Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prayers in Action

At a recent meeting of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women that I attended, the preacher, Dr. Joan Wolf related a story about prayer time at her church in a inner city church whose constituents included people in poverty as well as people of means. On one particular Sunday morning when people were asked to give voice to their prayer concerns, one man stood up and said he wanted a job so he could buy his own clothes with his own money and take those clothes to the dry cleaner and pay to have them cleaned with his own money. He went on at great length about wanting a job. The failing economy of the city took away the job that he had and life was difficult. Dr. Wolf thanked him for his prayer request and told the congregation to pray for him. In a moment of “holy disruption” the man jumped back up on his feet and said “I don’t want your %$#@ prayers, I want a job!” Seated around him in this congregation were people who could provide a job for him. A shocked congregation had a lot to think about that day. Dr. Wolf reminded us that we have in our possession many times the ability to answer peoples’ prayers and yet we often withhold those things from those in need.

Be it apathy, selfishness, thoughtlessness or prejudice, we regularly neglect people who need our help. The Old Testament reminds us not to withhold the wages of the worker when it is in our power to pay them. The same is true about the goods and services that we possess that God has given to us for the express purpose of answering someone’s prayers. These things are not only our left-overs but our means. There is always something we can give.

I read a story about an old woman who regularly sent a check to a missionary in China. It was not much but it was regular. The checks began to increase and she wrote to the missionary and explained how. She said she cut off her cable service and the money she saved she gave to the mission. The next month she cut off her phone and the month after that she cut off her hot water heater. The missionary was not a little bit encouraged by this fragrant offering of sacrifice.

What do you have in your hand right now that you can give away that would bless someone? Jesus said that we would be rewarded for even a cup of cold water that was given to someone in his name. Be the water of life for this world that suffers from so much want.


Jewish people have traditionally prayed three times a day. The Shacharit prayer is the longer morning prayer and the Maariv is the evening prayer. Mincha is the afternoon prayer and it is the shortest time of prayer and sometimes overlooked in the busy-ness of the day. Mincha is a short time to stop and give thanks. Psalm 145 is to be read during Mincha: “I will praise you, my God and King and always honor your name. I will praise you each day. You are wonderful, Lord, and you deserve all praise.” This psalm speaks of the wonders of God’s world and how God graciously provides for the needs of the world. “You satisfy the desires of all your worshipers and you come to save them when they ask for help.”

Sometimes in the middle of the day I don’t feel like singing. Work piles up and I begin to think it is me that is running my life. That is when I need Mincha the most. It is a time to stop and recalibrate my soul and put God once again in the center of everything and to give thanks for God’s gracious providing.

Try it yourself. Giving thanks to God lifts the soul to a higher place and assures us once again of the presence of power of our loving God.