Praying is never an overreaction.
I shared that sentiment a few weeks ago on twitter and I believe it is true. While prayer is never an overreaction, I would dare to say it’s not always our first reaction. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, encourages us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4: 4-7).
We live in an anxious world and in an anxious time. Likely many of you are anxious about something right now. When we take one look away from God and His Son, we can easily fall into despair. This seems especially true given our current cultural moment. To say that we live in the most racially divided time in our history would be erroneous. But for those of us born in the 70s, 80s and 90s, we have acutely felt this heavy weight of race division. We continue to live in a racially divided time.
Hate is at every turn. I can’t turn on the TV or log onto social media without seeing the evidence of how this fallen, broken world has affected race relations in our country and in our world. And I know the divide and pain isn’t something that’s only found out there in the world, it’s right here in the church too.
The reality is we will not see this anxious division become whole until Jesus returns. But are we simply resigned to anxious waiting until that day?
What if instead we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful prayer?
What if we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful preaching, writing, or your own unique creative outlet?
What if we took our anxiety related to racial division and turned it into faithful action?
Our hope is not in our prayer, our preaching, nor our action. Our faith and our hope is in our God. We can rest and trust him. We look to that future grace and hope of a new heaven and new earth to motivate us to bring heaven to earth now.
Ultimately, we need to trust God for our future. The future doesn’t look bright to an anxious world. When we look out at the landscape of our culture, it looks dim.
But don’t listen to your fears.
Fear has a way of whispering lies in our ears about who God is.
Fear tells us that there’s no hope for our nation.
Fear tells us that the gospel isn’t enough for unity.
Fear tells us that there’s no way that God can save this community.
God is not a genie in a bottle ready to grant all of our wishes. We don’t shake a magic 8-ball to learn all that he is doing. We wait and trust. God is always working whether we recognize it or not.
And one day our faith will become sight.
God is not on this throne wringing his hands hoping we get our political act together so things can be fixed.
God has not given up his rule and authority.
We can resist anxiety and fear by remembering what is true about God. We have a different and better allegiance and it is not to any ruler or authority on this earth. We must remember that our kingdom is of God and is of heaven.
God is awesome.
God is sovereign.
We are not entrusting ourselves to a wimpy, powerless God.
God is also our loving Father and he invites his children to come to him and find rest in our Savior who died for our fear and anxiety. He is our peace.
Read again, the words that Paul writes: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Right now we have a great opportunity to submit our requests to the Lord.
Some ideas for how to pray:
Go on prayer walks with friends
Set out to pray every morning
Organize a prayer gathering at your church
Journal your prayers
Get in your prayer closet alone
Your prayer time does not have to be anything elaborate, but I am praying that for you and me, it will be consistent–every day in September. You do not need to sign up for anything, just commit in your heart and get started.
Some ideas for what to pray:
The gospel to penetrate hearts
The gift of repentance for our own racial bias
The gift of repentance for those who struggle with racial pride
Strength, wisdom, and courage for church and religious leaders (pastors, seminary presidents, organizational leaders, etc.)
Unity among believers
Opportunities to love your neighbor
Racial harmony, reconciliation, etc.
Healing—where there is hurt, need for forgiveness, etc.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Because we are body-soul unities, physical and spiritual issues intersect in ways that can't be easily pulled apart.