There’s no question that Jesus made a lot of enemies as his presence disrupted the power-imbalance of that time. What always fascinated me was that Jesus prayed for the very people that sought to kill him. Soon his enemies would seek to crucify him and as Jesus hangs from the cross, he utters the words, “forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). When someone deeply wrongs me, my first inclination is to angrily curse them instead of pray for them, as Jesus does here. How different Jesus’ way truly is compared to our way. I’ve counseled a number of people who have been wronged and have had a hard time finding forgiveness in their heart. As they share their stories, I often empathize with them in my mind and understand their desire for justified revenge. Yet, as I look at how the anger has consumed them, and how I think about how anger has consumed my heart in the past, I can’t help but recognize that anger and revenge is not life-giving and clearly not God’s will. Jesus offers us here the alternative of praying for the people who have wronged us instead of cursing them. If Jesus can muster up the strength to genuinely pray for the people who crucified him, surely we can find the strength to pray for those who have wronged us in ways that pale in comparison to the crucifixion. The burden and anger that is placed upon your heart will surely lift over time if you are genuinely praying for your aggressors and perhaps their heart will lighten as well through the grace of God. If you want some further perspective on this, then answer this question… Who was it that Jesus was praying for when he was being crucified on the cross for our Sin?
When I was a fundraising director for an organization in college, I initially had a hard time asking people for money. I thought I was inconveniencing them and would always try to find indirect ways to do the fundraising. This was a barrier that got in the way of my ability to do my job to the fullest and, quite frankly, it was a barrier that I had to overcome. I had a conversation with the previous director who asked me a couple questions that helped me deal with this – he asked, “Do you believe in the organization and what it is trying to do?” I answered yes. “Do you think that others will believe in what the organization is trying to do?” I answered yes. “So don’t deny them the chance to become a partner in what we are doing here,” he finally said. I needed to have that conversation in order to overcome this barrier, and that year we raised 10% more funds than the previous year.
Relating this to our prayer lives, each of us have barriers that get in the way of us praying and connecting to God in the fullest. Since we can seemingly get through life OK without improving our prayer life, many of us often don’t deal with those prayer barriers. If you desire to only have a mediocre prayer life and a mediocre relationship with God, then I suppose that’s OK. On the other hand, if you thirst for a better prayer life, then I encourage you to expose your barriers to a loved one or to someone you look up to spiritually. Talk about the barrier and problem-solve on how to overcome it. Perhaps you think prayer is boring or wonder if prayer even matters at all. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the time to pray or just flat out don’t know how to. Whatever the barrier, talking about it is the first step towards overcoming it.
As I continue to offer “Prayer Tips” in 2010, I invite you to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment here on the blog about what your own prayer barriers are so that the tips will be relevant and transforming for our congregation (if you have a barrier to prayer, I promise you that others share that same barrier). In the future, I hope that these prayer tips can serve as a starting point for conversations about our prayer lives on the prayer blog. Also know that your pastors are here to help you overcome these barriers if you would like to get in touch or setup an appointment with your pastorate pastor.
There are times when I can feel like my prayers are just lip service and other times when it feels as if it is my heart praying the words instead of my mouth. As I’ve been praying for the people in Haiti, I’ve noticed something. My prayers have almost been tear-led as I empathize and imagine the suffering that the Haitians are going through. It’s almost as if I am praying from their perspective and my heart is connected with them and with God in a way that seems more powerful and meaningful than other prayers. I have a stronger sense that my prayers are being heard by God as God feels the true compassion that I feel for these hurting people.
I hope that you have felt this sense of connectedness with the Haitians and with God during your most recent prayers. If not, then I invite you to imagine what it would feel like to lose a child or mother in such a tragedy, or what it would feel like to be pinned under concrete for 50 hours without food or water before you were rescued. What would it feel like to not know if family and loved ones survived or not? Now that you’ve pondered such things, you are ready to pray for your Haitian Brothers and Sisters. Praying for others begins with empathizing and having compassion for what others are going through. I am thankful to be partnered with you in prayer as we continue to lift up those who were affected by this terrible tragedy.
Michael Maroon, Pastor of Prayer
The other day a scripture sort of popped out to me as I had the prayer tip in mind – Luke 6:12-13. It reads, “Now during those days [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles…”
Selecting the 12 apostles was an important decision for Jesus to make. He recognized that these 12 would be instrumental in carrying the Gospel message forward towards the inception of Christ’s Church. This was so important, in fact, that Jesus spent an entire night in prayer over this decision so that he would have no doubt about his selections. It is affirming for me to know that Jesus spent so much time in prayer about his apostles – it reinforces the idea that each apostle was there to serve a particular role for the sake of God’s will.
Although it isn’t every day that we are faced with such a lofty decision to make, we could still follow the prayerful model that Jesus displays in our own lives. When you are faced with important decisions, how often do you lift it up to God to allow God’s direction and input into the mix? When you do lift up an important decision, are you praying for God to ‘bless’ your own direction or is your heart truly open to whatever direction God would have you go? As we look forward to a new year, I invite you to make God part of your decision-making process at work, at home and in your own personal lives as you seek to live out God’s will for your own life.
Michael Maroon, Pastor of Prayer
Light has been brought into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ! We no longer have to feel like we are facing darkness alone, for Christ is with us, as is the Church! A new year is on the horizon and with it will come incredible moments of joy as well as moments of sorrow. I want to take a moment to remind you that your church family wants to celebrate those joys with you and help shoulder the hardships. The Prayer Ministry and its many volunteers take prayer very seriously. With the exception of the requests marked confidential, every prayer request that we receive is prayed over by pastors, congregational care ministers and prayer volunteers. We want to be in prayerful relationships with each one of you. This year, I encourage you to invite the power of your church family praying for you into your lives. If you have been truly blessed by God, I hope you submit a prayer request so that we can give thanks to the Lord together and be in celebration with you! Likewise, if hard times have fallen on you or your loved ones, I do hope that it can be made known to the prayer ministry so that we can lift you and your loved ones up in prayer and help shoulder the burden in whatever way we can. We are, indeed, one body in Christ. When you celebrate, so do we! When you hurt, we hurt too. It brings us a sense of unity when we can weather our journey together as one body. You can fill out prayer requests online at www.cor.org/prayer. On behalf of the prayer ministry, we look forward to lifting you up in prayer in 2010.
If prayer is an important part of your life and you recognize its importance in the life of the Church, I encourage you to consider volunteering in the prayer ministry. You can view volunteer opportunities on the Church of the Resurrection prayer web page.
Michael Maroon, Pastor of Prayer