Are You Bothered That You're Not Bothered to Pray?
The disciples of Jesus noticed that he prayed a lot and that things seemed to happen when he prayed.
Most of his disciples likely were raised with the Torah and understood prayers: morning and evening prayers, prayers of repentance, prayers of mourning and supplication, prayers of thanksgiving and joy.
Yet, they wanted to see God act in response to their prayers the way that Jesus' prayers were answered, so they asked him for guidance.
Jesus then instructs them to pray for this: "Our Father ... your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
He prayed for God's kingdom to break into the places on earth where darkness and evil continued to oppress and break humanity's spirit, where humans are drowning in judgment, rejection, marginalization and their own broken places.
It should bother us that those places and people are all around us: They work with us, shop with us, live with us, are us.
As Carolyn Carney, assistant regional director for spiritual formation and prayer for the New York/New Jersey region of InterVarsity, observed, "Missional prayer is intercession arising from the fact that God's kingdom has not yet come fully in this world and his will is not yet fully done. As kingdom people, this should bother us. But do we pray as though we are bothered?"
The question I'm forced to ask myself is if I am indeed bothered when I am aware of the struggles in my community, neighborhood, city, nation and world.
Most of us, being asked that, would say, "Of course!" But the deeper question is how much does it bother us?
Am I, are we, bothered enough to compel us to pray? To pray continually? To pray until we see God's acting on behalf of and in response to those prayers?
As the prophet Isaiah writes, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait (hope) for him" (Isaiah 64:4).
From the perspective of sharing Jesus, am I bothered enough that most of the people around me in my everyday life do not experience the life-giving grace, forgiveness, justice, mercy, hope and love of "our Father who is in heaven"?
Enough to pray for them every day? Enough to allow those prayers to change me and give me Spirit-boldness to invite them to consider Jesus and his redemptive restoration into their lives and circumstances?
Sadly, I'm not always quite that bothered, and perhaps not even often enough. And, indeed, that is reflected in how I pray or not.
This past May, I was inspired by an international movement to pray Luke 10:2. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
The movement has us setting an alarm on our watches or phones for every day at 10:02 a.m. And then to simply pray what Jesus said to pray for. Easy, right?
Our church planting staff at Canadian Baptists of Western Canada created a little magnet to affix to our fridges or cars or filing cabinets to also remind us.
And of course, we set our phone alarms. Every day when the alarm went off, I would pray for a few minutes. It was exhilarating!
Often, I found the little alarm (which I programmed to have its own ring tone) went off at completely inconvenient times - like in line at the bank, or in a meeting, and so I'd just hit "stop," thinking I'd come back to it, which rarely occurred.
Here's where I should make a slight clarification because Jesus is sneaky in Luke 10:2 by getting us to pray for ourselves. To pray that we will be the workers in the harvest, that we would be the ones bothered enough to pray, to engage, to invite, to share, to live among.
During my hit-and-miss time of praying the Luke 10:2 prayer, I have found that as I prayed for God's kingdom to come into the lives and circumstances of folk around me I've come to feel bothered.
Bothered that there is so much pain in people's own histories, bothered that inequity is rampant in a wealthy nation that has access to God's provision for the whole world, bothered that humanity polarizes and shifts values and allegiances based on fear and scarcity in their own hearts.
And bothered that I have not been bothered enough in my life about folk and situations that don't in some way affect or trespass on my life.
In that bothered-ness, I have found myself weeping for others, even strangers, as the Holy Spirit has made me more attentive and aware of people I barely have interaction with.
I do not like weeping. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable, but the result is I am growing in compassion. It's a byproduct of the Luke 10:2 prayer.
It's a dangerous prayer to pray for because we get bothered.
Jesus called us to love strangers, enemies, the unlovable in our eyes because when we pray for them, we begin to feel compassion toward them, empathy for them.
We begin to see our own brokenness in theirs, or perhaps, acknowledge for the first time that we too are broken, damaged, hurting people in need of the continual healing grace and mercy of God.
We come to see God's kingdom realized in our own spheres of earth as it is in heaven.
Perhaps the 10:02 prayer will inspire people to become missionaries at home and abroad, but I wonder if Jesus' plan all along was to make us bothered.
Shannon Youell is church planting coordinator at Canadian Baptists of Western Canada (CBWC) and the British Columbia-Yukon regional church-planting director. A version of this article first appeared on the CBWC church-planting blog and is used with permission. You can follow CBWC on Twitter @TheCBWC.