TODAY Christian women around the world are celebrating World Day of Prayer. In the light of the positive effect many people feel prayer has had on the world's many continuing needs, this setting aside of time for turning thought to God is invaluable. It provides us with an opportunity to ponder the nature of prayer and its meaning in our lives.
Nevertheless, the fear that our prayer may not be effective--or the belief that its main purpose is simply to make us feel better even though nothing really changes or improves--can be a stiff challenge to our efforts to pray. These challenges are illustrated by a perhaps apocryphal anecdote about a prayer meeting called to pray for badly needed rain. Only one person brought an umbrella!
If we look at the lives of some of our contem-poraries who believe in God, however--people like Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Terry Waite, and others--we find lots of umbrellas! These are individuals who, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, have made prayer a part of their daily regimen, people who have expected--and received--results.
Such individuals are endeavoring to follow in the footsteps of the greatest "pray-er of all times, namely Christ Jesus. The Master turned to God in every need--from the smallest detail to the largest--and he was never disappointed. He knew from his own study of the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians know as the Old Testament, that turning to God in prayer is never just an exercise. For him, it was an essential part of his ministry and his healing work.
In his Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew's Gospel, he declared, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. He went on to make clear that this asking couldn't rest on a selfish or materialistic basis. Instead, it needed to come from a deeper understanding of God and of our unbreakable relationship with Him. In essence, Jesus proved this and showed all mankind that God is a loving Father and that we are His children, made in His likeness.
This confidence in God was a fundamental part of Jesus' ministry. Yet he also made clear that each of us has an obligation to live according to God's laws--the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus, for example--if we are to benefit fully from His promises.