Over the past several months, amid harrowing current events, the topic of prayer has skirted important issues and has often been regarded as benign sentiment or a passive response to terrible circumstances. No doubt for some #thoughtsandprayers is merely that: a mindless hashtag, a social media reply in a world gone mad.
However, for followers of Jesus, “thoughts and prayers” are the warp and woof of walking with God, of calling on him to listen to our pleas, of asking him to bear burdens, of responding in faith to situations and circumstances well beyond our control but fully within his. So, let this post be a reminder, a source of encouragement, an exhortation to interact with God as you encounter the culture.
Given current events, here are a few ways I’m praying this week. I invite you to join me.
“Thoughts and prayers” are the warp and woof of walking with God.
I’m Praying for World Leaders.
Let us start with the news topping the week’s agenda. The global community is speculating and waiting to hear about the outcome of the summit in Singapore—a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Among other important topics, North Korean nuclear disarmament tops the list. This unprecedented encounter follows the recently concluded G7 Summit, in which the US and key allies discussed a myriad of issues that affect the globe like climate change, environmental issues and gender equality. No matter our political bent or philosophy, we must remember meetings like this matter to God because, ultimately, he reigns as King over all the nations. Therefore, may our prayers reflect the heart of the psalmist who declares,
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! (Psalm 33:6–9)
In addition, despite how things appear, the Bible reminds us time and again that he is speeding the message of the gospel across the globe. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. With humility and faith we can appeal to God in earnest,
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth (Psalm 67:1–4)
So, the people of God must extol his majesty, acknowledge his power and call on him to provide wisdom and guidance for leaders around the world.
I’m Praying for the Southern Baptist Convention.
On the home-front, as many of you know, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting is being held in Dallas, Texas right now. In the weeks leading up to this biannual event God has publicly exposed some dark places in the convention. As a result, many leaders from across the denomination have repented and spoken out against sin and abuse. In addition, the SBC Presidential election has been contentious.
Whether Baptist or Presbyterian, Calvinist or Arminian, we all must pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters as they assemble this week. Let us remember that gatherings like this matter to God because his church, the bride of Christ, is meant to represent him and the beauty and holiness of the gospel as it redeems and transforms people like you and me. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes the church as the household of God, its foundation being the apostles and prophets, and its cornerstone — the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Paul who prayed for the fellow citizens and saints in Ephesus, we can pray for the saints gathered in Dallas:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of yours hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:17–20)
We cannot all respond physically to these situations, but we can all pray to God who is not limited.
I’m Praying for Suffering People Everywhere.
We live in turbulent times. Those of us who provide spiritual leadership, direction and care for the family of God know this well. In addition to the culturally significant issues mentioned above, many of us are hard-pressed to shake the images of school shootings run rampant, the growing number of suicides, strife in the Middle East, beleaguered families seeking asylum in U.S. border towns, rescue workers in Guatemala sifting through the ashy remnants of volcanic lava. All of this, and especially the people, matter to our God.
The Scriptures remind us over and over again that God knows, he is present and involved. Psalm 33:13–15, 18 state:
The Lord looks down from heaving; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds…Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, and on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
We cannot all respond physically to these situations, but we can all pray to God who is not limited; in fact, the Scriptures assure us — he is a very present help in times of trouble.
These circumstances are a stark reminder of the fact that we live in a sin-scarred world where people from all walks of life experience desperation, hopelessness and isolation. So, in addition to being attentive to the people around you, pray for them as well. Bank on the truth of Jesus’ words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Take comfort—the fact that we care about the world, the people in the world, and can pray in earnest for the people we encounter is because of his great love and his great work—his death, burial and resurrection:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14–16)