by Rev. John Howard Farmer
Tomorrow’s Leaders: Prayer Warriors
Somewhere in eons past I heard, or read, that one uses more muscles to frown than to smile. I have no data upon which to base this—yet I have no quarrel with the concept.
One supposes it to be an encouragement for the faint of heart to try a bit harder to muster the vicissitudes of life. There are other muscles that need a bit more workout than we usually grant them. I am thinking of our prayer muscles. Shamefully our prayer muscles atrophy from lack of use. Prayer is a conversation with God, the medicine that makes our lives have purpose is a way for us to tap into the deep resources that our God has prepared for us through the life of his own dear son.
Many of the disappointments of my life are due to the fact that I rushed headlong into some situation, or opportunity, without laying a foundation of prayer.
From a past issue of a friend’s Illinois Methodist newsletter I gleaned: “Dear Lord, so far today, Lord, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over-indulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot more help. Amen.”
We have specific prayers, private prayers, sure. Far too much of our prayer life is self-focused. Let’s concentrate on corporate prayer; prayer that accomplishes much because God’s people are in harmony. It is rewarding when our prayer ministry has a galvanizing effect upon those who are united around a common cause (“Others, Lord, yes others: Let this my motto be, help me to live for others that I may live like Thee.” by Charles D. Meigs).
Years long spent ago, while driving back home from an extended family to-do on the Eastern Shore, I observed team work personified. Having white knuckled-survived the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (twice) we were approaching the Severn River Bridge, a scant upriver from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.
Off to our starboard side zipped a couple of slivers afloat; Navy sculling teams were rowing upriver. It was a cloudy, rainy day. Not the sort of day one would be or should be boating. It signaled that those chaps were committed to a cause. It was time to be about matters at hand, weather notwithstanding. They rowed backwards, trusting the least among them to guide and yes, from the rear…
Team spirit and common cause had sent the lads (and lasses) dockside. Uniformed up, it takes concentrated teamwork just to get the boats off the racks and into the water. Balance is no easy task. Those boats are just a bit wider than the straining hips, thighs and backs of those who sit uniformly committed.
Stern end leading, sits a coxswain who coordinates the pace set by the stroke (lead oarsman). He also steers. His (or her) job is to assist the team in maintaining the combined pace that will send them forward, on toward victory. Movements are very precise. Individuals cease to exist. Eight persons move together as if one body.
My prayer was quick yet simple: “Lord, watch over those young people, they’ll be our leaders of tomorrow.”
As we drove homeward the weather worsened. Headlights popped on as if they could punch their way through the onslaught of rain. We merged off Route 50 onto Route 301 south. There we blended with folks from our nation’s capital trying to escape home. I was sure hoping that someone had prayed for them, too.
The image of the young officers prevailed. It occurred to me that the church could garner such teams to move our prayer life off the norm. We spend heaps of time in corporate prayer. We do so, however, without determination, without the leadership, without the dedication to common cause that enabled those Navy types—I witnessed to stay the course.
I wondered mightily as I homeward wandered. My mind conjured up a scene wherein a Christian group could focus on getting the most out of a prayer experience.
There are times when we are in corporate prayer mode when we really are not united. There are times when our prayer muscles, though gathered about us are less defined. There are missed opportunities because we are busy praying through general, time worn, attitudes.
Maybe we should go at it differently on occasion. Mount our muscles. Set a course. Elect a leader. Hone in on just one prayer petition. Select an item from our long-term agenda. Send the team up Heaven’s river in locked oar preciseness. Pull those oars. Use those muscles. Don’t rock the boat. God will honor such effort. God will be astonished.
Christians spend too much time together, pulling in diverse directions. Let’s get it together.
Let us pray …