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Prayer Works

You know, one of the reasons we don’t pray is because we don’t think it will do any good.

Let me rephrase that: I think we don’t feel like it’s doing any good.

One of the things that energizes us is to be productive. That’s one of the reasons why at the beginning of the new year, planners, calendars, and self-help books on how to increase productivity fly off the shelf. I have more than a few of them, myself. It’s so gratifying to check things off a to do list.

But praying just feels like talking to the air. It doesn’t even properly feel like an action. And when you get to the end of your prayers, there’s not really anything to show for it. You can check “prayer” off your list of things to do. But it’s not like a meal waiting on the table or a folded pile of laundry.

I think that’s why we make lists and get to work. And we labor and produce things and serve people. And I think especially in the church, that’s why we plan things and execute them and run programs create vision. We want to get to work for the kingdom of God.

And I have to say, it’s good to work for God’s kingdom. It’s good to get things done. It’s good to check things off the list. Hard work is important.

But I think all of this busyness in favor of prayer betrays us because it reveals something about how we think we relate to God’s kingdom in the first place. You see, I think we often believe that since God saved us we’ve got to get to work building his kingdom. Or you might say that we need to be busy at work building the kingdom of God, building God’s kingdom for him.

Sounds good, right? Well, that’s actually the crux of the problem.

You see, we don’t really build God’s kingdom for him. Actually, God is the one who is building his kingdom.

And I don’t mean to say that we don’t have anything to contribute or that we don’t play a role. No, no, God invites us to join him in his work. God works with and through us to build out the kingdom he has established through Jesus Christ. But it’s his kingdom. He’s the one who builds it.

There is this passage in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus comes down from the mountain where he was praying, and the people complain to him about a man who is oppressed by a demon. His disciples tried but even after Jesus had empowered them, they still couldn’t do it.  Jesus commands the demon and right away he leaves. So the disciples pull him aside. “Why?” they want to know. “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” Jesus said “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Apparently, the disciples had failed because they didn’t pray.

Prayer feels like it’s not doing anything, but prayer works. And it works because it’s asking God to do what only he can do—establish his kingdom.

Pray with me. Lord, thank you that you are building your kingdom, and that you invite us to be a part of what you’re doing. Help us to see that prayer is the first and most important step in our working alongside you as you build. And grant that we would see our prayers answered that we might be encouraged to continue on in prayer, and that we would even become bold in our prayers. We believe you can do all things, and that you have done all things in Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.

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