Is Prayer a Waste of Time? Five reasons why neglecting time with God is a big mistake
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BY MAJOR DANIELLE STRICKLAND
n January 1, our small community of believers in Edmonton decided to pray. The Salvation Army had launched a global call to prayer for justice and we responded. This was not just a renewed effort in our personal prayer lives but a corporate decision to make our community a place of prayer. To this end, we transformed an office in our corps building into a “war room” for 24/7 prayer. Of course, we could have done a host of other, more “practical” things. As an action-oriented person, I’ve been tempted to think that prayer is a waste of time. I long for the Church to move from its huddled holy prayer clubs and into social justice. I’ve come to realize, however, that dismissing prayer is a big mistake. Here’s why: 1. God’s plan comes first. I have a thousand ideas on how to grow a corps, get people saved and reform the neighbourhood. But most of the time my ideas don’t work. I lack the resources and ability to make them a reality. But when God opens the door, when he declares the time, things happen that can’t happen any other way. The door can’t be shut. Favour comes. Salvation comes. Resources come. I find it hard to keep up with what God is doing when I actively ask for his direction and 22 I September 2011 I Salvationist
Jay Leno joked, “I’d do anything for the perfect body, except diet and exercise.” Many of us think the same way about prayer help. A night of prayer helped Jesus speak these words of surrender: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). 2. Prayer challenges Hell and changes us. Prayer isn’t passive; it’s one of the most aggressive parts of our spiritual warfare. A prayer warrior once told me, “Be careful what you pray. By the end of your prayer, you’ll likely be the answer!” It’s true. Prayer doesn’t just challenge Hell, it changes us. It transforms my will to desire God’s will. Many people long to be like Christian heroes of the past, yet often the biggest difference is the amount of time spent with God. You’ve got to pray. Jay Leno joked, “I’d do anything for the perfect body, except diet and exercise.” Many of us think the same way about prayer.
3. Everyone can pray. Some of the best prayer warriors I know are not “gifted” in the eyes of the world. Their talents are not the public kind—music, leadership or administration—but when it comes to prayer, they are faithful and effective. Prayer is a level playing field. In our prayer room in Edmonton, a woman who hasn’t had an easy life takes the morning shift for three hours, six days a week. If you were to judge her by worldly standards, you’d think her homeless or destitute. You’d be wrong. She is part of a fired-up team of prayer warriors who together are changing our city and nation—crying out for justice day and night. 4. Prayer sustains us. Our spirits need food. It’s that simple. Jesus said that a blessing was attached to being hungry and thirsty for righteousness and justice. Have you ever wondered how Jesus prayed all night and kept on healing, evangelizing and championing justice the next day? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you weary? Do you need sustenance? Pray honestly, regularly and aggressively and you’ll find the blessing is yours. 5. Prayer gives rest to the soul. The Sabbath is all the rage these days, a “new” discovery for a generation with over-extended, toxically busy lives. The trouble is that we work the Sabbath into our lives instead of working our lives into the Sabbath. God made the Sabbath for our good. It’s about intentionally taking time to honour God with our attention, devotion and energy. It’s about coming before our Maker as family, community and individuals, just as we are. And that can be incredibly refreshing. When I’m in the prayer room at my corps, I shut off my phone, listen to music, dance, write, laugh, read or create art. I love to “waste time” with God and remind myself that I’m not in charge and that it doesn’t all depend on me. It’s a chance to take a real rest, breathe deeply of God’s energizing life and return ready to win the world for Jesus. Major Danielle Strickland is the corps officer of Edmonton Crossroads Community Church.