and uncertain.
Death has an urgency that pushes other concerns away. Death is final; permanent. Death is powerful– we can’t cheat it, defeat it, or comprehend it. Death frightens us, angers us, and mystifies us. We begin to look at our own life and ask questions–Who am I? What makes me “me”– individual and uniquely different from everyone else? Is there a purpose to my being– to my being “me”, “here” and “now”? How can I find and fulfill that purpose if it exists? Do I have an eternal destiny after this life? If so, how can I know what it might be? Can I change that eternal destiny?
Some people argue that our origins are accidental; our uniqueness is merely a random generation of genetic code; our purpose non-existent or self-determined; and our destiny no more than dust. Many of them hear me or read what I write and dismiss me as intellectually lazy, gullible, or crazy. I’m all right with that, as long as they will be intellectually honest enough to admit to the questions; and open enough to acknowledge that there may be more than a quick denial as an answer. Crazy– well crazy is as crazy does, I guess…I’ll let my actions answer that one.
Death is powerful and mysterious, but I believe that God is more powerful, and omniscient– he has already crushed the power of death, and invites us to view death from a different perspective. When we take everything– including death– to the Lord in Prayer, he takes the weight of it, the fear of it, the pain of it off our shoulders and carries it to the cross. HIS death overshadows even our own, in its power to overcome. The urgency of death is not that it is the end of all things. The urgency of death is that it signals the end of our opportunity to recognize and live out the purpose of this short life.
If that isn’t an urgent reason to pray for those you love, I don’t know of a better one…
It’s also an urgent reason to pray for those around you who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one. And don’t just be a pray-er..be an answer to prayer– reach out with a card, or spend some time with them. Let them know that a) their loved one is not forgotten, and b) neither are they!
I have a very bad habit of procrastinating. I wait until the last minute to tidy up, make that important phone call, or write my latest blog entry…living alone for so many years, it went mostly unnoticed by others and unchecked by me. My husband is very patient about certain aspects of this habit, but he has taught me much about the value of getting on top of tasks, instead of always playing catch up.
One of the lies I have told myself is that “I just don’t have enough time..” to do certain things. But God has given every one of us the same 24 hours in a day. Some of us have more unstructured time, but no one has more actual time than anyone else. And I will always find time for the things I choose to do first–whether they are more important, more urgent, or just more fun.
Time is a gift. How we spend it shows how much we value it. I can waste time, invest time, spend time, hoard time, share time, or lose time, but I can’t buy, sell, or trade for more of it. I can pray for it– there is a precedent in the Bible. Hezekiah was the king of Judah. God told him that he would die soon, and Hezekiah prayed and wept. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell the king that he would grant him another 15 years of life, as well as deliverance from his enemy, the king of Assyria ( see II Kings 19 and 20). Hezekiah was generally a good king, but in the extra 15 years that God granted him, he was foolish, and put his nation at risk. Having more time didn’t make Hezekiah a better king, nor did it bring his nation peace and security…all it did was prolong his life and defer Judah’s destruction for a few short years.
What makes time precious is that we don’t know how much of it we have here. Our lives pass in a flash– what we do today in haste or wasted pleasure can’t be recovered. But it can be redeemed. I can learn to use time more wisely. I can pray for good counsel in the stressful days as well as the times of leisure. Rather than ask for more time, I’ve started to ask for more wisdom to USE the time I’ve been given. I’ve been amazed at how much more I can accomplish when I seek God’s counsel about time, rather than worry and work at making “more” of it. And some of the other things that took up so much of my time? I still have time for some of them, too– after the important things get done.