From the Weeks of Advent to a Week of Prayer
Having just spent almost a month or so reflecting on the wonders of Advent, Christmas, the incarnation, and the arrival of God in human flesh and history, it seems to me that, in some respects at least, prayer is naturally the next topic for discussion. Prayer is the logical next step, if you will—the dovetailed item of agenda, following on the heels of Christmas grace. For, after all, it is particularly because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that we can now even begin to entertain the idea of talking with him.
If God were not here, if God had remained aloof, if God had not shown any interest in our plight, if God had not been pricked in heart with compassion, if he had not come down and drawn near to us in our muck and mess—then prayer would understandably be the last thing on our minds. It would be rightly understood along the lines of a child writing a letter to Santa Claus. The communication may be well intended and innocent enough, but it’s utter folly at the end of the day. For no such Santa Claus exists and, whatever you may wish for from him, he is not there to answer or provide.
So if Jesus is not Immanuel, if Christmas is not an historical fact, then prayer is just wishful thinking at best, and utter foolishness at the bottom. But if Jesus has come, if God really has torn the roof from the universe and stepped inside, then prayer is the only rational and appropriate thing we should now be concerning ourselves with.
Think of it. Consider whoever your favorite movie star or musician or public figure may be—it doesn't matter if they’re dead or alive. Now imagine we're together in the church building and suddenly, without any fanfare or trumpet blast, they just open the door and walk in. John Lennon is here. Steph Curry is in the building. Queen Elizabeth snuck in the back. John Piper strolled in to make sure we’re not preaching heresy and that we’re all desiring God in appropriate form and fashion.
What would you do? Well, of course, you might just pass out from the sheer excitement of it all. But, if you managed to keep your bearings, I know what you’d do: you’d run straight over there to talk with them, right? Who in their right mind would just go on with their day and pay the person no attention whatsoever? You’d want to engage with them. You’d want to give them a hug or get an autograph or something. Again, you’d want to talk to them.
And that’s what prayer is. It’s talking with the God who, in Jesus, is here.
Joey taught last week on Philippians 2 and how Jesus set aside his lofty status and came down after us. Well, this then connects quite well with what Paul will say later in Philippians 4, and he draws the same sort of line I’m drawing here for us now. Paul says there in verses 5b-6: “The Lord is at hand [or ‘near’]; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Did you catch the logic there? Because the Lord is at hand—because he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant . . .” (Phil. 2:6–7) and came down to be with us—therefore, pray! Talk to him. Engage. You don’t need to be worried about your life, going on as if you’re left alone in your struggles and hardships. No! God is right here. Pour out your heart in prayer!
The weeks of Advent lead quite naturally to the Week of Prayer. Do you see?
If we believe in Christmas. We should be busy in prayer!