- Watch funny cat videos online
- Pretend you’re a robot
- Repeat the same word over and over until it loses its meaning
Sometimes prayer is one of those things that feels like a waste of time. We may put a lot of effort into it and it can feel like we don’t get a lot of results. There isn’t always something to ‘See.’ Yet prayer accomplishes much that we cannot see behind the scenes. I would like to propose that prayer is the best possible way you can ‘waste’ your time, especially during a time like this. Rather than finding meaningless or silly ways to waste time, spend some time in prayer! Let me propose 4 things prayer accomplishes.
First, prayer helps us admit that we are not God
As the COVID-19 crisis has taught us, we are much less in control of our lives and our world than we might like to think. “We are witnessing at this very moment the humbling of a civilization that believed itself to be in control of the world—impervious to this kind of threat.” When everything is going well in the world, it’s easy to think we don’t need God. Now, when things are not going well, people may be much more likely to turn to God. Prayer has always taught followers of Jesus to rely on him. Turning to Jesus in prayer, helps people admit that they are not God; we are not in control.
During a crisis we face all kinds of questions about the meaning of life and questions of safety and security. Jesus has always had the answers, but maybe we’re more ready to hear them now. Over 2000 years ago Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Notice that Jesus didn’t say that people have overcome the world, he said that HE has overcome the world. Prayer has always taught people that they are not God and are not in control, but the lesson is more relevant than ever now.
Secondly, prayer centers people on God.
Prayer reorients our posture from looking at ourselves or at our world, to looking at God. Recent events have certainly pointed this out. Prayer has always pointed to something greater than humanity. It is easy to spend all day reading and watching the news and spiraling deeper into despair and fear. Prayer refocuses people on God and moves away from focusing on what we cannot control. Matthew 6:34 says “34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In this time, we can’t predict what is going to happen tomorrow. Prayer teaches us that there is something beyond our present circumstances and troubles.
I Pet 1:3-7 says “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Peter here is speaking of an eternal perspective. An eternal perspective requires us to believe in something we can’t see and do not yet fully grasp. Prayer orients our hearts to heaven and towards an eternal perspective.
Thirdly, prayer teaches about sacrifice and caring for others
Spending time in prayer can feel like a sacrifice, as we are giving up time that we feel could be used on ‘practical’ things. What better way to spend time right now however, than in praying for our world and for others? Eph 6:18 says: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Prayer helps us orient ourselves towards those that need help. You can give up some of your time in order to pray for other people and then turn those prayers into practical action. Maybe Jesus will lead you towards a certain person you could help. You can reach out digitally to someone that needs encouragement and friendly voice.
Finally, prayer builds our relationship with Jesus
Jesus is relational and he does not engage in social distancing! For people that don’t know Jesus, this is a great chance to ask some deep questions about life and the meaning and purpose of humanity. In this time of social distancing, we can engage in spiritual closeness. In a time where we suddenly have extra time on our hands this is a great opportunity to spend time getting to know Jesus.
In conclusion, I think Romans 12:12 is a great verse for these times: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” When we look to God, there is always hope. Prayer leads us to God, hope will keep us going, and patience will prevent panic.
Stay close to Jesus, stay in touch with each other (from a distance) and continue to trust God.
There is hope for tomorrow!