Halfway there: Prayer and participation


Certain songs have a way of sticking with us over time.

The music may enter through our ears, but it is able to bore down and burrow into the very center of our souls. These songs can lie dormant deep within us, often for years, only to emerge at the opportune moment to provide inspiration, insight or encouragement. Many are the songs in my own heart. Some are deep and spiritual. A great many are decidedly less so.

But I’m often surprised at how the seemingly random songs that pop up in my mind speak to me in unexpected ways. One such song that has been reverberating within me is the classic spiritual “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

Of course, I jest. “Livin’ on a Prayer” is not all that old, nor is it overtly spiritual or religious. It is not a song one is likely to hear a church choir or gospel group singing on a Sunday. Though now that I’ve mentioned it, I would be very much interested in hearing such an arrangement.

The song is a love song written and recorded by ’80s rock band Bon Jovi. It is a love song about a couple fighting to stay together through the difficulties of life. I do, however, find the chorus to be profoundly true and applicable to many areas of life, most notably to our faith.

In the chorus, Mr. Bon Jovi sings these words:

Whoa! We’re halfway there,

Whoa oh! Livin’ on a prayer;

Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear,

Whoa oh! Livin’ on a prayer.

Salvation is 100% an act of God’s grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” And faith, by definition, is putting complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

In this case, it is putting our trust and/or confidence in almighty God to care for us according to his grace as made known through the work and person of Jesus Christ and through the continued power and presence of the holy spirit. There are few practices that more clearly demonstrate our faith than prayer. In the storms and struggles of life, the words of the aforementioned chorus feel all too true. We’re “livin’ on a prayer.”

As I was contemplating this chorus, it occurred to me that the first line of the chorus is also true. If we are simply “livin’ on a prayer,” we are indeed only “halfway there.” While our salvation is the free gift of God, completely made possible through his grace and power, faith is not passive. Faith requires action on our part.

In James 2:26, it reads, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” Prayer is a foundational piece of our faith, but it should be a first step in active participation in what God is doing in our lives and in our world.

Faith does require periods of waiting and listening, but faith always and ultimately should lead us to intentional action in obedience and faithfulness to Christ.

Once again, I am drawn back to the song. The chorus claims the couple is “livin’ on a prayer,” but the verses demonstrate what they are doing while they are praying. They are actively doing the hard work of holding onto, loving and caring for one another.

In the same way, it is right for us to call out to God in prayer, hoping, trusting and believing that God will work and move on our behalf. But it is also right and necessary for us to fix our eyes on Christ and do our best to take steps forward in faith that God will meet us where we are and will empower us to persevere through the struggles and storms of life to get us where we’re going.

In conclusion, I offer two encouragements. First, as it says in I Thessalonians 5:17, “…pray without ceasing…” Prayer is foundational to faith. It is not just the starting point of our faith, it is a continued line of connection that enables us to request, receive and perceive the power and presence of God in our daily lives.

And second, don’t use your prayers as an excuse for inactivity. Rather, allow your prayers to be a reminder of your responsibility to cultivate and live your faith.

May your prayers be a call to faithful action. At many times and in many ways, prayer only gets us halfway there.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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