Protest Prayer

The day of the protest march has ended.  I do not mean that such demonstrations have ceased, but that their effective range has diminished.  Whether by design or by exhaustion, the modern protest lacks the same cultural impact that it did in the middle of the previous century.  I leave the investigation of the sociological or political nature of the marginalization of this form of political speech to its proper place.  It is not my job to draw sociological conclusions from the current data.  However, it does not seem unwarranted to theorize that this marginalization may have something to do with a decrease in apparent passion within the populace and a related decrease in publicity.  Americans have generally lost their interest in the workings of their culture and government.  We simply do not get exercised about our environment.  Although tea parties and marches still occur, one cannot escape the notion that modern society could not produce another Martin Luther King Jr.  We simply do not have the corporate passion.
These theories may prove false in society at large.  However, in the field in which I labor, the church, I cannot but observe these same functions operating within Christianity at large.  We have lost our passion.  No other arena is this lukewarmness more apparent than in our prayers.  To what is our life of prayer comparable? What is the nature of prayer in the modern church?  What is the nature of prayer in your life?  What ought our prayer to resemble?  How ought we to pray?
Jesus told His disciples a parable about passion in prayer. 

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, “There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, ‘Avenge me of mine adversary.’ And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”  

Jesus commends this widow’s persistence in pleading with the unjust judge.  The judge eventually despairs that the incessant pleading of the widow will drive him insane.  Capitulation to the widow’s desires remains the only avenue of escape.  Jesus thus applies this parable to the church.
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge saith.  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
Jesus makes two points of application.  God is not an unjust judge, unmoved by the cries of His people.  He listens to their pleas.  His heart is moved at their tears.  We have certainly more hope of response from our Lord than from an unjust judge.  However, while affirming our hope and certainty of being heard by a loving Father, Jesus also warns that our petitions may not soon be answered nor our requests soon granted.  God may “bear long” with us, though we pray “day and night unto him.”  In this, Jesus encourages us to pray without ceasing and with patient endurance.
In talking with my family, I recounted the new prayer service here at Covenant Presbyterian Church, the first Sunday of every other month.  In describing it, I compared it to a protest march.  We pray in these meetings for a solitary purpose.  I described it as an responsive protest chant, “What do we want?”  “Revival!”  “When do we want it?”  “Now!”  It is not that we protest against divine sovereignty, rather the singularity of purpose drives our passion, our self-motivation for this activity.  Whether it produces our petition, whether we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our community, depends upon our persistence, according to scripture.
Perhaps the serious nature of our request led Jesus to His second point of application.  He asks a pointed question, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”  The life of the church is wrapped up in its persistence in prayer.  As the ministry of our Lord depended upon His incessant prayer, so the life of His church likewise depends upon persistence in prayer.  Jesus’ question seems to anticipate a horrific finale, a world without faith.  Against this, scripture assures us that the church will survive.  God’s people will persevere in prayer and faith, through the power and working of the Holy Spirit.  The question is, whether any particular church will survive.
F.W. Boreham wrote an essay entitled “The Candle and the Bird.”  In it, he argues that the presence of God is more akin to a bird than to a candle.  Man may reject God, but unlike a candle blown out, the bird simply moves to a new tree or a new branch.  God’s presence dwells within His church.  That presence will not vanish from the earth, but it may move.  Whether that presence remains in any particular church, depends upon the faithful, persistent prayers of that church.  Join the march!  Embrace the passion!  Never stop praying!

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Living Christian in an Unchristian World

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