Torch, Spring-Summer 1999

On the one hand, a believer's reaction to this information could be rather ho-hum. Prayer for the sick is a common practice in churches and often accounts for a majority of the requests mentioned in a rypical prayer service. On the other hand, someone might question the results of these findings, based on personal experiences in which a loved one or friend continues to struggle with an illness or perhaps has even passed away in spite of many fervent prayers for that person's healing. There may be other readers who would question the efficacy of prayer in any instance. After all, they reason, God is sovereign and will do as He pleases with an individual's life. Or perhaps they're thinking that God shouldn't be bothered with our "trivial" requests (the infamous "pray for Aunt Martha's ingrown toenail" rype of requests). Or we may want to pray but are unsure what might be God's will in a given situation. Is prayer still "good medicine" in those cases too? I would suggest that it can be, depending on what transpires in the heart of the pray-er during such times. This is true not just in our approach toward prayers for healing, but also in our beliefs about petitionary prayer in general. As we struggle with the content and intent of our prayers, we can turn to Scripture for some clear instruction in this vital area of our lives. In Luke 11 we find three illustrations given by Jesus Himself that can encourage us to pray and help us align our prayers with God's purposes. Luke 11 :2-4 (cf Matt. 6:9-13), commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer, gives us a model for our own prayers. The content of this prayer demonstrates a balance between worship and petition, between seeking God's face and God's hand.3 The first part of the prayer calls upon us to align ourselves with God's care for us and His designs for the world: He is "our Father," but also the One who is to be reverenced by all ("hallowed be your name"), especially His children, and the One to whom we humbly submit ("Your kingdom come"). As we take these truths to heart, we begin to move beyond the small circle of our own existence into the all-encompassing circle of God's power and control over His creation, and our prayers become more in tune with His will and purposes. Once we have expressed our worship, the second half of this prayer invites us to bring our own personal needs before the Father: our daily bread (i.e., the basic necessities oflife) , forgiveness, and deliverance or protection. 4 We have complete freedom to express our needs to God, based on the model Jesus gives us in this passage. Luke 11 not only gives us a model for the content of our prayers, but also the right direction for the intent of our prayers . In verses 9-10 Jesus instructs us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, assured that our prayers will be heard. We are encouraged to be persistent in prayer, not because we need to wear God down to get what we want (as we will see in the next illustration) , but perhaps because our persistence (or lack thereof) can identify in our own thinking what is truly important to us. Let's examine Jesus' parable of the importunate friend in verses 5-8 as an illustration of God's Torch 7