Pray for Our World – What does prayer do?

Prayer is often misunderstood. It is not simply a wish list, or to be used casually in conversation. It is also not for spreading gossip in the form of a prayer. When it’s sincere, I do believe God hears those gut-wrenching prayers we call out to him in our time of desperation. God is always ready to extend grace to those who reach out to Him. But many times it feels like we don’t see prayers being answered. It is not from lack of faith. God does not requires us to earn anything first. But it does require an understanding of who God is and His plan for our world. Throughout the story of the Bible, God relentlessly pursues a relationship with us, to bring us back to Him, and is constantly fighting for us against the evil. He promises us hope and a Savior. Many times God has reassured me of things but He has never told me the future. God always meets us where we are today, not in the future. Every day is precious in itself.

As I journey into praying for our world this year, it is good to see what prayer has done for our world in just the last few decades. We often hear of the bad news, but if we step back a little, we can see the overall good and God’s plan for our world.

  • There is an unprecedented number of new believers across Africa, Asia and Latin America – those who have not had as much opportunity as before.
  • Christianity is now a global religion – there are Christians in every country on earth.
  • Renewal movements are also growing at an unforeseen rate, especially after the 1950’s (around the time Israel became a nation again).
  • Prayer movements and networks have multiplied and grown, including Global Day of Prayer, Days of Prayer for the nations, and grass-root networks.
  • Charity aid has escalated across the globe since the 1980’s and 1990’s. There is a more holistic understanding of missions – care for orphans and widows, uplift the poor, liberty to the oppressed and set the captives free. All those things Jesus taught us to do.
  • Many places previously closed are now open to aid workers and educators.
  • There are many new methods to reaching and helping people than ever before.

We must also be aware of the global hotspots in our world, where there is likely to be more turmoil and conflict in the coming years. We should especially be praying for these areas:

  • Future of Jerusalem and the ongoing conflict.
  • The Korean Peninsula shared between a ruthless dictator and a thriving but nervous democracy.
  • Somalia – war-torn and aggressive groups.
  • Central Africa – lawless militias.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan – unstable and dangerous due to religious extremism and terrorism.
  • China’s growth and assertiveness.
  • All – human trafficking. It has now replaced drugs as the main trafficking area. 30 million people live in this type of slavery. It happens in our towns and cities, and is an attack on our youth. We should all be outraged!

Praying for others is a way we can recognize other people’s value, and a start to a more caring world. It gives us a sense of higher calling, something more than just ourselves, and a likeness to Christ.

Names of Jesus – Star

Jesus describes himself as the “Bright Morning Star” when he reveals himself to John in Revelation 22:16.

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

Jesus is not just one of many stars, but the bright morning star – the one that outshines all the others.  While Jesus is prophesied to come from the line of David, the term Star of David (or shield of David) is never mentioned in the Bible. It is a Jewish symbol with its earliest archaeological reference from the 3rd century.

In John 9:15, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

Even in the beginning of the Bible in Numbers 24:17, there is prophesy of a star, A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel.”

Jesus is the true light of the world.  He is the pre-existent light, before all other light.

And as a morning star, he announces the beginning of each new day. He gives us newness. As the brightest star, he gives us a reference point for our lives.

Names of Jesus – The Good Shepherd

This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. One who will take care of you. One who is good! We all need good in this world, and that is what Jesus is. I’ve never understood how the manger scene or Jesus could be offensive to anyone. I understand not everyone believes in his deity, but his image has always been one of good and compassion. It is his goodness that draws people to him.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Jesus gave us another example when he told the parable of the 99 sheep and 1 lost sheep in Luke 15.  Jesus came as the good shepherd to seek and find the lost.

The 23rd Psalm, the most quoted of all Psalms, also beautifully describes this good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd – Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

Names of Jesus: Unspeakable Gift

Paul describes Jesus as the unspeakable or indescribable gift in 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

It is indescribable because there is no other gift as perfect or as valuable as the sacrifice of God’s perfect son for our sins.  It is a gift from God and a gift of Grace.  It is not given by law or by deeds, it is purely Divine.

The gift is available to anyone and everyone who wants it.  A gift cannot be forced on the recipient, it must be accepted.  It is given with no strings attached.  It is simply… a gift.

The tradition of giving presents at Christmas time comes from this wonderful and indescribable gift given to us.  We show Christ’s likeness the most when we are giving, out of pure joy and love.

Names of Jesus: First Born of Every Creature

This is the scene outside my desk window this morning from Atlanta Georgia in December, and I cannot help but think of the majesty and beauty of God’s creation!  How appropriately named is our Savior, the Firstborn over all Creation (Colossians 1:15).  How can we not stop in awe?

The world seems quieter when it snows.  Some of this may be because of less traffic and people out shopping, but there is a scientific reason as well.  When snow accumulates on the ground and trees, it acts like a sound absorber and dampens the sound waves.  I also believe God created it that way.

The firstborn of all creation refers to Jesus’ deity: his preeminence and highest ranking over all creation.  He existed before creation and is exalted above all creation.

This Christmas season, may we worship the Creator who created all that we see, and saw that it was good.