Prayer: No Greater Gift, No Greater Service

Philippians 4:6 NRSV
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I have a wonderful adopted aunt. (My parents were both only children, so I didn’t have any aunts or uncles by blood). She has now gone Home, but while on earth, she was a girlie-girl if ever there was one. I can’t ever remember her wearing pants . . . ever! She was always in a dress, with heels (at least small ones), her hair done up in curls, beautiful jewelry. She was a minister of God, speaking and writing music, traveling all over the world telling others about God. Today, I read something she wrote and saw these words:

“I find myself praying, ‘Oh, God, let me be there when someone needs me!'”

I almost laughed. My wonderful aunt was marvelous at speaking and at music, but she was totally inept at cooking, cleaning, fixing, doing. Almost anything that required more than a piano or a pen. Who could she help? She couldn’t fix a meal, mend a dress, change a tire, even pick up a box to help someone move.

And then I read on. She wrote:

“There were heartaches to be shared… counsellings to be offered… prayers to be prayed.”

Prayers to be prayed.

I stopped short and thought of a conversation I had yesterday with a friend. His dad died suddenly last week. I saw my friend for the first time yesterday and he was still devastated in mourning and loss. Tears welled up in his eyes the moment I asked how he was. I offered to help (several times), but felt so helpless. What could I do to help in this situation? I told him that we were praying (which we are), but that alone seemed like so little!

Suddenly this morning I realized how backward my thinking has been! Oh, how short-sighted I’ve been, to think that my feeble hands are all that are needed to mend the problems of those around me, and how wrong I’ve been to think that praying for someone isn’t much. Praying for someone is everything! Praying releases the blessings of God into a situation, into someone’s life. And if that person isn’t a Christian, praying may be just what it takes to bring them to Christ.

The apostle Paul taught repeatedly the importance of prayer, insisting that we pray about everything and pray all the time:

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:18 NRSV

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Romans 12:12 NRSV

I have shared this before, but I know it needs repeating in my own life. S. D. Gordon, a great saint of the Lord, said,

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray before you have prayed.”

There is no greater gift that I can give to a friend than my prayers, no greater service that I can do, no greater sacrifice that I can make. As a Church, I think we have ignored or forgotten how powerful our prayers can be. Our votes may not change the course of a nation, but our prayers can. Our love may not change the course of a marriage, but our prayers can. Our protests may not change the course of a society, but our prayers can. Why? Because when we pray, we lay the problem at the throne of grace and our God is able to do whatever He wills in the lives and situations around us. We are lost because we haven’t prayed. We become mighty in the Lord when we learn how to, at all times and for all things, pray.