19th February 2012

Bumper Sticker Prayer

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray….”
James 5:17-18, 13 (NIV UK)

You see a lot of interesting bumper stickers on American cars, not so common in the UK. It’s one of the ways people can make a public statement about things that matter to them. Bumper stickers can be clever, or cute, or even profound. Some of them are just for fun. But sometimes, like anything else, they can be misleading. Take for example the bumper sticker that tells us to “Believe in the Power of Prayer”.

On the surface, it sounds good. But if we think about it, it’s misleading. It’s misleading simply because it isn’t prayer that has power. It’s God. Which means it’s not the power of prayer we need to believe in; it’s God we need to believe in. Prayer has no power on its own. God does. Prayer just means talking to God. We pray to God and trust him for the faith to accept and live with his answers, whatever those answers might be.

God knows what we need before we even ask. And he knows what is good for us and what isn’t. We trust God to answer our prayers according to what is the right and good thing to do, not according to what we might want or what we might think is best. God is not our Super Butler, waiting obediently to do whatever self-centred thing we ask. God is love, and he hears us and responds to us only in love.

In fact, our prayers aren’t even our own. That’s because we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in us. Jesus said in John 14:20, “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” When we pray, it’s Jesus praying in us, with and for us. Jesus takes our not so great prayers and redeems them and perfects them, making them his own, and brings them to the Father in our place and on our behalf. That’s God’s love and power at work. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, moves us to pray, and Jesus, our Brother, takes up our prayers, redeems them and presents them to the Father, whose beloved children we are in Jesus.

It isn’t the power of prayer we need to believe in. It’s the love, grace and power of God we need to believe in. Maybe instead of, “Believe in the Power of Prayer,” the bumper sticker should read, “Believe in the love, grace and power of God.” And how exciting that belief becomes as we begin to learn who God really is and who we really are to God.

Holy Father, you give us access through Jesus Christ to your very throne room in heaven to intercede for ourselves and others; to pray, to worship and to praise you. Such is the power given to us through prayer, your gift to us.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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