This article is part of the series “Raising GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.
What do you believe about prayer?
Do you think praying is a rote activity?
Is prayer an active or passive endeavor?
Does it have value?
Is it helpful?
Does it actually work?
It is my opinion and observation that most people subconsciously view praying as a noun, rather than a verb. In crude terms, a noun is a subject and a verb is an action. With that in mind, do you think praying is a noun or a verb? Is it a subject or an action? How do you treat it in your own life? Is it something you do or merely something you discuss?
Up to this point, we’ve covered five of the six E’s of raising GenNext:
Engage: Develop a meaningful relationship
Exemplify: Demonstrate how a Christian ought to live
Equip: Teach and train
Entrust: Involve in the important
Edify: Build up
Each of these things involves action: We have to do something, right? To engage, you have to go out and talk to people. To exemplify you have to make positive choices and act; to equip, you have to do what is needed to teach and train. To entrust, you must actively involve someone in the important. To edify, there must be a conversation.
Then, we come to the final ‘E’: Entreat: Go to the Lord on their behalf. In other words, we need to pray. Is this an action of value or merely a token ritual?
I have heard it said by many a popular teacher that praying is useless without action. While there may be some truth on the surface of that statement, there is an underlying implication that praying is of lesser value than all this other ‘stuff’ we could be doing. This attitude unwittingly makes an appeal to God of secondary rather than primary importance.
Consider, for a moment, the results of two people in the Bible who acted first and prayed later:
“So the men took some of [the Gibeonite’s] provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.” (Joshua 9.14-15)
Joshua and the elders believed the deception of the Gibeonites. As a result of their failure to consult God, they were unable to drive these inhabitants out of the land. They realized their error when it was too late.
When we read about Abraham taking Hagar as a wife to produce offspring, we see no consultation with God. The result was Ishmael whose descendants have been in conflict with the descendants of Isaac ever since.
You might say that in spite of these failings, everything turned out ok for these two men. They were, after all, faithful and righteous men. This is true. However, I do not believe this is a reflection on how awesome these people were, but rather the awesomeness of God’s grace toward those who fear Him. We fall short and God does not utterly destroy. For this, we should be eternally thankful!
On the other hand, how much less trouble would there have been if these men had prayed first? How many kings of Israel acted without praying? How often have men and women been deceived or acted foolishly in the scripture because they did not ask God first?
In contrast, our Lord Jesus gives us a beautiful example of regular prayer. If anyone who walked the earth had no obvious need to pray, it would be Jesus. He had a connection with God because He is God. And yet, He prayed. Sometimes, He prayed all night!
Shouldn’t that tell us something?
The gospel account in John records Jesus’ prayer for his disciples and future believers. You can read the full prayer in John 17. He prays for his disciples, and He prays for us! He prays for us to be one, to be with God, and to glorify His name. Here is a short excerpt of His prayer (I highly recommend reading the entire chapter on your own):
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
~ John 17.17-26, ESV
Jesus prayed for me, for my parents, for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for all those who have paved the way and handed down the scriptures through the centuries. Jesus prayed for all who believe on His name and do what He commanded. I read His prayer and I am in awe of His deep, affectionate love for me centuries before my birth. He made an appeal to His Father for me and for all those who believe.
Jesus set us an example of prayer.
With all that in mind, do you think that prayer is passive or active?
Am I better than Jesus? Am I above praying?
The answer is obvious: I am not.
Praying for GenNext is just as critical as training, setting examples, and encouraging. If we want our actions to be fruitful, they need to be preceded by and accompanied with diligent prayer.
Tomorrow, we will conclude this series with part 2 of this post which will included ideas on what we should be praying for with regards to GenNext.