REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 46: Supplication strength!
Pandemic helplessness reminds us that prayer is the wonderful privilege of the child of God. Being able to enter into our Father’s presence through our crucified and risen Saviour by the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit is our joy and responsibility. John Murray reminds us of God’s desire for us to call upon Him: the child of God has two divine intercessors; Christ as their intercessor in the court of Heaven…while the Holy Spirit is their intercessor in the theatre of their own hearts. Here is the encouragement we need to come before Him in adoration, confession and thanksgiving. The acrostic ACTS is completed as we make supplication to God on behalf of others and ourselves.
Gerald Bray in his magnificent Biblical and Systematic Theology: The Love of God, comments: there is no aspect of the Christian life more neglected today than prayer. Modern people are activists…and [our neglect] is a major reason why so much of our activism bears so little real fruit. Prayer is the lifeline that connects us with Christ and gives meaning to our relationship with him. To be a Christian without praying is like being married but never speaking to your spouse . The pandemic reminds us that prayer is needful [clearly we are not in control] and as loving an activity we can possibly be involved in, for others and ourselves. Those who supplicate for others find real strength.
There are at least five requests that Jesus teaches us to make of our Father in Heaven [Matt 6:9-15]. They help us understand both how and what we are to ask God for. The twin requests: your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven  are fundamental since they show that above all we want Jesus the King to be honoured and his purposes to be of first importance. We are kept from asking for things, no matter how necessary and good, for the wrong reasons. If asked for from a good heart, we conclude that if not given, it is because it is neither his will nor for our good. This request anchors our prayers in trust of God’s Fatherly love, goodness and sovereignty.
During the pandemic we have become aware of the needs of others, here in Australia and more so of those in developing countries, with few safety nets, little government aid and are often subject to discrimination because they seek to honour the name of Jesus. Once we have this knowledge we are drawn into the fellowship of suffering, of bearing one-another’s burdens [Galatians 6:2]. To supplicate on their behalf, with the request give us today our daily bread is a great privilege. But it becomes a responsibility, since we who have far more than daily bread [=necessities], must surely seek to be at least a part of the answer to our prayer. Though prayer is foundational, it requires and makes possible the generosity through which God, though not limited to, will work.
Forgive us our sins likewise is a request expecting a response as we forgive. Pandemic pressures have thrown up differences, hasty words and hurtful thoughts at personal and congregational levels. That ensuing bitterness and other relationship busters do not hurt and entangle us, the request for forgiveness is given, not only to bring us into line with God and his gracious purposes, but to save us from ourselves [as Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and James 1:13-15 set before us]. There are no sadder and devastating words that we can hear than I’ll never forgive him or speak to her again. The our in the petition suggests that this prayer will keep us from such kingdom excluding words, and that we might prayer this prayer for others, since we want them to also enjoy God as their Father, now and for eternity.
The petitions and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil are requests that keep us focussed on God. Focussed because we find temptation hard to resist, and steady when we are tempted to be disappointed with God’s apparent, no or not yet answers to our requests. Will He for example, enable a safe vaccine, accessible equally to all nations, to be produced or not? Will that cause us to fall for Satan’s insinuation that God is neither loving nor all powerful or even be the chief prayer request we make? The temptation to disappointment or to fall in with the world’s agenda that the covid-19 crisis is the biggest or only evil facing us, will only be combated by prayer. Prayer that our Father’s Name is honoured and that His kingdom might come as the evil ones hold on unbelievers might be lifted, will come through the faithful supplications of those whose eyes have been opened by the gracious and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit [John 16:5-11, Ephesians 1:11-22, Colossians 1:9-14].
When we adore the Holy God we are rightly cut down to size but through the confession of our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ we are wonderfully welcomed as His adopted children. We thank God for His mercy and grace both in words and by the new abiding direction of our lives. In so doing we learn [and experience in practice] that our Father loves to hear us supplicating for all that is needful for our bodies and our souls. Both adoration and supplication for others help shrink the capital I in sIn, demonstrating that our love for God and others is growing. The covid-19 virus serves to help us overcome the sin virus as we pray. [Luke 11:9-13; 18:1-14; 2 Corinth 12:7-10; Eph. 3:14-21; Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Peter 4:7-11; Jude 20-25; Rev. 8:3-5 are worth pondering, praying and rejoicing in].
Peter Brain 20th October, 2020