I don’t watch football. I don’t enjoy watching the game and I’m not a fan of any team. I know, I know, you’re probably asking “What kind of man doesn’t like football?” Well, this one. Let me tell you, this is an awkward place to be at a time like this in a place like Cincinnati. Bengals fans are pouring over with pride for their team. People who very rarely ever watch the Bengals are becoming new fans. Finally, for the people of the Nati, the time has come for a team which has the potential to go all the way. This hasn’t happened in a long time.
Actually, the last time the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl was 1989, and I was 10 years old. Even then, I wasn’t much into the game. I grew up in Central Kentucky, so we didn’t watch a lot of NFL games. All I remember was the Ickey Shuffle. But because of this 30-year drought, Bengals fans are hopeful that the future of the team ends in Los Angeles on February 13. For many of these people, Saturday evening was something to remember.
With just seconds left in the game, Bengals Rookie Kicker Evan McPherson came out onto the field with a chance to put the Bengals over the Tennessee Titans. He had already been the owner of three other field goals in the game. He was confident in his abilities. And yet, thousands of Bengals fans across the country watched in anticipation as he came out to kick. I’d imagine in that moment, there were prayers being lifted up like “God, please let him make this goal”. And when he made the kick, there were prayers of thanksgiving.
At the postgame interview, McPherson wore a shirt donning the phrase “God is good”. McPherson grew up in a Christian home, and he regularly posts scripture on his Instagram account. After Saturday’s win, he posted a photo, with a caption to the Psalm 34:8 which says “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” During a time like this, it can be easy to look at our faith and say “God is good”. But what if he had missed that kick? Would our praise of a good Father in Heaven be as loud?
For many of us, our prayers can be a difficult discipline to nail down. We struggle with how to talk to God. What do I ask? What do I say? How long is enough? There is no guide for all of these questions, but Jesus did teach us how to pray in scripture when he said:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13
This was the perfect model for how to pray. Not with specific times or tasks, but with a model of the ways we should address our father. I particularly love the part that says “your kingdom come, your will be done”. We forget that, do we? When we pray to God, we can easily find ourselves making a list of things we want God to do:
“God, please heal me of Covid.”
“God, help my son get off of drugs.”
“God, I need a new job.”
“God, why can’t I find someone who loves me?”
“God, help me pass this test.”
Listen, the Bible is clear that we should take our cares to God. Philippians 4:6 says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. We need to take our needs to God. He is our Father and He wants to give us good things. Sometimes though, the things we want are not within the will that God wants to be done. And when that happens, it makes it more difficult to feel like God is listening or even cares.
Jesus’ brother James wrote a book of the bible in which he addresses the Jewish Christians of the first century. He wrote this to encourage them to remain steadfast in their obedience to God. These people were being oppressed and mistreated and as a result they were falling away from the relationship they had with God. I think we can relate. When life gets tough and we have been crying out to God, but things don’t seem to go our way, it’s easy for us to fall away from praying. But James had some wisdom for these believers.
In James 4, he writes “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3. Boy, that is tough to hear. James was hitting hard at the reality of the human prayer. Sometimes we pray for the wrong things. We pray for selfish reasons. We pray for OUR will to be done. Yet, Jesus taught us to pray for God’s kingdom and God’s will. And to do that, we need to spend time asking God what His will is. When did you last ask God that question?
On Sunday February 6, at 6 pm at both of our campuses, we will be holding a Night of Worship and Prayer.This will be a time to come together, remove distractions from our life, lift up our voices in praise and listen for how God wants to speak to us.W e will silence our minds and allow God to move in our lives.We will lift our church, our families, our community and our world to be a place where God is welcome to work however He sees fit. Won’t you plan to join us? You can register for this event by clicking below.
Today, I want to leave you with James’ words as it relates to the importance of prayer. I hope they encourage you to lean into these conversations with God more in your life.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16
Ross Campus Pastor, White Oak Christian Church