Prayer Changes Us – The World

Readings for this week May 28 – June 1
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings


Day 1 – The Wide, Wide World

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Timothy 2:1-5

Of our four key relationships (God, Self, Each Other, and World), our relationship with the world can often seem to be a difficult one to pray for – more specifically, praying for the world itself. The other relationships seem a little easier to get a handle on: we can pray for a growing relationship with God; we can pray for a God-given sense of self to develop in us, and pray for ourselves and our needs; we can pray to be more connected with others and also pray for the well-being of those others too. But praying for the world, and for our relationship with it, just seems too big and unwieldly. How do we pray for the world? How do we pray for nations? How do we pray against structural injustice and poverty that seem so endemic everywhere and that ensnares millions in its pernicious net? How do we pray for the people of Syria, for example, in the midst of a civil war and a massive humanitarian crisis that is now into its seventh year? When faced with seemingly huge, insurmountable, un-addressable issues like these, our prayers can seem tiny and insignificant, if not downright useless.

We may find ourselves wondering if prayer directed towards an issue so large, on such a vast scale, is worth it or can possibly be effective. But this is to focus primarily ourselves: our size and usefulness and efficacy; or on the size of the situation: its scope and seriousness. Thankfully, prayer’s usefulness does not rely on us. It relies on God, and his ‘size’ and ‘effectiveness’. What we provide is obedient God-centred prayer, faithfulness, and kingdom action in pursuit of God’s purpose for his world.

Questions to Consider
When does prayer seem too small to you? How do we counter this?

Lord God, may I strive to hope more in your goodness and mercy, and not despair of your power and rescue when I see the huge pain of your world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Day 2 – The Prayers of Tomorrow

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ephesians 3:20

How we view God impacts how we view prayer. If we think God isn’t big enough or powerful enough or interested enough in his world and his people, then we will probably not see the point in coming to him with our prayers and struggles and concerns. We’ve probably all had times in our lives when we’ve thought “Is God really big enough?” – those moments when we’ve experienced something personally, or seen something happen, that makes us start to wonder whether God really is big enough and powerful enough to handle/fix/restore/heal a particular situation.

Moments like these are nothing out of the ordinary. We all struggle. We all have weak moments. But this is when we need to remember that we don’t wait to pray only when we feel like it, or even when we ‘think’ like it. God has promised to shape us and mould us – and to give us his heart – if we will only entrust ourselves into his hands, and have faith that he will change us. The prayers that we cannot pray today – cannot even conceive of today – may be our prayers of tomorrow, if we are vulnerable and open to God’s Spirit working in us and shaping us. All things are possible for God, including the radical expansion of our capability for prayer and our belief in the power of the God we pray to. Do we doubt that prayer changes the world? Then give God the space and time to work in us, so that we will come to understand the truly earth-changing nature of prayer and the God we pray to.

Questions to Consider
How has the power of prayer grown in your life recently? How has your view of the power of prayer been stretched?

Heavenly Father, continue to stretch my faith and my prayers. May your Spirit work in me to bring me closer to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Day 3 – When Prayer Seems Pointless

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 15:13

We all have moments when prayer seems pointless, often in times of deep distress and pain, when it seems as if nothing can ever make things better or return things to the way they were before. These times when we are deep in the pit of despair can be very difficult for us, for our view of God and our relationship with him, and for our attitude towards prayer and its efficacy. Is it worth seeking God when it seems as if there is nothing he can do?  Is God worth praying to over this? Is he not capable of dealing with this situation? Is he himself as helpless and powerless as I feel about this problem?

Sometimes the question is not whether God is there, but whether God is who we have always thought he was in the past, back when we were confident that he both could and would intervene in his world. There are times when our picture of God needs to be broken open, and we need to come to a new understanding of who God is and how he works, to see that he truly is Lord, and that prayer works because of who he truly is.

These times are often uncertain and uncomfortable, but they serve a purpose. In order to believe that the almighty God of all creation is indeed Lord and capable of changing the world – and that part of what will bring about this change is our prayers – we often need our image of God expanded. Sometimes our sense of God needs to grow, to stretch – so that our prayers will be stretched along with it.

Questions to Consider
When has prayer seemed most difficult for you? How did you get through this time?

Almighty Father, you are Lord. Show me more and more what that actually means. Reveal your Lordship in me and in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Day 4 – Prayer as Radical Engagement

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 14:13-14

Our prayers, to the extent that they are genuine, uninhibited, unselfish, and genuinely seeking God’s will for his creation, will always seek to undermine the status quo. We know the way things are in the world around us is not the way they should be and we will always raise our voices in the cry for justice. We are the voice of the voiceless, speaking for those who cannot be heard, interceding before God on behalf of those who are marginalised, outcast, ignored and written off as unimportant and unworthy of care, attention and love.

Our prayers (and our actions in support of, and in concert with, those prayers) will be pesky, annoying, irritating, impertinent and shamelessly irreverent towards the oppressive powers and structures of this world that refuse to acknowledge God as Creator and Lord, and that oppress and dehumanise his people. We speak to God on behalf of the broken and the shattered and the loveless and the lonely and the outcast and the forgotten. We lift up the name of God before a society that refuses to hear him, and we lift up the faces and lives of those society refuses to see.

Prayer is the radical option that does not stop at the heart or the tongue or the lips but that flows out into the world of action and change and embodied love. Prayer is extreme and uncompromising, just as love is extreme and uncompromising.

Questions to Consider
How is your prayer radical? How does it speak on behalf of others?

Lord God, help my prayer take up the burden on behalf of those who are powerless to speak for themselves. May my prayers be for justice and mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

Day 5 – Today’s Forgotten Ones

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22:22-23

Today Lord, we bring to you

the forgotten people

who were TV headlines

just a month or two ago;

who are still suffering,

still fleeing for their lives,

still dying for lack

of medical provision,

still seeing their world

crumbling into dust

beneath tired feet,

but whose plight

has been downgraded

to make room

for more recent barbarity.

Lord, we bring to you

this fragile world,

its precious people,

its suffering people,

its forgotten people,

made beautifully in your image

and still crying out for help.

©2016 John Birch

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)