There was an old 1991 VHS tape that my kids had when they were small called Rock-A-Doodle. It was a story about a rooster named Chanticleer. Now Chanticleer was under the misguided belief that the reason the sun came up every morning was because he crowed. Then one day the Grand Duke of Owls sends a henchmen to pick a fight with Chanticleer early in the morning just before dawn. Poor Chanticleer is so distracted by the fight that he forgets to crow. And much to his astonishment, the sun came up without him. Chanticleer is so embarrassed and dejected, that he leaves the farm to be taken over by the Grand Duke of Owls. And what follows is the adventures of the barn yard animals and small boy in the form of a kitten to bring Chanticleer back and reclaim the farm.
I think that this old movie is a very real parable for how the majority of the church prays. We tend to beleive because we crow in prayer, the Son rises. Which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I used to attend a rural church that fancied themselves as being the most spiritual and closest thing to God that He had in their area. Every Sunday evening they would hold a prayer service for God to rebuke Satan and engage in spiritual warfare through prayer to stop the opioid / heroin crisis in their county. But not once would they ever leave the comfort of their building to drive down to the local rehab center and offer their services to get involved with the people struggling with their addictions. They just stayed in their safe barnyard and crowed.
That might seem like a crass assessment of the church but I want to challenge you to go on over to a Bible search program on the net, blueletterbible.org and look up something for yourself. Search for the phrase in quotes, “pray for them” and it will NOT appear in scripture in conjunction with someone you are not involved with. In fact a general search will show only 3 uses in the KJV, 1 in the NKJV, 3 in the NLT, 2 in the NIV, 1 in the CSB, 3 in the ASV, 3 in the WEB, and 1 in the HNV. That means that many scholars do not believe it is an accurate phrase in such versions as the RSV, NASB, and ESV as well as other lesser known versions. For the book which is the ultimate basis of the Christian/Jewish faith on how to pray, that is astounding. Do the same for “pray for me” and “pray for us” and you will yield equally sparse results.
Then how are we supposed to pray for those we don’t know so well?
- Matthew 9:37-10.1 NASB – 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Jesus instructed his disciples to pray that God would send workers into the harvest, not that God would move via osmosis to fight the enemy. And after making that bold statement, Jesus, being one with God, led by example:
- Matthew 10:1 NASB – 1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
There is an old saying either you are part of the problem or you are part of the solution. The problem is we do not want to actually get our hands dirty by getting involved with those in need. The solution is step out in faith and get involved with those in need.
I once pastored a small church in which an elder was upset that I was attracting the “wrong kind of people” to their respectable church. (And he wondered why it remained small). I developed the saying “When the church is full of the wrong kind of people then it is full of the right kind of people.”
The unspoken theology is that we act like our prayers are a remote control to move God. In reality God is trying to move us through prayer. Scripture is clear that involvement is necessary for prayer. Either pray that God would send, or pray “Here I am Lord, send me.” But you better watch out, that last prayer is quite powerful and dangerous.