‘I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.’ 1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)
Paul continues, ‘Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.’ 1 Timothy 2:2-4 (NLT)
I don’t know about you but I’m finding praying about Covid-19 challenging. Only when I break it down into manageable requests do I believe my prayers can be effectual. So, with mustard-seed-sized faith, I ask God to grant strength and courage to the NHS staff in my local hospital and GP surgery. I’ll join a Zoom meeting praying for children returning to school, their teachers, kids with extra difficulties, or catch-up plans for learning. Then, I’ll read about a certain village needing clean water and I’m stirred to pray for specific resources and the expertise to make it happen – in that place and others like it – inspiring me to send a donation and become a small part of my prayer’s answer!
For 50 years CARE, initially through the Nationwide Festival of Light, has sought to bring a uniquely Christian insight to the policies and laws that affect our lives, especially on issues of life; modern slavery; freedom of speech; and protection of children and others who are vulnerable. Prayer has always been a major priority and over the past 35 years, working alongside my husband Lyndon, I’ve had the amazing privilege of writing the quarterly CARE Prayer Diary that focuses each week on a different topic. Subjects range from the environment to music, end-of-life issues to social justice, education to robotic technology, living with a disability to world peace! Rooted in scripture, and the fruit of many hours of research, this little publication is used by thousands of Christians personally, in prayer groups and in church services. Many say it’s an accessible way to approach sometimes complicated issues that they might not have thought to pray about.
Woven throughout the Bible we find a continual instruction to pray – for God’s will to be done and His kingdom of truth, justice and mercy to come. Jesus repeatedly encouraged His followers to make requests in His name – John 15:7: ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ The key word here is ‘remain.’ Some prayers are answered quickly but for many we must wait for decades, centuries or even millennia! But Jesus asks us to be steadfast, not give up and seek to pray according to the Father’s will.
Often, we don’t get the answers we expect but I love theologian Tim Keller’s encouragement: ‘God always answers your prayers in precisely the way you’d want them to be answered if you knew everything He knew’.
Celia Bowring is Executive Editor and Prayer Coordinator for CARE. She writes their Prayer Diary and other resources and speaks on CARE’s issues. You can watch her seminar at our recent digital Leadership Conference at New Wine Online: https://www.new-wine.online/watch/lc21-seminars-prayer-of-the-church