Formation

Let 2016 Be the Year of Prayer

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I want to challenge you to make 2016 the Year of Prayer. More specifically, the Year of Humble, United, Believing, Suffusive Prayer.

 

There are so many weighty, difficult, or worrisome things going on in the world around us – unstable economics, fear of assault and terrorism, great division in our churches, overwhelming materialism, a nail-biter of a presidential race. To be honest, my first instinct in not to pray. Usually, it is to escape – watch Netflix. Eat. Sleep. (More Netflix.) But deep down inside I know that God cares about all these problems and he is close to us (Acts 17:27). So what do I do when I struggle with something (like not praying)? I sign up to teach it! This spring semester I am teaching a spiritual formation course on prayer at George Fox Evangelical Seminary. I am not approaching this course as an expert on the subject, but rather as a learner among equals. Several of my students have been active in ministry and dedicated to prayer for many years, and I expect to learn a lot from them. I knew that one of the best ways to ensure a commitment to prayer would be to share the journey with others.

If you are willing to make 2016 a year of prayer, here are some themes that I hope will guide your way as they will guide mine.

Humble – prayer must come from a recognition of our utter dependence on God. Christianity has no place for people of assumed self-dependence. Jesus came not to the “healthy” but the “unwell.” All biblical prayer comes from knowing God’s greatness and graciousness, and reckoning with our frailty and neediness.

United – Prayer in Scripture is often a united and uniting activity – hence the Our Father (not merely my Father). Prayer bonds us, focuses us on the divine mission, and has the power to re-prioritize our concerns. When we pray together in worship and mission, we just might let go of petty judgments and grudges as we clasp hands together.

Believing –  Faith is not about having particular religious opinions; rather, it is risking our life and fate on Jesus Christ and the power of his way. What would it look like to believe in prayer that God will do unbelievable things in 2016?

Suffusive – Scripture calls all believers to prayer, but it does not call us only to prayer. We are called to trust (with prayer) and obey. Christians must be a people of action, but let those actions be bathed in, suffused with, prayer.

 

Perhaps the greatest obstacle for prayer, for many of us today, is stopping and being with God. I don’t think I will ever get used to people texting someone else while I am talking to them; this is becoming more common. Just conversing with one person at one time seems like inefficiency! (oy vey!) This may be the biggest challenge to letting 2016 be the Year of Prayer. But we all know it is worth the time and effort.

Join a prayer journey this year – find a prayer partner, start a church group, maybe take a seminary course!

Here are some excellent books on prayer to encourage you this year.

Barth, Karl, Prayer (WJK, 2002, 50th Anniversary edition)

Morse, MaryKate, A Guidebook to Prayer (IVP, 2013)

Wilkinson, D. When I Pray, What Does God Do? (Monarch, 2015)

Williams, Rowan, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Eerdmans, 2014)

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3 responses to “Let 2016 Be the Year of Prayer

  1. Ah, prayer. I’ve been involved in prayer groups, praying individually, and leading prayer events for more than twenty years. Yes, I’ve organized several email prayer groups. (I have one going now, at @StLukesChurch2 — the church I serve in Morton Grove, a suburb of Chicago.) That said, I still feel strongly that I am a rank amateur where prayer is concerned.

    Yes, I’ve taken courses on prayer and spiritual formation in seminary. I have an awesome spiritual director! And, I try to blog regularly at matterofprayerblog.wordpress.com. I successfully blogged about prayer EVERY day in 2015! (I still don’t know how I managed to do that, but I did. Thank You, God!) I even prayed during some of that blogging. I love to pray with others, and I wish I could take the course you’re teaching! Alas, I must continue to strive, serve, preach, and occasionally pray. All the best as you do the same! @chaplaineliza

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I am working on a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer. Be on the lookout for it in…I don’t know…four years! 🙂

      1. Nijay, I’m so glad you’re working on this topic. For me, over the last couple of years, I’d say that rediscovering prayer has been crucial to my sense of hope and renewal. I’ve found that regular intercession helps develop in us a sense of dependence on God, and gratitude for all his good gifts; it also opens us up to the needs of others. And like you, I am working on a book on prayer, which will probably be published around the same time as yours. Blessings, brother ~ Richard

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