He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us;
on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also
join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on
our behalf for the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many.
II Corinthians 1:10-11
I saw these words on a sign at a spiritual retreat center near our home: “Day of Prayer for Busy People — CANCELLED.” I read the sign and wondered why a day of prayer for busy people would be cancelled. Was it that people were too busy? Did they think they had better things to do? Were they not interested? Or was it all of the above?
Seeing that sign about the day of prayer being cancelled really hit me. I thought of something Eugene Peterson had written about the perils of busyness:
Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It is taking charge…The busy person is a lazy person because they are not doing what they are supposed to do.” (Subversive Spirituality)
I was trained to be busy. I learned early to associate being busy with success and achievement in the world. My mother used to brag about her busy son. I was pretty sure that the busier I was the happier God must be with me. Then, slowly I began to see the damage that busyness did to my walk with God. Busyness was becoming the enemy of my being with God.
I do not think it accidental that most people are struggling with prayer. The Enemy of our souls never attacks us at the peripheral but goes straight for our jugular. William Cowper was right in the old hymn about how “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” It’s no wonder the Devil likes to make me think I am too busy to get down on my knees.
But in today’s Scripture the apostle Paul is grateful for how the Corinthian Christians had helped by praying for him. Paul says that he had faced “so deadly a peril” and God had “rescued” him and would rescue him again as the Corinthians prayed for him.
I like the powerful word picture that Paul paints describing the effectiveness of the Corinthians’ prayers. The Greek word (sunupourgeó), translated as “helping”, is actually a compound of three words: “with” + “under” + “work”. Together those three words give us a picture of workers getting under a heavy load in order to work with each other in lifting the load. The word reminds me of the Amish working together for a “barn raising”. They get under the wood frame and, with each other, work to raise a barn.
So the Corinthian Christians had worked together through their prayers to rescue Paul from a deadly peril. We know that the Corinthian Christians were far from being spiritual giants (1 Corinthians 3:1-5), to say the least, yet they wielded great power as they prayed.
I am seeing more and more how prayer does make a difference in our world and in the church. We might not understand the ways of God or how prayer works, but God commands us to pray. Prayer must not be the last resort in trouble and need, but our first action.
On the Last Day, when all secrets are revealed, we will see the difference, the eternal difference that our prayers made. We will see that A. J. Gordon was right: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” (The Kneeling Christian)
Lord, I am not too busy to pray today for the many needs I see around me! I want to do my part in getting under the load and working together with God and others in prayer!
- Take a few moments to reflect on how “busyness” might be an enemy of
your spirituality and your prayer life.
- When did you last feel too busy to pray?
- Think of an instance or two in which others “helped” you through prayer. Take a moment to give thanks for them.
- Write down the names of three people who need the “help” of prayer.
Now pray for those three people.
“From the Scriptures and from our own experience we are certain
that prayer changes things with respect to the way God governs,
not only individuals, but society, the nations and the whole world.
“Ole Hallesby, Prayer