A brave team of men and women, tackling wildfires in the northern part of British Columbia, stopped by the grocery store where I work. They were on their way home for a three-day break; these firefighters had laid their lives on the line for 12 days and they were drenched in weariness. One of my friends came in to say hello at that time and we prayed for them quietly, off in the distance, as they hung around at the till paying for their sandwiches.
This is a broken world, and we can expect our province to burn up every summer whether dry forests are ignited by lightning or careless individuals drop their cigarettes along the crispy verge. What can we pray for, then, if we expect natural calamities to continue and worsen? We can pray for the firefighters themselves to be saturated with Living Water.
Is Prayer Hopeless?
Do you wonder, sometimes, what the point of prayer actually is? When we collectively pray for those who stand in front of the flames with their hoses and shovels, our prayers do not guarantee they will survive or that they will successfully extinguish each blaze. Sometimes, evacuation is the only answer. Yet, we are drawn to prayer.
Jesus prayed before his day began: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus prayed before performing miracles: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated” (John 6:11).
Christ prayed at all times of the day: He rose especially early to do this, but also “after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23). If it was good for our sinless Savior, we want to do the same thing.
But how do we effectively pray for the firefighters, the EMTs, the doctors, Red Cross workers, and those who are fleeing from their homes? Why pray for others when we know that God determines their future?
The Effects of Prayer
When we pray, we rest in relationship with our Savior. Ezekiel 22:23-25 says,
And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, say to her, You are a land that is not cleansed or rained upon in the day of indignation. The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst.”
Our disobedient actions hurt others. We can infer that the opposite is also true.
Paul commissioned the church at Colossae to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison — that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4). Paul fully expected the prayers of others on his behalf to benefit his mission.
Set the Example
We aren’t going to douse a fire with prayer. We don’t accomplish anything for the Kingdom except by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit has the power to bring peace. Maybe we can’t walk over to a member of the firefighting crew and give him a box of protective peace like some kind of magician, but we can share the benefits of hearts that rest in Christ.
As Christians, we find peace in our Savior, and restfulness drips from us (potentially, though not always in reality). Peace can be an effect of Living Water, pooling around us for others to splash in. Maybe they won’t become drenched but only feel the relief of a few cool drips on their arms and legs. Perhaps that is all they will need to inspire them to ask themselves “where do I find more of that water?”
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6).
Paul exhorted the Christians at Colossae to conduct themselves in a particular way that would make the Gospel of Jesus Christ appealing. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).
People tend to notice when you’re overflowing. As for the effects of prayer on the Apostle Paul, I imagine he might have felt buoyed, loved, built-up. The petitions of others in agreement with us affirm our desires as desires from the heart of God himself. Their affirmation feels like confirmation that your heart lines up with God’s heart, so you can go on praying in the same vein.
Isaiah and Living Water
God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, promised his people “you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (58:11). Jesus said to the Samaritan woman “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:13).
He was referring to himself, the living sacrifice poured out for the sake of all who would repent and believe in him for salvation. He is Living Water, and we are also like a watered garden because of his Spirit indwelling us.
In that case, as benefactors of this inheritance now and eternally, we are most effective for the Kingdom when we get out of the way and let God’s power work in and through us. I think that’s easier said than done because sin gets in the way. But with springs of unfailing water (as long as we keep our focus on Christ), there is power.
Our joy in Christ, our confidence and faith, promotes the gospel and glorifies God, especially wherever someone feels dried out. Maybe that’s the singed firefighter. Perhaps it’s the firefighter’s spouse, parent, or sibling. That dehydrated soul might belong to an individual whose exterior gives no clue to an internal brittleness close to crumbling into dust for lack of a drink.
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). That reward is sharing the power of gospel truth, hope, and mercy.
Help Us to Pray
We can only flow with Living Water if we are constantly going back to God for more of himself. There is nothing natural within us, which would quench the thirst of a parched sufferer. In Jesus, however, is an endless stream of goodness, which is the Spirit.
We pray for ourselves because we accept Christ’s invitation to do Kingdom work. Here are five prayers to help us become moist (in a good way).
1. Lord, give us a new heart. Let us grow smaller so you can grow bigger.
2. Lord, as you change us, let others see the work of your Spirit in us. Become so obvious that no one can miss the effects of your righteousness on sinners such as we are.
3. Lord, let our faith and trust in you become so powerful that our own demeanor appeals to the unbelievers around us. Make us peaceful, rested, gentle, generous, loving, self-controlled, kind, and confident in you.
4. Lord, as they see the peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), open the eyes of these onlookers. Many will see and simply be touched but not changed. Father — give onlookers new eyes to see the Living Water pouring from us. Show them that this is not of us, but of you and that the Living Water is free for anyone who asks.
5. Lord, keep changing us. Keep refining our hearts. We want to be watered gardens whose waters never fail. That is, we ask you to pour out Living Water to parched sufferers through us. Help us get out of the way.
Father, we trust you to do these things for you are mighty, you are merciful, and you are on the move. As fires ravage our province, ignited by weather, carelessness, and straight-up arson, they move unbelievably fast and are dangerously unpredictable. But they are no match for you Lord. Amen.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.