This week at WNW was the second week of our series on prayer called "Open Skies". We began the night with a worship set that included "Happy Day" (Tim Hughes), "Shadows" (David Crowder Band), and after a time of prayer for our upcoming Lucifer's Lies drama we sang "City On Our Knees" (tobyMac). The song "City On Our Knees" went right along with our series on prayer, and is used in a pre-show video in our upcoming Lucifer's Lies drama.
After a brief review of the previous week and overview of the series in general, I shared that the focus of the night we more a more in-depth look at the "What" in prayer, specifically in the subject of "hands extended". At this point I introduced the first of two important questions that I wanted the students to consider. Question #1 was this: "Do I spend more time praying for myself rather than praying for others?" We read 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 8 where Paul addresses Timothy on this subject of prayer. Here he urges Timothy, and us to pray for others. In fact, he urges us to pray for everyone. This is not a suggestion, but rather God's true intent for us. Sometimes we find it simple to pray for our friends and those around us that we are close to. But there is more to it.
In verse 8 he says "lifting up holy hands". This does not mean we must pray in this physical stature, unless moved so. This means when we pray for others, we are to pray with a clean spirit as we have already been forgiven of our own sins. At this moment we referred back to Matthew 6:12 that we had looked at the previous week. We must forgive those who have hurt us. Again, this is not a suggestion, but a command from Jesus Himself. Holding a grudge against others is a sin, and a dangerous one. When we hold a grudge not only do we hinder our own prayers, but we tear ourselves apart on the inside with the harsh feelings we harbor. Jesus reiterates this fact in Matthew 6:14-15.
Ok, so we need to forgive them. Surely that is all? Sometimes we wish that were all, but if we go back a bit, Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:43-55 to pray for them. So this in all honestly is one of the hardest things to live as a Christian. I am speaking honestly here. It is extremely hard for me to do this, but if Jesus said we must do this, then it is that simple, we must do it. Not only did Jesus teach it, but He also modeled it in Luke 22:49-51 as He was arrested in the garden. Jesus heals the ear of the one who is there to arrest Him. So you might be quick to say that you cannot heal like that. When you forgive and pray for those who have hurt and persecute you provide healing not only for them, but also for yourself. Question #2 I wanted the students to consider is this: "Do you spend more time talking about others rather than praying for them? If you truly forgive then, then you will stop talking about them and begin praying for them.
The well-known atheist author and journalist Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010. At one point on a television interview he was asked how he would respond if Christians asked to pray for him. He responded "I would welcome the prayers. But if you're praying for me to not get better then I'd ask for you to keep your prayers. Since being diagnosed, I have received letter after letter after letter from 'Christians' telling me that they hope I don't get better." This breaks my heart and grieves me. That is not what "Christian" is supposed to live like. We are to spread the love of Jesus, not spread hatred. When I look at my life, most of my scars come from "Christians", and many of whom's actions in their opinion were in following Christ yet exemplified quite the opposite. We must stop this cycle of hatred that takes place. If we are Christ-followers, then we must share love instead of hatred. We sometimes wonder why people are not interested in Jesus and the church, but it is because of stories like this. Because sometimes people look at Christians and see a group of people who are no different, or maybe even worse off than the rest of the world. We must stop this cycle now. I closed by challenging the students to stop this cycle now. They can be the ones who give the church a new name. We can make this change now and effect future generations in a positive way like never before. I challenged them in a closing prayer to consider who they need to forgive and begin praying for. I also told them that if they need to make amends with others then to get that right so they can grow in their relationship with Christ.