I’m guilty. I’m guilty of treating prayer at times as if it is a placebo pill. Placebo – a harmless, unmedicated preparation given as a medicine merely to humor a patient, or used as a control in testing the efficacy of another, medicated substance. At times, it has been easy to take “a dose of prayer” for a particular circumstance without sincerely believing that this “method of treatment” will be effective. These moments of unbelief speak to my humanity. There is no other intent of the placebo than for it to validate that the actual drug works well. Selah (think about that). Even the placebo points to the real thing. And even in my time of unbelief, God responds, reminding me, that He is the real thing and that praying in Jesus name is not a passive, powerless action. You see, God isn’t encouraging us to pray, just to humor us with “one more thing to do.”
Now, on to prayer and its power. I have read several blog posts and comments [via social media] of people expressing anger or hopelessness at the state of our nation and then saying, “I’m tired of Christian people praying…” “Don’t black people have have the right to hold a grudge over what happened in Charleston?” “Why do we (Christians) always resort to prayer?” When I heard this, something in my stomach turned because it seems that we have forgotten what the secret is in our secret sauce; IT IS PRAYER. It is prayer to a God who is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and all-around (omnipresent). Let me provide further clarity. The main ingredient in our secret sauce of prayer is faith in a God who is faithful. Immutable. So consistent, that he makes #StephenCurry free throws look inconsistent. It is uncanny how much we can trust in ourselves and at times, how little we trust in God.
Prayer isn’t a placebo. It is the most powerful weapon we have in dismantling the work of the enemy when dealing with heart issues. Beloved, some of the most daunting issues of our day are heart issues. Injustice is a heart issue. Racism is a heart issue. Pride is a heart issue. Lust is a heart issue. Greed is a heart issue. Bottom line, sin is a heart issue. All of these issues are presented with the possibility of mending by taking them to #thegreatphysician, Jesus Christ, and allowing Him to operate as He sees fit.
Perhaps in all of the privilege we have in the world, the privilege to communicate with God directly holds no greater honor and no greater power. This indeed may be the best “non-secret,” secret weapon we have as followers of Jesus Christ. Let us not forsake this opportunity to commune with God. To bring heaven into the ordinary.
“As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God. It is like a note in a bottle to “whatever gods there be.” As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started. If that conversation proceeds, as in the best of conversations, praying becomes meeting with God – heaven in the ordinary.” – Tim Keller, “Prayer”
Prayer can be seen as a placebo if the action alone is not connected to the reality that God is with us. In us. Desires to converse with us. Be with us. It is no different than a parent than desires to know, really know, how their child is doing. At times, the parents may already really know what’s going on, but they see the opportunity for much deeper connection with their child as they are allowed to simply bring the concerns of their heart to their parent and leave them there. The greater hope we have is that as we present our concerns to God, He listens, and He always responds with our best interest in mind. Sometimes His response is yes and other times it is no (or “not right now”); but, it is the best response for us at the time.
I have seen the hearts of men and women (even my own) change through prayer and force-ably tackle heart issues. In a previous blog post written, Just Cry – Tears for Charleston and the Black Community, I exhorted people to simply allow grief to be a first step in the healing process regarding the #charlestonshooting. I believe prayer is a close next step. Whenever that next step happens for you. As a Christian, prayer positions us to respond in a way that glorifies God. This may cause repentance, righteous indignation, or respectful dialogue for some. Prayer powerfully moves us away from bitterness and closer to reconciliation. No placebo at all. In fact, quite effective in producing change.
Prayer may appear passive, but don’t be fooled, it packs a powerful, “one, two…punch.” Prayer is teaching me the wisdom in speaking to God first in order that I might more effectively speak to others.
“We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NLT)