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MUST is a pretty strong word, isn't it? It is one of those four-letter words we are allowed to speak - no moms ever washing out a youngster's mouth for having said 'must'. It is a strong word because it allows for no 'wiggle-room'. "You must complete this task" carries a much different meaning than "If you are able, you must do this", doesn't it? The former allows no wiggle-room, while the later puts a condition on our having to complete the task. With God, there is very little 'wiggle room' in his instructions to us - the 'must' isn't usually paired with any other condition than a choice to be obedient. If that is the case, then if God tells us we 'must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads us to pray', then does that mean we are supposed to be on our knees 24/7? I don't think that is what God had in mind when he stipulated that 'must' in scripture. Instead, I believe he was asking us to be sensitive to the needs of others, praying for each other as the Spirit leads us to, and then being attentive to the moments when God lays something on our heart that we may not even know about, but that requires our prayers nonetheless. An example of the latter would be one of those moments when you just feel compelled to pray for a situation, but you don't know the people involved or the reason you are praying - you are just compelled to lift the circumstances up to God for his intervention.

You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray. Pray for the things that are needed. You must watch and keep on praying. Remember to pray for all Christians. (Ephesians 6:18)

How have you been led to pray lately? I have been troubled by all the criticism on each side of the political debates - disappointed by all the attention given to the mud-slinging and the little bit of attention actually given toward the issues that plague our land right now. So, I guess I pray for God's wisdom and his 'governance' because I know that God can turn the head of the rulers of the land as easily as he can cause the flood waters to recede. I have been troubled by all the senseless loss of life at the hand of men and women given to violence in my own city. You didn't hear much about shootings and gang activity, drug deals gone wrong, and similar affairs much twenty to thirty years ago in our area, but today it is kind of 'common-place'. The fact that it has become 'common-place' moves me to pray. We are all led to pray for different things at different times, but the important thing to remember is that when we are obedient to lift our voices to heaven, God is moved. Now, don't get me wrong - God can and does move without our prayers, but I think God asks us to pray because he is asking us to begin to sense things the way he senses them - to see things from his perspective and then to talk with him about the needs that exist.

This is really what prayer is all about anyway -  talking with him about the needs that exist. Prayer involves watchfulness - being attuned to the things around you in the lives of those in your circle of influence, as well as a more 'global' perspective of things way beyond your 'sphere' of influence. Politics is beyond my 'sphere' of influence - except through prayer. Gang violence is beyond my 'sphere' of influence - except through prayer. My friend's or family's need for a new place to live, the healing of someone's illness, or the ability to find a job - these are closer to my circle of influence. I know these people and I can pray regularly for them. I don't know the gang members, nor the people involved in political campaigns. I can pray for them - and I must - but when I pray for those in my 'sphere' of influence, I am praying a little differently. It is with knowledge of their needs most of the time. Even when I don't know their specific need, I know them well enough to pray for them to have that need met in such a way that they will know God has intervened on their behalf. We all are urged - commanded - to pray. Pray like your life depended on those times of talking with God, because if your life doesn't, another's may. Just sayin!


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