The world of instant communication and a 24/7 news cycle brings a constant flow of stories of pain and grief from around the world into our homes. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all this information, yet we are called to pray for the world. To pray for the world means we believe that God listens and responds to our prayers on behalf of others. To pray on behalf of others means we need to trust that God hears our prayers although we don't know how God will answer. Our faith is rooted and grounded in our relationship with a listening, loving and trustworthy God.
Here are some suggestions for praying for the world.
First, faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." The mystery and confounding aspect of prayer is that we can't often measure its effectiveness. Much of prayer is unquantifiable which can be frustrating for those of us who like life to be quantifiable. Yet, we press on in our prayers, faithfully believing that God is listening and responding.
Second, stamina. We pray for the world simply because God calls us to pray. Paul encourages us in Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing"--to pray diligently. Paul understood how easy it is to give up praying because we don't see the results. Or something good might happen in the situation, and we think we can stop praying about it. We need to continue praying.
Diligent, unceasing prayer is work. It takes concentration and intention. It requires stamina made strong by faith. If all we can do is pray for one minute, then we pray for that minute.
Third, involvement. Sometimes praying effectively requires involvement. A basic level of involvement is the news media. If while watching the news we hear of a murder, we can pray for the victim's family, for the surrounding community, for the investigation, for the perpetrator. We can pray about the fear of the victim's family and the possible rage against the murder.
Yet, we can't stop there. We pray for the government. Pray God's goodness into the system. I sometimes pray God into a system using the image of someone breathing into another while trying to resuscitate that person. Breathe God into systems.
If necessary, we take our prayer engagement to a next step: direct contact with whomever we are praying for, if appropriate. Or, volunteering in our local community. Or, traveling on a learning tour.
Praying for the world can change our lives as we learn to act in tandem with our prayers. And praying for the world can change the lives of others as we act with wisdom and insight as a result of our prayers.