Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prayer and Issues

I asked a friend recently about how she understands intercessory prayer. Specifically, how to not feel burdened by the long list of persons who need our prayers and, instead, stay joy-filled while praying, even in the midst of many of the serious concerns related to each name and situation. She shared an article with me and I pass it on to you as a pearl of great treasure:

   "Why has the world become such a heavy burden? We simply can't blame the media. I suspect that while we become more informed about the world, we become less transformed by the living Christ.  The strategy of the power of evil is to make us think of life as a huge stack of very complicated issues, too many to respond, too complex to understand, and too frustrating to deal with.  The more entangled we become in issues the harder it is to recognize Jesus as the saving Lord of history.
   As long as issues dominate our lives, whether they are Third World issues, hunger issues, nuclear issues, or women's issues, we cannot pray. Prayer is not directed to issues; it is not meant to unravel complexities or solve problems.  Prayer is directed to a personal God who loves us and hears us: it is a cry from heart to heart, from spirit to spirit.
   Issues easily imprison; a person can set free.  Issues easily divide us; a person can unite. Issues easily exhaust; a person can give us rest. Issues easily destroy; a person can offer new life.  Despair is caused by orientation toward issues, but hope emerges when we direct ourselves with heart and mind to the person of a saving God.  That is prayer.
   Jesus leaves little doubt about the meaning of prayer when he says: 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can't do anything.' (John 15:5).  Dwelling in Jesus is what prayer is all about.
   Life becomes an unbearable burden whenever we lose touch with the presence of a loving Savior and see only hunger to be alleviated, injustice to be addressed, violence to be overcome, wars to be stopped, and loneliness to be removed.  All these are critical issues and Christians must try to solve them; however, when our concern no longer flows from our personal encounter with the living Christ, we feel an oppressive weight."
Henri J. M. Nouwen, a selection from Prayer Embraces the World

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