Day 2. Loving Others Through Prayer

[above: A meditative moment—Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay]

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  (Luke 11:1, NRSV)

And why should the good of anyone depend on the prayer of another? I can only answer with the return question, “Why should my prayer be powerless to help another?”

—George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, “Man’s Difficulty Concerning Prayer”

Advent is a time for self-examination, a time for repentance, and a time to prepare ourselves spiritually. Therefore it is a time for prayer. Lord, help me to overcome my sins. Lord, forgive me. Lord, how can I prepare to meet you? All these petitions point to the future, to looking forward in expectation. 

One Advent hymn captures some of those ideas: “Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.” We can identify with the Hebrew people waiting for their Messiah crying, “When will we be set free from our struggles?” And we also identify with the Christians represented in Revelation 6:10 crying, “How long, Lord?” 

The Hebrews didn’t understand the sort of Messiah that God would provide. When he came most didn’t recognize him. Even though as Christians we know how God answered their prayers for a Messiah King, we are often in the dark as to our own future. Thus, when we pray, it is best not to have too many expectations of exactly how our prayers will be answered.

MacDonald looks at the mystery of prayer from the only perspective that makes sense—which is love. We don’t know how God will work. Nor do we know how our own prayers can make any difference. But, like the Hebrew people of old, we know from experience that God is faithful and wants the best for us and for our loved ones.

Our Lord taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” The kingdom of God is built on the expectation of faithful love. Our loving prayers are somehow a participation in that kingdom. And, as MacDonald says, “Why should my prayer be powerless to help another?”

PRAYER: Lord, you love me beyond my power of imagining. From all that prevents me from loving you more, deliver me. Help me to become a living prayer for the good of those you have placed in my life. Amen.

By Robert Trexler

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #133+ in 2019]

Robert Trexler is an independent scholar with a particular interest in the works of George MacDonald. He is the president of Winged Lion Press, publisher of over 50 books specializing in Inklings-related topics, and the editor of CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society.
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