Prayer must become one of our life’s highest priorities instead of a last resort. I confess that sometimes, after trying everything else, I have said something like “Well—I guess all we can do now is pray.” My friend David Butts likens this bad theology to a soldier lamenting his lack of a good weapon before he goes into battle: “I don’t have a machine gun or a hand grenade or even a good knife,” says the soldier. “All I have is this nuclear bomb!” Saying the words “I guess all we can do now is pray” is actually saying something like this, “I guess all we can do now is tap into the power of the one who made the universe.”
We must stop thinking about prayer as preparation for something else. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” We pray before we do many things. We pray before we eat a meal, travel, or teach a class. Somehow we need to develop the habit of praying first at other times as well, including during times of medical crisis. Many American Christians do a lot of things early on when they get sick—head to the medicine cabinet, visit the doctor, or even call 911. These are not bad things, but perhaps they shouldn’t be the first thing we do. James tells us that anyone who is sick should call the elders of the church to pray over him or her (James 5:14).
A pastor who is a good friend of mine told a personal story illustrating how we often prioritize prayer. In front of the church where he served, a vehicle that had been turning in the intersection had an accident with another vehicle. A passenger who had not been wearing a seat belt was thrown out onto the pavement. My friend and several other people heard the sound of the accident and came running to help. Someone had called 911 and as they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive, a lady put her hand on my friend’s shoulder and quietly asked, “Shouldn’t we pray?” My friend told me how convicted and humbled he had been by the woman’s words. He was a pastor; why hadn’t he thought of praying?
I resonated with this story because prayer is not always the first thing I think to do in a crisis, but it should be. Prayer is not a last resort or simply preparatory—it is the main thing!
REFLECTIONS: What reminder can you put in your life to make sure you don’t treat prayer as a last resort? What daily habit can you create to make sure the only time you pray is not simply before you do something else (like eating, driving, going to bed, etc.).
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.