Prayer Changes Things

When I was in Phoenix, I had a job as an early morning janitor. 4-8 AM every day. It was the worst, and I only lasted a month. If you can do that, you have my utmost respect and awe.Psalms.png

Anyway, the store I worked at didn’t open until 9 AM, so I asked if I could wear headphones. The manager said I couldn’t. So for four hours every day I would sweep, buff, and vacuum in total silence. Let me tell you, the vacuuming was the best, because it was one of those Ghostbusters vacuums.

There was one morning when I was like, here we go, I’m going to try and pray this whole shift. I wrote out a list of prayer needs on a card and got ready to go. I clocked in and started sweeping. I prayed everything I could think of and looked at my watch. It was 4:06. It had been a whopping six minutes since I started praying. I kept trying to find my groove but I would get distracted. I was not very good at praying, and to be totally honest I’m still not adept at this spiritual discipline. Psalm 3 teaches us however that prayer truly does change things. Prayer reorients our perspective, and through our humble petitions, God is willing to move.

Let’s do it.

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. – Psalm 3:1-2

This is a psalm of David, and in this Psalm David is in desperate need. He is running from his own son who wants to kill him and take his throne. He is surrounded by his former men who have now sworn allegiance to his son Absalom who wants to kill him.

Not only is there the fear of physical death in this situation, David is dealing with the fear of God’s abandonment. The foes and enemies of David were proclaiming that there was no salvation for David in God. I’m sure this led him to at least momentarily doubt whether or not God was still for him.

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever felt like God had abandoned you?

I know I have, and I can tell you that there is great confidence, hope, and faith to be found in David’s response to this intensely bleak season of his life. Instead of caving to the lies and losing his trust in God (although there are other Psalms where he does begin to question God’s faithfulness, which should remind us all that that is an okay emotion to work through), David continues to have deep confidence in Him.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. – Psalm 3:3-6

David is confident in the Lord’s ability to protect and provide. One of the greatest benefits of prayer for me is the opportunity to take a deep breath and remember that God has been faithful and will continue to be so. In this Psalm, David understands three crucial aspects of God’s character, and this leads to his confidence in prayer.

  1. God is his shield. This terminology is used all throughout the book of Psalms. It is warfare imagery, and it is a reminder for David and for us that God is able to protect us from anything that comes our way. He shields us from the enemy. This doesn’t mean that all will be perfect in our lives. Rather it means that God will not allow anything to hit us spiritually that He has not provided us the strength to overcome through His grace and mercy.
  2. God is his glory. David understood that anything in his life, any throne, any praise, and accolade, any glory, was ultimately just a shadow of God’s great glory and was a result of God’s gifts to him as his child. God is our glory as well. Anything we’ve got in this life is from him and for him.
  3. God is the lifter of his head. David knew that God would restore his countenance, that God would restore joy and hope to his heart, lifting up his head. When you and I get discouraged or down, our heads droop. But God lifts up our heads.

God answered David’s prayer. That is the beauty of verse four. Remember that this is after the Bathsheba incident. This is a wonderful reminder that God forgives, and that God shows great grace. God answered the cries of David’s heart.

Now in our lives, the answers may not come in the way or in the timing that we would ask for, but God still is in the business of answering prayers.

David then decides to go to sleep. This is the part of this passage that blows my ever-loving mind. David is being pursued by this enemy force and he is so confident in God’s ability to protect and provide for him that he takes a nap.

May we have equal confidence in God’s ability to provide for and protect us in every situation we encounter.

The Psalm closes with David praying total destruction upon his enemies, and for the sake of length I don’t have the space to tackle that today. I wanted us to take a look at this Psalm for the sake of being reminded that prayer truly does change things.

God hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer is vitally important. We don’t like to do it because it’s foreign and makes us slow down. But it is no less important. Because of Jesus’ death in our place, we can know God personally.

LET THIS SINK IN.

We can talk with God, we can share our lives and our worries with him. There is no prayer too big or too small for us to share with Him. We can ask for his help. We can give him the praise he deserves.

Tell God your worries.

Remind yourself how powerful and in control he is.

Ask God to help you.

Get some sleep.

You can rest in God’s provision and protection.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Prayer & Community

The themes kept appearing incessantly throughout the week. They came from my own lips in the midst of Bible studies, and they came from the lips of local church planters of many different backgrounds and ministries. They showed up in D-Now teachings and Skype conversations. It was as if God was divinely orchestrating the entire week so that I would be able to undoubtedly grasp that without these two things, I could not successfully stay afloat in ministry in Phoenix.

Prayer and community.

I’m sitting in my apartment on an immensely rainy day, and these two things have not left my mind. For the past nine days I’ve had the privilege to host a team of nine students from my Alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. In the midst of walking with them this week and simply doing my best to paint a picture of what ministry in the West is like, the importance of prayer and community kept reverberating through my mind and heart. There is so much power in both of those practices and having the team here affirmed how beautifully refreshing practicing them can be to the heart of a Christian.

obu
So thankful for this team from OBU and the work they did in the city this past week!

There’s two ways of going about life on a normal week.

The first way of going about life is isolation. Yes, I may go to church with brothers and sisters in Christ, I may live with one of my closest friends, I may do fun activities and engage in conversation with my peers. Yet I can still be tremendously isolated by my failure to share what my deep-seated questions and pains may be at that time. I’ve looked my roommate in the eyes when he’s leaving the house, all of me wanting to scream out my need for prayer and encouragement, but my desire to stay comfortable and not admit weakness keeps me silent. I have the sovereign Lord of all willing to listen to my humble cries for help yet I can in my isolated state keep laboring through the darkness unwilling to seek the light of Christ through the practice of prayer.

That way of life is dark, depressing, and ultimately not how God designed us to live. But there is another way to go about everyday life in a missional mindset. That way of life is saturated with prayer and community.

A life saturated with prayer and community is the blessed life. Community is what the church is all about. It can definitely happen through functional and organized church events. Yet most of my growth and support in the context of community has happened on a random Tuesday when my friends ask me how I’m doing and I say “not so great”. For goodness sake, we were designed to need each other and we shortchange what God has given us through His church if we don’t place ourselves in the vulnerable position of community.

Prayer is too often my last resort. How silly and prideful of me. Prayer should be our first step of faith when faced with any circumstance. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a specific posture or location. Prayer is reliance on God, and prayer has transformational power. I’ve seen it change the hearts of others, I’ve seen it change the circumstances that I’m in. But more often than not, the transformational power of prayer happens in my own heart. When I praise God for all that He is, confess my sins and shortcomings, and give thanks for all the blessings He’s given me this day, I can’t help but have a heart that is changed and more in love with God.

I’ve been reading some of the short letters at the end of the New Testament and I’ve found encouragement to keep striving to implement both of these practices. There are many verses that combine both practices: deep community and prayerful posture.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 2

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; – Jude 20-22

John practiced praying for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He prayed not only for their spiritual health, but also their physical health. As followers of Christ we are to pray in the spirit, building each other up in our holy faith. We as followers of Christ are to also have mercy on those who doubt.

That final verse has been the most beneficial and impactful to me in regards to living in Christian community. I’ll honestly say that I’m not entirely sure the exact context of “have mercy on those who doubt”. Yet I imagine it has implications on how Christians should treat each other.

I’ve been following Christ since I was seven. Despite this, I doubt.

In certain seasons of my life I struggle with doubt in regards to certain things. Not necessarily in regards to mental doubt, but emotional doubt. I used to have a lot of fear in regards to confessing my struggles in doubt to my brothers in Christ. Yet it has been so true in my life that when I confess my anxieties and faith struggles that the mercy of my brothers drives me to remembering the promises of Scripture. We all need community to encourage us in our faith. We all get down and discouraged, we all need affirmation of the truths of God’s Word. We all need to be shown mercy and grace.

If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we must be a people of prayer. If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we need to be in a community of brothers or sisters in Christ who daily point us to Him.

Prayer and community.

I can’t exist without them.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog via the menu!