Help Wanted: Prayer Partners

given on Sunday, January 25, 2009

Help Wanted:  Prayer Partners
The news states the plain, painful facts—unemployment is at its worst in the last decade.  That is just one problem.  The cost of living is going up.  The ozone is depleting.  The war is still being fought in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  The news continues to cause us pain.
The pain just keeps pounding at us and we do not know what to do.  We may feel safe in our homes.  We may even have security for the financial storm that is attacking so many of our friends, our neighbors, and even our family members.  What can we possibly do?
When David wrote Psalms 62, he had a purpose.  He wanted everybody to know that God is hope.  God is the strength each one of us really needs to manage the daily challenges that confront us.  The first two verses provide the foundation:
1-2 God, the one and only— I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I’m set for life.

I wonder if each one of us truly has that absolute confidence in God.  I believe we think so; I believe we have a sense of security with our faith in God.  But, can we use our faith when this world hands us the challenges that test us, but also tests our faith?
Today, let us focus on the millions of Americans who are scared to death that they cannot handle the loss of jobs, the cost of living and all the problems that pile up higher and higher.  Let’s turn to the classified ads and look for the solution.
Each one of us has known the fear of having to turn to the classified ads in hopes of finding a new job.  Maybe we have been one of the fortunate ones who did not need the job, but we know someone who has.  The chances are pretty high that we have first hand experience with unemployment.
I looked up the most recent labor statistics from the Bureau of Labor.  Even though I had heard the report on the news sometime along the last week, reading the figures and looking at the charts was bone chilling.  The December 2008, unemployment rate for the nation was 7.2%.   The figure does not mean much standing by itself, but it brought back the figure I first heard in Econ 51 while a student at MU clear back in the early 1970’s.  A country with a 4% unemployment rate is considered to be at full employment.  The 4% figure means that everyone 16 or over who wants and can work, probably is employed.
The 7.2% unemployment rate means that 8,924,000 individuals who do want to work do not have a job.  The classified ads may offer hope to them, but I expect if they found this ad, they might overlook it:
HELP WANTED:  Prayer Partners needed to manage overload of despair.  Experience helpful.  Job requires communication skills, complete faith, and willingness to work overtime.  Unlimited opportunities.  Contact GOD.
If Christians read that classified ad around this country, the power of prayer would undoubtedly make a difference.  Why do you think no one has seen it?  Maybe the despair has crept into our own lives.  Look, again, at David’s psalms:
3-4 How long will you gang up on me?
How long will you run with the bullies?
There’s nothing to you, any of you—
rotten floorboards, worm-eaten rafters,
Anthills plotting to bring down mountains,
far gone in make-believe.
You talk a good line,
but every “blessing” breathes a curse.
If we stop and think about our own attitudes, we might realize that we are failing to stay focused on God.  We are failing to stay in direct communication with God.  We are failing to turn our worries, despair, and fears over to God.
Now is the time to answer the help wanted ad for prayer partners.  We need to step up and answer the call, the plea, for prayers.  We can start right here in our very own communities.  We each know someone who is struggling to manage without a job or even on the job, we need to add them to our prayer lists.   We can share in the task by bringing the prayers forward when we are together on Sunday, when we are together in our homes, when we open the emails, when we pick up the phones, and when we go one-on-one with God.
Each one of us must become prayer partners for our state.  The change in leadership here in Missouri begins a new opportunity for prayer partners.  Just the problem of unemployment in general needs prayer.  The Bureau of Labor statistics states that in November the unemployment rate in our own state is 6.7%.  That is a problem deserving prayer, so answer that help wanted ad for prayer partners.
How do you become prayer partners?  The classified ad states that you need good communication skills.  Remember, communication needed in this job is strictly between you and God.  Sure communication from a family member, a friend or a neighbor may identify the need for prayer, but you must be able to talk directly to God.  This is not a difficult skill to develop, we just need to call on him in the quiet of our own world.  We can write out prayers, we can share a prayer around the dinner table, or we can meet with others in order to pray together.  God does not ask that we have professional speaking training.  God does not ask that we speak only one language.  God does not require a college degree, not even a high school diploma; he simply wants you to tell him what is on your mind and to turn it over to him.
Another skill is complete faith in God.  The phrase we often hear is “let go, and let God.”  We all know that when we are filled with worry, the idea of just turning it over to God and walking away from the worry is nearly impossible.  The more we practice having complete faith in God, the better our own lives become.  Complete faith in God is letting go and letting him take over.
Turn to Psalms 62 again.  David knew this, too:
5-6 God, the one and only—
I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I’m set for life.

David knew that all he needed to manage all the challenges of his life was God.  He says he will wait as long as he, God, says to wait.  If everything he hopes for comes from God, why not wait for God’s answer?
Complete and unfaltering faith in God is one of the qualities of the prayer partner.  We have shared our concerns even for others outside of our immediate church family because we have been asked to pray for someone in need.  Others see our faith in God and trust us, so how in the world can we not trust in God ourselves?  Prayer partners need that complete faith in order not to be overwhelmed by the task of praying for all the worries of the millions in need.
Finally, the job expects each prayer partner to put in overtime.   Prayer is not an eight-hour job.  Prayer is not just a fifteen-minute job every day.  Prayer is not a once-a-week trip to church.  Prayer is not an appointed time on the clock when everything you do must stop, kneel down and pray.  Prayer is a 24-hour, seven day a week job.  Prayer is open communication with God just by the fact that we are living out our faith with God as our guide.
Prayer for those who have complete faith in God is almost the same thing as breathing.  When we see someone in stress, our compassion becomes a prayer as we simply pass him or her on the street.  When we hear a siren, our faith in God offers up a flash prayer for those being helped and for those helping.  When we listen to the news and hear a report on a tragedy around the world, we hear it as God hears it and the concern transforms into a prayer.
The overtime required of the prayer partner is not something that can be logged on a time clock or written into a log.  The overtime of a prayer partner soon becomes a simple fact of a Christian’s life.  Prayer and breath become one and God provides.
I suppose some might wonder what is the salary for answering this particular job.  The salary is that wonderful sense of peace, the grace that God provides us, and eternal life.  No bank could ever be big enough to hold that salary.  No dollar value can be attached to this salary.  This salary is priceless.
Dear Sovereign God,
We have seen your classified ad.  We see and hear the need for prayer partners each and every day.  We are applying for this position because we know that you will provide.  We know that we can talk directly to you and you do listen.  We know that our prayers are offered with complete faith in you.  We know that the needs of so many are depending on our prayers around the clock.
All we ask is for your patience as we begin this job.  Sometimes we will make mistakes and fail to let go over the concern.  Sometimes we will make an un-Christian remark in conversation with others.
When we come together to worship, we also ask forgiveness for our mistakes.  We ask that you continue our training as prayer partners.  We ask you to speak to us in our own hearts as we try to share with others how to turn over their worries to you.
Thank you for providing for us in this difficult time.  Thank you for guiding us in the practice of faith even when temptation or discouragement drains us.  Thank you, God, for listening to our prayers for our own needs and for all needs around this world.  We will take on the job and do our best to be prayer partners for all.                    –Amen

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