Does It Really Help to ‘Send Thoughts and Prayers’? (Sept. 20 Lesson Application)
Does It Really Help to ‘Send Thoughts and Prayers’? (Sept. 20 Lesson Application)

This “Application“ column goes with the Bible Lesson for Sept. 20, 2020: Pray (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

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By David Faust

Prayer gets a lot of lip service, but not a lot of respect. Do you see prayer as a last resort or your first response? Many treat God the way a pilot treats his parachute: He’s glad it’s there for emergencies, but he hopes he never has to use it. When a basketball player heaves a long shot that has little chance of hitting the basket, announcers say, “He threw up a prayer.” In football when the quarterback desperately flings a pass into the end zone as time expires, it’s called a Hail Mary.

Upon hearing bad news, well-intentioned sympathizers say, “We’re sending our thoughts and prayers.” To many, that expression has become a lame-sounding cliché.

Taking Prayer Seriously
Are thoughts and prayers impactful? It depends on what we’re thinking and to whom we’re praying. In the Bible, prayer isn’t bland; it’s dynamic. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7). “Petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” for everyone, including government officials (1 Timothy 2:1-2), are a prerequisite to cultural change and spiritual renewal. James insisted, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Jesus prayed before common meals and uncommon miracles. He slipped away from the crowds to spend time alone with the heavenly Father (Luke 5:16). He prayed all night before calling the 12 apostles (Luke 6:12-16). Likewise, his followers prioritized prayer in their gatherings (Acts 1:14, 2:42), leadership selections (Acts 6:3-6), and strategic planning (Acts 13:1-3).

Prayer Foray
It’s time for us to go on a prayer foray. Foray has two primary definitions: (1) To attack or invade enemy territory, as in “that foray might cost the soldiers their lives.” (2) To make an initial attempt, try something new, explore an untested field of activity, or step into uncharted territory, as in “before starting her own business, she tried a short foray as an actor in the theater.”

Both of these definitions apply to prayer. Through bold strategic prayer, we attack Satan’s strongholds. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8). And whether you are a new believer or have known the Lord a long time, God calls you to walk with him into new, uncharted territory. If you’re ready for a prayer foray, why not start with these “Four A’s”?

  • Admire. “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.” Expand your appreciation for his power and glory. Admire who he is and what he has done. Magnify the Lord, because when he looks bigger, your problems look smaller.
  • Admit. Be honest about your struggles, weaknesses, questions, doubts, sins, and shortcomings. When you’re on your knees, you can’t stumble, and you can’t run. A humble, contrite heart says, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
  • Ask. Approach God boldly and specifically. “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).
  • Act. Prayer isn’t mere talk. Faith without works is dead. Don’t just pray, “Thy will be considered” or “Thy will be discussed.” Jesus said to pray, “Thy will be done.”

Real impact requires more than just “sending thoughts and prayers.” When we think biblically and pray earnestly, it will lead us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Personal Challenge: On a piece of paper or in your personal journal, use the “Four A’s” mentioned above to write your own prayer to God.

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