Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Prayer: Where Word And Deed Come Together

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Luke 18:7-8
Pray between “the already” of the kingdom come in Christ and the “not yet” of the kingdom still to come in Christ. We have been waiting for the time when God comes to vindicate His people and do justice. That day has come. But the day of final, full justice still waits for the Lord to return. Until the job is finished by Almighty God, we pray. Until justice rolls down like water, until the earth is covered with the knowledge of God, we keep asking. Until every nation calls on the Lord, we keep knocking.

Bringing men and women to Christ in faith and gaining victory over unjust principalities and powers do not come simply, or even primarily, or even to start with, by swamping our senators with letters and petitions, looking for new bandwagons to jump on, holding one more successful church seminar, or joining marches to the Pentagon. Changes begin with petitionary prayer, the elect crying to God day and night about Ireland and massive military spending and Billy Graham Crusades in Minneapolis.

God puts our persistence to the test by not answering us immediately. It seems like such a long time. But He answers “quickly.” Quickly is not immediately. Ask any eight-year-old counting the days before the family trip to the zoo.

We will be tempted to give up on prayer. It takes so long, the world moves so slowly, justice seems so far away. “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Jesus is not offering us some eschatological pessimism here about the state of the Christian faith. He is calling us to faithfulness in unfailing prayer for the manifestation of righteousness. The temptation in petitionary prayer is always to submit, to acquiesce to what is, to come to terms with the unjust and unsaved world around us. We lose our anger at the wrongness of what is and lose with it our desire to persevere. We succumb to Doris Day theology: que sera, sera [whatever will be, will be], the situation is unchangeable, what is will always be. No, says God, do not faint. And what is the mark of that confidence that God does build His kingdom of grace and justice? Shamelessness in prayer to the Father.

--Harvie M. Conn, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace, p.87-88

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