When was the last time you used the word fervent in a sentence? I can’t remember either. So when I was looking for verses about prayer and rediscovered our verse in James, it should probably come as no surprise that I got stuck on that word. What does it mean? What does it mean to pray fervently?
As is my pattern, I went to dictionary.com to look up this unused and unfamiliar word. There I found that to be fervent is to mean imassioned, passionate, or ardent. That definition, of course, led me off to quickly find out what ardent means. Ardent is defined as intensely devoted, eager, or enthusiastic; zealous. Each word defined the other.
Initially I wondered if the intensity that was being described was to define the action of praying. As if something about the way I pray would bring about more positive results. I’ve heard stirring prayers in different worship settings that have left me feeling that perhaps my prayers weren’t “good enough.” Perhaps I just needed to get louder, pace around, and wave my arms at the heavens. Afterall, isn’t that a more accurate portrayal of Jesus’ intensity in the garden. He was so intent in his praying that he sweat drops of blood. That sounds pretty fervent to me.
All this thinking about fervent prayer reminded me of a very special thing that happened at a church I attended back in the 90’s. My primaray “assigned” ministry was chaplain at an agency that worked with out of home placed kids, but I was also a part of a pastoral team at my church. Our beloved pastor was going through a very rough time with the ravages of cancer. In our congregation there were three persons who had served as senior pastors, myself included, so we had been directed by the district leadership and the local board to divide up the pastoral duties to cover for our ailing pastor.
This was a very emotional time for our church, but it also turned into a very dynamic time of spiritual growth and maturity. No place was this more obvious than in our times of prayer. You want to talk about fervent? Our intense prayers for our pastor and his family spilled over into earnest prayers for our congregation. Then I happened to be covering in the office and I noticed that this experience didn’t stop at the walls of the church or its parking lot. Calls started coming in from individuals in the community who had heard that we were a “praying church” and they wanted add their concerns to our prayers. Members of the congregation were stopped at the grocery or Walmart by friends and acquaintances and asked to pray for needs and situations.
One Sunday worship as we were preparing for the congregational prayer time we stopped and reflected on this. The congregation had always wanted to make an impact in the community. Now they had. So what would they do with it? We chose to keep praying.
So where was the passion and intensity in our prayers? It wasn’t about noise or motion, it was about a deep desire to reach the heart of God with the things that mattered to our hearts. That’s what I’m hoping to find again. It’ll be exciting to see what else will be affected in my life because of this commitment to Pray First this year…but I will be ardently seeking to find out!