Regarding prayer to God, the little preposition, “to” is unique and important – obviously our prayers go to him or they don’t go; they don’t avail. No other preposition will do.
But prayers are also “about” or “for” someone or something. The English language has many other prepositions (in, on, into, over, outside, inside, toward, etc.) So regarding prayer “for” the city of Perth, 45 or 50 different prepositions can replace “for” and make sense. Most are straightforward and easy to visualize, prayer around the city, prayer across the city, or among, along, before, beyond…etc. But even the odd ones are instructive. Imagine “prayer underneath the city.” One thinks perhaps of early believers down in catacombs. Or maybe by some miracle a city becomes a Godly covering and Christians pray under its aegis. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! I’ll leave it to you to figure what it might mean to “pray up and down the city”, “pray after the city” or “pray out the city”.
Prayer from vs. prayer for
Recently playing the preposition game gave me an insight as to why the city of Perth has not yet been transformed by God even though righteous Christians have prayed fervently (some unceasingly) for its transformation. Some prayer groups, even big, interdenominational ones, are showing signs of weariness. Why? What could be holding back God’s hand?
The answer in terms of prepositions is that the prayers have been for the city not from it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that any prayers have been wasted. Fervent prayer by righteous people works wonders (James 5:16) and is required. But in transforming a city like Perth, God says he also wants to hear from the unrighteous, those who have “wicked ways” and sins that need forgiving. He wants to hear from those who have not yet “sought his face”. In particular, he says he wants to hear from Christians who may be in denial of their calling.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God says the heretofore unrepentant must pray. KJV reads, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Notice he doesn’t mean only already-convicted Christians like you and me. He doesn’t say “just my people who by now believe in me” or “which already call themselves by my name”. He also means those designated as believers even though they may deny it and call themselves something else, agnostics, other religions, New Agers or whatever. He means the many that are “called” not just the “chosen few”. He wants to hear from his Whole City – you, me and them – including those who have not (yet) humbled themselves, sought his face or turned from wicked ways.
So for God to forgive the sins of Perth and heal the land, it’s not enough for you and me to pray for Perth. That’s for starters. Now we must persuade and promote prayer from the unchurched, unsanctified, unrepentant, unbelieving, unwashed who, consciously or unconsciously, conceive or suspect that they might possibly have been called by the name of the Lord. Maybe they were too preoccupied at the time. Maybe they were too young to fully appreciate. Maybe they didn’t entirely want to be called by that Name. Maybe they were drunk or stoned. Well, now is the time to come out of the closet of denial and into the prayer closet.
Our job, yours and mine, is to provide the means, the opportunities, the events, the venues, and the stimulus for the unrepentant to pray.
Will they do it if given the opportunity?
I firmly believe that deep down, underneath the rejection and rebellion, they know who they are. When asked, they will often admit that they might in some way be Christian…whatever. Furthermore, they know their current belief systems (or lack thereof) are no cause for great joy. Something important is missing. Their world-views are inadequate. Their good-times are not that great. Their bad days are getting worse. Some are in worldly trouble as rents go up, relationships come apart, pregnancies get aborted, credit-cards max out, young ones get bullied, teens get stoned (and stabbed). Perth is not the nice place it used to be. Anti-depressants, low-fat diets, gym memberships, cocaine, counseling and anger-management aren’t working. In fact it’s all not working – and they know it. Even those who don’t believe may think it wouldn’t hurt to pray, say for example, that the grandchildren won’t get molested and become sex-addicts. It is a worry isn’t it? What harm could a prayer do?
Of course the sinner’s prayer is the ultimate, asking Jesus to forgive our faults. But prayer of any kind can be a step in the right direction. Those who come to pray for need may stay to pray for repentance.
So our job, yours and mine, is to provide the means for us to humble ourselves and pray with the city so that prayers to God come from the city, from sin-city, itself.
It begins small: I know an evangelist in Auckland who puts a street sign every Friday outside a Christian book shop reading “Free Prayer Inside for any need”. Last year, among other miracles from his effort, two homeless men now walk with the Lord and pray with others. One already has a job and an apartment. My friend’s “Free-Prayer Ministry“ is growing and multiplying. Keep it up and we’ll have not just “city prayer” but “Prayer City” as in “Radio City” or “Circuit City”.
Perth City Prayer
Wednesdays 12 noon to 1 pm, 97 William Street, Church in the City Offices, Queen’s Chambers, Level 1.
We gather and greet from 12:00-12:10 PM, sing and praise until 12:25 PM. A brief testimony until 12:35. Group Prayer and private prayer for individuals with pressing needs until closing before 1 PM.