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Prayer Encourages Selflessness

Spiritual Outlook with K.A. Zachary

I often reflect on two passages of Scripture in the New Testament that encourage diligence in prayer. The first passage is Matthew 9:37-38, and the second reference is found in James 4:2. In the first passage Jesus is focused on the need of laborers in spiritual fields that are ready for harvest. In the illustration, the Lord of the harvest is waiting on the prayer of his people to send the needed laborers into the fields.

According to this passage we should believe that there are certain things God wants done that may be delayed if we refuse to pray. The second passage states, “We have not because we ask not.”  This passage informs us there are things we want that will not be given unless we pray.

Both passages reveal needs that God wills, or desires, to provide.  The first passage speaks to Kingdom concerns, (i.e., the need of harvesters to gather the fruit of God’s planting). The second addresses personal needs that should be sought in prayer. Certainly God would have us to focus on prayer in this order for it is clearly outlined in the Lord’s Prayer found in (Matthew 6:9-13).

The model prayer begins with these words, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). Here Jesus reveals the Father as our primary focus and His will as first consideration in our practice of prayer.

We should prepare to pray by considering who we are addressing (God, Our Father); we should realize the place of our appeal (who art in heaven); we approach God with reverence (hallowed be thy name); we should desire and pray for His promised future (thy kingdom come); we should humbly acknowledge His sovereignty over present concerns (thy will be done); and we should indicate our confidence in the perfection with which he does all things (on earth as it is in heaven).

Jesus gives us this brief statement to prepare us for prayer and to instruct us in priorities as we begin to pray. After we have given ourselves to the primary focus of prayer, Jesus instructs us to continue by focusing on our needs and the needs of others. Notice Jesus’ words, “give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:11-13).

The words “us” and “our” within Jesus’ instruction clearly outline a lesson on selfless praying. Though we may be in need of bread personally, we pray that daily bread come not only to us, but to others as well. We not only pray for our forgiveness of sin, but we also pray that God would grant us grace to exercise forgiveness as we expect forgiveness. We pray beyond our personal desire for God’s leadership and protection and seek this blessing for others in kind.

The words “give us . . . forgive us . . . lead us” would suggest that those who learn to maintain the primary focus (God and His will) cannot continue to live or pray selfishly.

In closing let me share an example of the practice of selfless praying in a prayer offered once by Saint Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master grant that I may not seek to be consoled but to console, to be understood, but to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, And it is in pardoning that we pardon, And it is dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Dear friend, considering the power of prayer to touch the heart of God and change the world in which we live, I say in the words of a departed faithful servant the late Reverend Ron Dunn, “Don’t just stand there, pray something!”

K.A. Zachary, is pastor of New Covenant Church, 215 Florida Ave., Denham Springs. Contact Rev. Zachary at 225- 664-0858.