I hope that by this point, it's clear that I'm not talking about some Christian notion of "praying away" anything, as though all we should do for our brothers and sisters is to pray for them or teach them to pray and all their troubles, worries, and problems will be solved somehow. I'm talking about a real, living faith that brings them into a meaningful encounter with the person of Jesus, who touches them, speaks to them, hears them, and loves them...often through our hands, mouths, ears, and hearts.
But let's talk about prayer for a moment anyway. I think this is important.
Because I cannot tell you the number of times that I have suggested this kind of real, living faith that encounters Jesus in the midst of struggle and Christians have looked right back at me with no small amount of indignation and claimed, "I'm talking about a legitimate problem, and you want to pray?"
Uh, yeah, I want to pray. Among other things that require me becoming the hands and feet of Jesus for you, I want to pray. Why wouldn't I?
It makes me wonder what Christians think about prayer these days. I think that mostly, Christians think about prayer as something we do because we're Christians. We pray because God expects us to pray, the same way we read our Bibles in the morning because God expects us to read His Word. We do it because we don't want to feel guilty for not doing it, but we don't really believe it does much for us. We don't really believe it's important except to stave off the disappointment of God.
(And by the way, did you know that the #1 thing persons believe about God, even Christians, is that God is disappointed in them? Heartbreaking.)
Our world is full of so many answers, so many programs, so many solutions, so many things that have weight and depth and density to them, that we can touch and feel and smell and hear and know. Jesus...just seems impractical, even to the faithful among us. Prayer...just seems like a waste of precious air.
I don't know how we solve this problem. I really don't. I can tell you that my Jesus has weight and depth and density to Him. I can tell you that I can touch and feel and smell and hear and know Him. I can say that with the absolute authenticity of all of my being, but I know it won't do any good. Because even in Christian circles today, that makes me a nut job. That makes me fanatical. That makes me one of those people.
And even Christians are so deathly afraid of becoming those people - those people who actually believe in the God they profess to worship, who take Him at His Word, who live like He is real, and who trust in His promises. As though that's just such a terrible thing.
But back to this - listen. I'm not talking about having a faith that trusts only in prayer. I'm not talking about taking everything this world throws at us and falling to our knees and believing that's going to fix things. I'm not talking about having such a grand idea of Jesus. But even if I was, would that be such a bad thing? Would it be so terrible to actually live by the faith that we claim?
I'm always talking about a faith that is real. A faith that is touchable. A faith that is living and active and loving in this world. I'm talking about a faith with skin on it, where we as Christians actually do things for the poor and the naked and the sick and the imprisoned and the scared and the lonely and the troubled and the tired...do things like feed them, clothe them, visit them, invite them into our homes, stand with them, and carry them to our Jesus - not to our programs - and drop them through the roof right at His feet, believing - really believing - that there is something vital about a relationship with Jesus that is desperately needed in our broken world. And yes, a faith that prays with them.
Because I believe in the promise of God that says that He hears us when we pray. And I don't think that's nothing.