Alumni Leadership Council President David Manning - BSBE '88
Since last May, the Lord has challenged me to revisit the practice of prayer in my life. And on this go around, the Lord is challenging me to prioritize and align my prayers in order to experience His partnership in advancing the kingdom. Therefore, I have been stepping deeper into that arena of intercessory prayer with the brethren. As I do, I believe that God wants to know what I really think, feel and desire for His kingdom.
I am confident that God hears our prayers and that prayer changes circumstances and individuals. There is no crisis of faith here. But I believe there is something worth examining at this stage in my journey because I often do not see a direct connection out of our prayers with how God intervenes. I really ask these questions when prayers are offered up for God to “show up in a big way” and other such grand requests.The vexing aspect of intercessory prayer is…how does one engage God in a discussion about His kingdom in such a way that will lead to things really getting done? It is all too often that I speak words into the air among my brothers and sisters and wonder, are we getting anywhere? Is something going to occur because of this investment?
These “big things” prayers are welcome. I am just posing a question to see if there is an adjustment that can be made here. Can we increase the visibility of connection between the breath of a prayer spoken into heaven and the intervention of God’s hand on earth? As always, the best place for answers to questions like these is in the Bible.
Making the Connection
Looking at Abraham’s encounter with the Lord in Genesis 18, we join the scene where the Lord wonders aloud, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do (v17)?” In that God has enjoined Abraham in a missional partnership; Abraham understands that God is about to change the landscape of Sodom. At this point, Abraham speaks to God out of his concern for his nephew. God graciously listens and sends angels to accommodate Abraham’s request, which ultimately saves the life of Lot.
Here, God reveals His next steps in the overall mission. But, Abraham speaks only to the part of the plan that is of concern to Abraham. The concern is an issue near and dear to Abraham, the well being of his nephew. Abraham engages God about a concern. God intervenes. The connection is complete between request and answer.
In Matthew 9, Jesus looks at the multitudes with compassion because they were lacking protection and guidance. Jesus reveals his deep concern to the disciples. Jesus tells the disciples to take the matter to God in prayer – to “pray earnestly” (as rendered in the ESV). Then we see that the next recorded event in Matthew’s gospel is the official naming and sending out of the twelve apostles.
Jesus models a timeless prayer over an issue that should concern us - a prayer for more workers to be sent out into the harvest. And here, the prayer is connected to a fitting and direct answer.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. I want more of that 'prayer-connected-to-answer' thing.
The common thread here is appealing to God out of our concerns. These are the topics which we think and feel from the depths of our soul, the issues that would sustain “earnest” prayer.
What is My Concern?
How does one engage God in prayer that gets stuff done? I find that I need to pause before I pray and think about two things: 1) what is the real topic or concern that I have to bring before the Lord, and 2) what are the most genuine words available to articulate that request?
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2 (ESV)
To continue on would be to conform to a typical pattern of Christian-speak, the kind that seeks to fulfill the duty of intercessory prayer. This appeal is not so much about a check against speaking tired and typical prayers. The appeal here is to adjust where it makes sense and to gain new ground in the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. The appeal is to embrace a wholesome audacity to speak the real concerns of our heart, soul and mind to God in prayer among the brethren.
As the President of Multnomah’s Alumni Leadership Council, I am able to track with some of the young men and women entering into or transitioning out of Multnomah’s soul refinery. If you’re reading in this blog venue, the chances are good that you have been through a similar season of refinement and deployment at Multnomah. You can relate to them. Far be it from me to prescribe what you should speak to God about on Multnomah student's behalf. What is your concern for them? Make an earnest appeal to God about it. Make a connection.
About the Author
David Manning resides in the Portland, Oregon area with his wife Leslie and their three children. David works as a Sr. Business Analyst in an IT environment for a global logistics company. He is currently serving as the President of the Alumni Leadership Council for Multnomah University.