Long Drivers and Prayer Strivers
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
In the beginning of the scriptures, God establishes a certain kind of rhythm that his first human creatures (Adam and Eve) are to abide by if they are to live according to the design that he has established for them. He has made them male and female in his image. This image bearing includes creative work that he has called for them to do. It also includes a time of Sabbath rest and celebration when the work is done. When they operate in proper Sabbath rhythms, they will experience a sense of wholeness in their lives. God’s peace(Shalom) will be with them as they live in the rhythms of both work and Sabbath.
The Sabbath rhythms remind me that there is a kind of peace that only comes after hard work. “Strive with me in prayer,” Paul writes. In Greek, agonizomai – literally means, agonize with me. It is a word borrowed from the world of athletics; describing the discipline of an Olympic athlete determined to win a race. Paul is basically saying, “come and train in the prayer-gym with me. And then, when we have finished this race together, I’ll come and see you; we can celebrate victory, and I will rest with you.”
My oldest son Joel is training to be a long drive golfer. I have seen him hit golf balls over 380 yards. To put that in a visual perspective, that is almost four football fields. It takes a lot of work and training to do that kind of a thing. I have been going out and doing some training with him. If I am honest though, I am for the most part just keeping him company. I am pretty much just a spectator.
As I reflect on the passage from the Apostle Paul, I ask myself this question.
Am I a prayer athlete or a spectator? Am I learning from the Lord to strive in prayer, to agonize well? The strong people of Faith who helped shape my life during the time of my youth used a phrase called praying through. You can call it old fashioned if you want, but those folks knew how to get ahold of God and it made a difference.
There is a warped view of God’s sovereignty in regards to prayer that can lead to spiritual laziness. Why would I ever go to the prayer gym when God is in control? When God owns the universal gym, why would I ever even put my prayer sweats on? God has got this and it would be a whole lot easier for me to just hit the snooze button and stay in bed.
I find it interesting that Paul takes quite a different prayer approach than this. He believes that the prayers of God’s people will actually make a difference in the effectiveness of the mission in which he is engaged. Paul, the Apostle of grace, believes there is a work for us to do in prayer. In fact, he is counting on his brothers and sisters to join him in the struggle by lifting him up in prayer as he seeks to be faithful to all that God has called him to do. And that one day he may celebrate those victories in prayer together with them.
There is much godly work for us to do here at Wanamaker Woods church. There is a lot of rebuilding that must happen after the pandemic. We are going through a pastoral transition together as we seek to win the next generations for Christ. Much of the work to be done must start on our knees as we seek the Lord’s guidance for each and every step.
Lord, teach us to strive in prayer, to agonize well. We look forward in faith to all that you will accomplish through ministry in this time and place. May you also give us times of rest and celebration as we give thanks for all that you have done in our midst. May the God of Peace(Shalom) be with us all!