A few years ago, a band I liked sent out an email to all of the fans on their email lists asking for submissions of videos of places where we hoped the light of Christ would shine through us. They mailed out little white candles that were supposed to be featured in the video that you submitted. They said that they planned to use it to make a music video for one of their songs, but they didn’t exactly explain how it would work.
I considered it, but ultimately didn’t participate because I didn’t really have a good way to video myself and I didn’t have a great idea of what I would record. I wasn’t the world’s hugest fan of the band and I didn’t know the song they were making the music video for very well so I couldn’t really understand how the videos would be used. And I was busy and with all of these excuses, it just didn’t make the top of the list.
The video came out a while later, and it is adorable and I love the way they used the videos (and remarkably includes quite a few shots of Vanderbilt and Nashville, so I feel like I’m a part of it anyway). You can watch it here (though to be honest this song and video aren’t really the point of this post):
I imagine the people who did send in their videos maybe knew a little more about the band and wanted to be a part of what they were creating in some small way. Perhaps they thought that this video might bless someone and they wanted to be a part of that, or maybe they just wanted to be a part of whatever Addison Road was doing because they loved the band. I’m sure they didn’t know exactly how their video would be used or if it would even be a part of the final video, but they submitted it anyway because they wanted to participate in what was being created.
I have been learning a lot about and studying prayer a lot lately. I’ve never really understood prayer (I don’t think anyone has, honestly) and how it can be that God is sovereign over everything but somehow our praying matters, that somehow our praying changes things. But the Bible seems to be very clear on both of those points, so I decided to try to study more and practice prayer more and see what happened.
And it has become more and more clear to me that whether or not I understand prayer, prayer changes things. In the past few weeks, even, God has answered big and small prayers, some so small that I had almost forgotten I’d prayed for them and just had to laugh at God’s attention to detail.
One of the devotionals I have been reading about prayer had a day on intercessory prayer, or praying for other people. Being so very far away from so many people I know and love, intercessory prayer has become an important part of my prayer life. The most significant way I can be a part of the lives of the people I love has always been to be praying for them, but now it is practically the only way I can be a part of their lives and I depend on it. But still, it’s hard to imagine the sovereign God of the universe really responding to my prayers for my friends and family. In fact, it would be impossible to imagine except for all the times it happens in the Bible (see the parable of the persistent widow or Exodus 32 for some examples). As I was thinking about that this week, I read this: “Intercessory prayer is less about changing God’s mind and more about participating in his mercy.”
And then I saw it. Like the music video I could have participated in. Would my video entry have changed the course of the music video? Almost certainly not. The band had surely sketched out what they wanted the video to be like even before receiving submissions (though there was definitely more guesswork involved than there is with prayer, being that God is omniscient). But I would have been able to participate in what they were creating.
God already knows how tomorrow will go and the next day and all the way until the end of the world and beyond. He knows what he has created and he knows what he is creating, but he invites us to participate in what he is making through prayer. Let me say that again. God invites us to participate in his creation when we pray.
So why are we not praying? For me, I know I have all the same excuses I had about the music video. I feel I’m not very good at it, or I don’t have very good ideas, or I don’t understand what difference it will make, or most of all… I’m busy and it slips my mind.
The God of the universe invites me to participate in his mercy poured out on those I love, and it slips my mind.
But I’m working on it. Maybe someday soon I’ll post on what I’ve been learning about how to pray and how to be intentional in my prayer life. But for now, I will continue to learn and to practice and to pray. And if you need intercession for something, I would love to go before God on your behalf. Because I want to be a part of what God is doing in your life and in the world. Don’t we all?