Sunday, May 12, 2019

Wrestling in Prayer

The word “safe” is defined as “protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.”

The other day, while scrolling through Facebook, someone had posted a prayer. It was short, just a few lines, in a colourful box. Someone was praying for God to look after their friends and family and to keep them safe. I read the word “safe” and something in my spirit tugged. It wasn’t a good tugging. It was a sad tug. As much as anyone else I want my family and friends to be safe, if that is all I want for them, if that is all I pray for them, I am not making effective use of the power of prayer to transform them. “Not exposed to danger or risk” is not God’s plan for any of us. The kind of prayers we pray says so much about the faith we follow.

I read this yesterday:-
“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.  I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Col 4:12-14

His prayer wasn’t about keeping anyone safe. Paul writes that “he is always wrestling in prayer for you.”

The word “wrestle” is defined as “take part in a fight, either as sport or in earnest, that involves grappling with one's opponent and trying to throw or force them to the ground.”

I grew up in a household where Saturday afternoon were spent watching wrestling in television. Men with muscles grunted and gripped one another in choke holds or swung their opponents into the ropes. It surprised me that no competitors exited the building carried out on stretchers to waiting ambulances. I dare say a lot of it was drama and show. It didn’t look comfortable. It makes me wonder how much of my own prayer life is all too comfortable and not rally doing much in the way of damage to my enemy.

Epaphras prayed that the believers in the Colossian church would “stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.” It was in the early days of the Christian faith. Admitting faith in Jesus often carries a death sentence. It wasn’t an easy ask that people stand firm in the will of God. Jesus talked of seeds sown in a field where some seeds did not have deep roots. When the sun came up, the trials, their faith withered.

I read this morning of Paul and Silas in jail. Midnight came and they were singing. It doesn’t say that before midnight they were weeping and wailing and then got their act together. They were singing and an earthquake happened. Walls crumbled, chains fell off. They were exposed to danger, to risk and to harm – they were not safe. And yet in some sense, they were. God is sovereign. What He permits, He permits. Some of the saints get rescued. Some don’t. Everyone who commits themselves to Jesus and His kingdom is ultimately safe, if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

If we play safe we never get to see the whole span of the goodness of God. Faith doesn’t get a chance to grow because we stifle it. We re-write God’s promises and never ask for a mountain to move and so it stays in our path casting its shadow and halting our forward journey.

Paul was able to vouch for Epaphras, that he was “working hard”. Prayer that works hard grapples with the opponent and tries to throw or force them to the ground. And who is the opponent? Whatever stands between me and all that God has promised.

Maybe the problem when it comes to praying risky prayers is that we are not convinced that prayer works. Or maybe the problem that we know that prayer works and it frightens us.

God’s best story involves struggle and
There’s a twist that comes at the end
Victory spits in the face of defeat
God knows the inside of a tomb and
It cannot contain Him
He knows the taste of death but
It cannot sting

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