The Age old question;
"Why pray if God is going to do what He wants anyway?"
I have thought about this question and pondered the retorts for over ten years now. When faced with natural disasters happening all over our country, affecting those we know and love, I am reminded again of some of the answers to these questions. One of the most important answers is this; it keeps me human.
1.Prayer keeps me human.
If I could share with you what I have learned on this matter in the 23 years I have been a devoted follower of Christ about prayer, and you would truly take it to heart, and apply it, our entire world would be changed in no time. This is a secret weapon for all humans, of all faiths, that would save us from ourselves if applied. The key is this; I don't pray for me, I pray for you. And when I pray for you, I pray for me.
Praying for Others
There is something that happens in us when we pray for another person with focus and commitment. Are they blessed by our prayers? I believe so. But something even more powerful happens. Our heart begins to connect with them, feel for them, and bear their burdens with them.
The Human Connection
Do not for a moment discount the power of human connection. I think we, believers, have a tendency to over-spiritualize prayer. Remember, Christ, fully-God, fully-Man, was Fully Man.
Why Didn't Jesus come to the Earth fully God alone? Why didn't He just show up and lay down the law? Can you picture it? Something like Thor coming down to earth and addressing us little, lesser beings.... "You there, humans. I've come to teach you how to be more spiritual..." Ok, you get the point.
The point is Christ demonstrated that humans are God's design and Jesus embraced the human form for this very reason. It is equally important to believe in the deity of Christ as it is the humanity of Christ, for salvation. (I'll have to blog about that point more in depth later)
Bearing one another's burden
Part of praying for one another is that in bearing the burden of another, something changes in our own hearts. Why do you think the Father commands us to bear one another's burdens? (Galatians 6:2) Certainly not to fix everyone's problems. When we see a brother's needs, or hurt, or pain, and we choose not to keep them at arm's length, but we "bear with them", we can experience greater levels of gratitude, humility, and empathy. Why is this important? This is part of our human design. We were not created to live isolated lives, fending for ourselves, building our own kingdoms. That type of mentality, "wow, such a bummer for them, hope everything works out," is what I mean by keeping each other at arms length. Instead, what is the response Christ intended when we are told to "bear" one another's burden?
The word "bear" in the Greek translates the one who carries, with their hands, like a palm bearer carrying a coffin. Also, like a woman, carrying a child in her womb. Supporting and committed to nourishing the child. This is a labor intensive word.
One thing I have discovered in that carrying another's burden in prayer, often does two things in my own heart. First, it chisels away at the ungodliness within. It softens me.
For example, when I pray for those who persecute me, offend me, or just plain annoy me, often God work's in my own heart through the process of grieving with that person's condition and needs. This is what I meant in my opening remarks that, "When I pray for you, I pray for me." It is I that ends up benefiting whether that person's issues are resolved or not. I have found that the process is always more important than the destination in almost every case.
The second thing, I become more connected to the person(s) I am praying for. I have people all over the world, heroes of the faith, I have been praying for as I read their missionary letters, and see the work they are doing in the 10-40 window, and so forth. In praying for them, my heart becomes connected and committed to them. I remember meeting this couple a few years ago that I had been praying for about three years prior. When they walked into the room, unexpected, I began to weep! My heart was full of joy and gratitude to finally meet these precious people from across the world. They hadn't a clue who I was, we never talked or exchanged an email or anything. But when our eyes met, she hugged me as if I was her daughter and I cried in her arms. That is the power of bearing with one another. And that is what keeps us human.