“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” ~Acts 12:5
We know we’re supposed to pray. So we do. But sometimes we get lazy with it. We don’t always pay attention to what we’re saying and why. In 1916, in his book The Soul of Prayer, P. T. Forsyth wrote the reason our churches don’t know how to pray is “the slipshod kind of prayer they hear from us in public worship; it is often but journalese sent heavenwards or phrase-making to carry on.”
If we really believe that God is who the Bible says he is; if we really believe that he is the almighty true and living God, the powerful creator and sustainer of heaven and earth; if we really believe this God is personal with us and not only hears our prayers but faithfully answers them; if we really believe that, then every one of our prayers will be filled with passion.
Not eloquence. Not etiquette. Not posture and syntax and order. Our prayers will be characterized by passion.
If we believe it.
E. M. Bounds, from an essay he wrote in 1895:
“The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil everywhere. Prayer is not a fitful short-lived thing. It is no voice crying unheard and unheeded in silence. It is a voice which goes into God’s ear, and it lives as long as God’s ear is open to holy pleas, as long as God’s heart is alive to holy things.
God shapes the world by prayer.
The prayers of God’s saints are the capital stock in heaven by which Christ carries on his great work upon earth. The great throes and mighty convulsions on earth are the results of these prayers. Earth is changed, revolutionized, angels move on more powerful, more rapid wing, and God’s policy is shaped as the prayers are more numerous, more efficient.
It is true that the mightiest successes that come to God’s cause are created and carried on by prayer. The days of God’s activity and power are when God’s Church comes into its mightiest inheritance of mightiest faith and mightiest prayer. God’s conquering days are when the saints have given themselves to mightiest prayer. When God’s house on earth is a house of prayer, then God’s house in heaven is busy and all potent in its plans and movements, then his earthly armies are clothed with the triumphs and spoils of victory and his enemies defeated on every hand.”
That’s power. And if we believe it, our prayers will reflect it. Our prayers won’t be little. They’ll be huge. And passionate.
Abraham pleading for Sodom. Jacob wrestling at midnight. Moses fasting and praying for God’s people in the wilderness. Hannah intoxicated with sorrow. David heartbroken with grief and remorse. Huge, passionate prayers. Jesus overcome with loud cries and tears in the garden. Elijah exploding with confidence on Mount Carmel. Paul courageously petitioning on behalf of the new churches.
When we understand the God of our Scriptures, when we see things the way he sees things, then our prayers will be marked by passion. When we couple the greatness of God with the sinfulness of creation and when we understand both of these truths, then we understand what it is God really wants and what he’s doing. And we very boldly and courageously and passionately pray for it.
I can root for a guy like Paul Pierce. He fought and trained and worked and played his guts out for ten seasons, mostly pathetic losing seasons, in Boston. And for all ten of those season he vowed to do whatever he could to bring a title to Boston. He never said a negative word about the franchise or his teammates. He begged the team and the fans to stick with him. He promised to win a championship there.
I can cheer for a guy like Doc Rivers who, up until two months ago had never won a playoff series as a coach and, one year ago, was this close to being fired. He begged Danny Ainge and the Boston front office to stick with him. He promised to do everything he could to win the title.
Doesn’t the NBA championship, clinched last night by the Celtics in a rout of the Lakers, mean a whole lot more to Pierce and Rivers than it does to Kevin Garnett?
It’s hard for me to pull for a guy who plays 12 years in Minnesota, the last four or five griping and whining about how lousy his team is and how they’re never going to win, and then demands to be shipped somewhere else where he wins the championship.
To me, Pierce and Rivers embody the commitment and loyalty and team-first principles we love about sports while Garnett represents the self-serving team-jumping ring-chasing we hate. Is there no room in sports anymore for an Archie Manning or Fran Tarkenton?
Garnett embarrassed his new team and his new city when, immediately after the game with a dozen live national cameras and microphones in his face, he could only muster primal screams and long multi-syallabic curse words. A string of ’em. If not for ABC’s eight-second delay, the broadcast would have been rated R. Nice. When Garnett finally found his limited vocabulary, it went something like this. “I got mine! I got mine!”
He looked into the camera and shouted, “What are you gonna say now? I got mine! I’m legit! I’m certified! What are you gonna say now?”
And then he went Joe Namath on ABC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya, “You look good, girl!”
I love that. Dedication. Commitment. Loyalty. Values that should and will be more and more appreciated in sports, if only because it’s increasingly rare.