COLLINS COLUMN: Pray boldly and with confidence

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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At the hour of prayer. 3,600 seconds, 60 minutes, 1/24th of the day. These are specific ways the dictionary defines an hour. I imagine that sometimes an hour seems short to you, and at other times, it seems to drag on and on. We often use the word hour to designate a specific moment when something is supposed to happen – maybe the wedding, the kickoff, the procedure, the service, and on and on. Lots of things happen on the hour.

In Acts 3:1, we read that Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of prayer. Luke helps us know that the ninth hour was the hour of prayer, meaning 3:00 p.m., the hour of evening prayers in ancient Jewish culture. There were morning prayers at 9:00 a.m. and evening prayers at 3:00 p.m. There are references in Scripture to praying morning, noon and night. Remember the story of Daniel and his prayers? It was a common practice to pray at set times each day.

I suppose, like me, you have probably prayed throughout your lifetime. Many of us were raised in homes where we prayed at mealtimes, at bedtime, and when we went to church. Sometimes these prayers are ignored or forgotten in the rush of the day. Sometimes we may hesitate to pray because we are with someone who may not care to pray or believe in prayer.

Most of my life, I didn’t have a specific time that I prayed. As an adult, I learned to pray every day, though not at a specific time. It has been in the last 10-15 years that I have developed a much deeper focus on prayer and even a time of prayer. My hour of prayer is early in the morning. Sometimes it might be a literal hour, and sometimes it is a few minutes in an hour where I am reading Scripture, meditating on what I read, praying, and writing my devotionals. I find great relief and strength in the hour or more I spend with God and His Word early in the day.

When the church was born on the day of Pentecost, it seems that many of the early Christians continued aspects of their previous Jewish faith. Peter and John, for example, went to the temple at the hour of prayer. We can assume they went to pray. And I suspect they also went to proclaim the good news of Jesus, because they knew there would be an audience ahead of or after the designated hour of prayer. This might give us a reminder that if we are going to share the good news with anyone, we have to go where there are people. As Christians, we cannot isolate and expect to tell anyone about Jesus.

In Acts 3, we also observe that anything – even miracles – can happen at the hour of prayer. There is no indication that Peter and John expected to meet this lame man. And I am confident that this man did not expect to be healed on this day. What the lame man expected was to receive a little money, as he did most days, when he was brought by friends or family to an area where they knew there would be people coming and going from the hour of prayer. He was in a good location to scrape out a way to live. People who pray are likely some of the people who might also help a poor person.

But on this day, at the hour of prayer, a miracle happened. As the man tried to make contact with a few travelers and randomly called out for alms, Peter and John looked at the man and told him to look at them. We can assume this man expected these two apostles to hand him some money, but he got far more than a couple coins. On this day, at the name of Jesus, the lame man received two legs that were completely restored and allowed him to stand, to walk, to run, to dance, and to joyfully tell others what Jesus had done for him.

We really don’t know what might happen as a result of our prayers. My guess is that, sadly, we sometimes don’t expect much. We often pray because we believe we should. Sometimes we pray with some hope, but not much expectation of anything changing. We don’t know how many times this lame man may have prayed to be healed. Maybe he or a family member used to pray about healing, but now they were simply focused on survival. I suspect that happens to us from time to time.

Emergencies, sickness, and other challenges often sharpen our focus and our intensity on prayer. But this story and many others in Acts, as well as other places in Scripture, remind us that God moves in response to our prayers. At the name of Jesus, people are saved, healed, moved and transformed. Our prayers matter to God. So today, take time to stop and pray. Pray with confidence that God hears you. Pray boldly for God’s will to be done in your life as it is in heaven. And then, in the name of Jesus, move forward, knowing that God is with you and will likely use you to answer someone’s prayer, even today.

Father, forgive us for taking prayer too lightly. Today we come to you with confidence that you hear our prayers and will answer them, according to your will and in line with your plan for us, and even for the world. Use us today to show someone the love of Jesus. We pray this in the mighty name of Jesus, amen.