Practicing prayer when God seems silent

National Day of Prayer was observed on May 7 with thousands of gatherings across America. I had the honor to keynote the Northern Colorado Prayer Breakfast in Loveland. God's oxygen, God's ark, and God's ambassadors were my word-pictures for the day, expanding on NDP's 2015 theme, "Lord, hear our cry" (I Kings 8). We're all grateful for the many times He has heard our cry and we knew it, I said. But what about the times when God's answer is "wait" or "no," or when all we seem to hear is silence? Then we need vividly sustaining images of who He is, what He offers us and requires of us. We need practices to keep us thinking and living prayerfully. I suggested three:

1) Breathe God's oxygen. God's oxygen is spiritual conversation between the Father and his child, you or me. We breathe it in with Scripture and breathe it out with prayer. And it's not optional! To think we can live without it for a day or even an hour is suicidal folly. Nor is God ever really silent to us when we have His written word in the Bible and his incarnate word in Jesus Christ, both constantly speaking to us and feeding us.

2) Build God's ark. God's ark is the visible structure of His truth, His love, His law, and His liberty, anchored for our rescue in a drowning world. Prayer must be not only said, but lived and put into action for our own and others' benefit. That visible structure honoring and reflecting God's order takes form in the church, to be sure, but also in families, schools, businesses, communities, civil and political societies. Our work is to secure them before evil's rising flood submerges everything.

3) Be God's ambassador. God's ambassador is that man or woman who purposefully and fearlessly brings others into the oxygen, into the ark. First the CPR, then the boarding pass. Who is waiting right now for us to get them inhaling and exhaling with Him, then show them aboard his vessel of refuge? Role models in the Bible include Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus (John 1, fairly easy), Philip bringing the Ethiopian to baptism (Acts 8, less easy),and Ananias helping Saul become Paul (frighteningly hard).

"Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, the Christian's native air," says an old hymn. "We enter heaven with prayer." So what are we waiting for? But the initiative is always with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Our own unaided effort is never enough. The breath of life God gave man in Genesis 2 wasn't just molecules of gas; it was that spiritual conversation between Maker and image.

Likewise the restorative breath for dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Likewise the risen Jesus breathing upon his disciples in John 20. With their inspiration and respiration you and I can be energized to breathe God's oxygen, build God's ark, and be God's ambassadors.

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Some us who presented at National Day of Prayer Loveland event. Organizer and chairman Sosamma Samuel-Burnett is at right, John Andrews is next to her.