Consider the plight of Australian farmers who have endured an eight-year drought. The rate of crop failure has been high as expected rains have failed to appear, leaving their seeds rotting in the ground, or seedlings simply failing to grow. Yet year after year the farmer perseveres, making determinations about planting, with all the attendant risks. After nearly nine years they continue planting, this year having been rewarded for their perseverance with early rains which have encouraged them to plant a little more boldly.
We can learn from the farmer’s perseverance in relation to prayer. The hours spent in prayer can often appear as unproductive as the farmer’s efforts in the midst of drought. I suspect that, just as more farmers leave the land with each new year of drought, many christians leave prayer behind with each year of what they consider to be unproductive prayer.
How are we to measure the ‘success’ of prayer?
I have watched the huge tree in the Miller Street Reserve through the seasons of the past few years, watching its changing hues. It enters each new season in stages, with different parts of the tree greeting Spring at their own pace and similarly giving way to autumn in stages. It does not appear to grow in size, yet exhibits an enduring and rich life, sheltering birds, people and animals from sun, wind and rain. Its roots are deep, drawing nourishment through drought, strength in strong winds, and providing a cool shelter under the summer sun. It is a steadfast image, continuing because of its roots in the soil. It is a wonderful image of prayer.
When our lives are rooted in God through prayer, we gain an inner strength and nourishment which from the outside cannot be easily discerned, for prayer is our roots: planting us deep into God’s being, where we are nourished and nurtured by his character. In this sense, prayer is much more than intercession (bringing our requests before God). Prayer is one key vehicle by which we are transformed into the image of God and reformed into the purposes of His kingdom. When prayer has its primary focus on grounding ourselves in the character and purposes of God, intercession attains greater import, as we learn much more of what it means to pray “in the name of Jesus” (in tune with his character and purpose.)
And in this light, prayer’s greatest success is in our devotion to it, not as prayer itself, but to our relationship with and in God through prayer.
July 17, 2005