The World YMCA/YWCA Week of Prayer

10 November 2016

The World YMCA/YWCA Week of Prayer—Leaving No One Behind

Late one evening while I lay sleeping in bed, I awoke to the buzzing noise of my phone on the nightstand. Blurry eyed I read the text message, “Where in the Bible is the story about the man who couldn’t walk and his friends who lowered him through the roof?  Megan has an assignment tomorrow, and needs to read that particular passage.”  The text was from my sister, and my niece needed it for the Christian Pre-School she attended.  I texted her back, Mark 2:3-12, and she could also find it in Matthew 9:2-8, or Luke 5:18-26, but I preferred the version from the Gospel of Mark.  She thanked me, and I went back to sleep.

The next morning I did my usual devotional time of bible reading, prayer and meditation I call the “Morning Watch,” a term I borrow from John R. Mott, a legendary YMCA leader who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.  He wrote a booklet at age 28 entitled The Morning Watch.

My morning bible reading comes from a Daily Bible, which if you read every day you will read the entire Bible in a year.  The way it breaks down is Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and New Testament readings. The reading for that particular day was, you guessed it—the passage I had texted my sister the night before, which reads:

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:3-12, NIV)

Now, what is even more interesting is that at Church the following Sunday the sermon was on this very passage of scripture.  I realized, by experiencing this faith trifecta, that God was communicating something very special and important to me on the power and value of prayer.  Wait you say, there is no mention of prayer in this passage of scripture!  True enough, but Jesus taught the following, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, NIV).  My point is that it seems to me that the paralytic and his four friends had already prayed.  Let’s look closer at the passage to see the power of prayer at work.

The paralytic man and his four friends knew that Jesus was coming into the area, and they were determined to receive a healing from him.  For the paralytic man this was a prayer of petition (a personal plea to God), and for his friends this was a prayer of intercession (praying for others).  In this passage we see that the power of prayer requires faith in action as evidenced by what the friends of the paralytic did for him.  The book of James explains this best in the following, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17, NIV). 

What were the results of their actions? Jesus saw their faith, and because of this not only was the paralytic completely healed and able to walk again, but his deepest need was met first by his sins being forgiven.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer says the following about praying in faith in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, “It matters little what form of prayer we adopt or how many words we use, what matters is the faith which lays hold of God and touches the heart of the Father who knew us long before we came to him.”  You may think that this was all about the healing of the paralytic, but his friends also received a blessing, as Soren Kierkegaard once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”  These four faithful friends were transformed through the power of their faith and prayer!

Next week the World YMCA and the World YWCA will be celebrating their “World Week of Prayer,” from November 13th to 19th.  We invite you to be transformed by joining a global movement praying for a world that is “inclusive, preserves peace, justice and understanding—and like the friends of the paralytic, ensures we are leaving no one behind. 

You can join this global prayer movement by downloading and following the prayer guide booklet featuring daily scripture readings, reflections, questions for discussion, and prayers for each day of the week.

As we enter this week of worldwide prayer and fellowship let us remember these words, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16).

Chaplain Ed Lee