How God Brings Unity Through Prayer
The Power of Prayer
By Karen McNary – BSF Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community
Political unrest. COVID. Natural disasters. Economic uncertainty. Church splits. Divisive issues are limitless. While the specifics may differ in each culture, none of this is new to God. We discover this truth while reading Israel’s history. In BSF’s study, People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided, God’s people failed to follow His commands individually and collectively. Rather than be a blessing to the nations, they found themselves in a chaotic, divided kingdom.
The reason for our turmoil today is the same — sin. So is the solution — prayer. God states this clearly in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
God knew His people would fail, sin, and disobey Him. And in His goodness, He offers us the way back. Despite present circumstances, God can and will unite His people when we humble ourselves and pray.
How should we pray?
Early in my Christian life I found prayer challenging. In my experience, it was done by a gifted church member who prayed extemporaneously and sounded like a beautifully written psalm. Then there was prayer before meals and before bed. For me, this was a perfunctory monologue rather than a heartfelt dialogue.
But I’ve come to realize that prayer is talking with God about any and everything, both personally and corporately. When God’s people speak to Him in prayer, He responds. God still speaks primarily through the Bible, though sometimes He also may also use circumstances or people.
Prayer is as unique as the individuals who are praying. Prayer takes on many forms, from liturgical to extemporaneous, and we will not always be uniform in how we pray. Why we pray differs as well. Throughout Scripture we see prayers for guidance, lament, wisdom, praise, and many others. Each prayer has its own unique posture. In 2 Chronicles 14:11, Asa prayed in desperation, in 1 Kings 18:37, Elijah prayed in expectation, and in Lamentations, the author composed prayers through poetry. Though their method of prayer was diverse, God’s people were, and are, united in their need to pray to the one true God of heaven and earth.
What happens when we don’t pray?
A verse from the hymn What A Friend We Have in Jesus sums it up nicely:
“What peace we often forfeit, what needless pains we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
In 1 Kings 12, we read about the painful consequences of neglecting to seek God in prayer. King Solomon’s son Rehoboam ascended to the throne. Faced with potential rebellion, Rehoboam consulted the elders and then his peers, but he neglected to pray. Following the advice he wanted to hear, Rehoboam pushed the nation of Israel into rebellion. The people rebelled and claimed Jeroboam as their king, dividing Israel into two kingdoms; the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Tragically, Jeroboam also neglected to pray. This led both nations down a dark path for generations.
Two kings. Two nations. No prayer. No peace. Could this pattern be said of Christians today? Lack of prayer has personal and corporate implications.
Corporate prayer unites God’s people
Years later, King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced a national crisis. After years of peace, several neighboring countries prepared to attack. 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 records, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
Jehoshaphat’s first response was prayer, and together, the people united before the Lord. While I am sure they were divided in how to respond to the national crisis, prayer united hearts to God and to each other. He sought the Lord first, the nation prayed, and God won the battle. I wonder how many outcomes would differ, and how many hearts would unite if this was the normal response of Christians to crises? God blesses unity.
Individual prayer promotes unity
As both faithful and rebellious kings reigned in Israel and Judah, God sent prophets to speak on His behalf. These prophets were faithful men who continued to share God’s truth. They preached salvation and unity for those who would repent and turn to God. Despite their message of hope, they were despised and hunted. How did they persevere? These men prayed. Through prayer, their hearts remained tender toward God’s people.
When division threatens God’s people today, we can pray for one another. Through individual prayer for others, even those we disagree with, God softens our hearts and gives us renewed patience.
Prayer matters because we live in a fallen world where sin affects every aspect of life. But Christians have a powerful weapon which is often underutilized. Each of us has a choice. We can continue trying to repair our divided “kingdoms” today on our own or humble ourselves and pray. May we be a people that come together to seek the Lord united through prayer.
Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community
Karen served as a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, Teaching Leader, Area Personnel and most recently as a Skills Coach for BSF prior to joining the staff in April 2021. She is originally from Louisville, Ky. and for the past 20 years has called Charlotte, N.C. home. She has been married to her husband, Keith, for 27 years. They have three sons who attended the BSF Student Program.
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