The increasing onslaught of the Covid-19 disease and all the matters arising has the world on tenterhooks. There is hardly a facet of life as we know it that has not been impacted. One of the first casualties in times of a pandemic is the economy. Reduced to its lowest common denominator many families and individuals have had what was perhaps and already tenuous financial base further shaken. As a result, there is a large swath of the population in financial crisis. Christians are not immune to this reality. The faith of many is under threat, the allegiance to God for many is under fire and some have simply given up already.
How should a Christian pray in times of financial crisis? I’d like to share a few thoughts with us which will hopefully stir up our pure minds and rekindle our faith in He who has promised and is faithful to his word.
Author and Youth Trainer, Tim Elmore in grappling with the manner of prayer in critical times coined the term pivotal praying. He says, “Scripture tells us to“pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). However, there are certain times when “what” we pray and “how” we pray are more critical because of the “when.” The moment introduces a threshold for significant change.” Such is the threshold that is upon us in the Corona Virus epoch. In furthering this point, Elmore points out that when Jesus was about to face the cross he recognized that this was a time to contemplate how to pray.
Elmore observes“Jesus demonstrated pivotal prayer. John 12 describes how He faced the final hours of His earthly life. The reality of a painful, brutal cross loomed before Him. He was in anguish. The Scriptures tell us His emotions were so intense that He sweat “great drops of blood.”
So how did He pray? Recognizing the pivotal moment, He prayed, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?
To help answer the how question let’s reflect on a period of financial crisis in the New Testament and note how the brethren there responded as a guide to how our prayers should be framed in such times. The text is 2 Corinthians 8: 1 – 7
2 Corinthians 8 English Standard Version (ESV)
We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor[b] of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you[c]—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
The first observation on how we should pray during a financial crisis is the prayer of surrender.
Paul was struck by the actions of these brethren during a time of financial crisis. He said, this, not as we expected. I suspect that this too is not what you were expecting to hear in a sermon on this topic right? Paul says of them, but they gave themselves first to the Lord…”
This is the definition of surrender. They first gave themselves to the Lord, they placed themselves as God’s disposal. This is no light matter. In the model prayer, which, I must remind us was Jesus teaching his disciples HOW to pray, Jesus emphasizes the importance of surrendering ourselves to God. In the words, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are affirming our willingness to allow and participate in God’s sovereign rule on earth. The commitment of Jesus to this is epitomized when he expresses in Gethsemane, not my will but yours be done.
We must recognize that at the heart of any prayer during financial crisis is the matter of stewardship. The prayer of surrender begins with our stewardship of ourselves and God’s material resources. In giving ourselves to God we are expressing our acceptance that we don’t belong to ourselves, but rather we belong to God. David reminds us of this in Psalm 24, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it, the world and all who dwell in it. It all belongs to God.
To pray in a financial crisis then is to pray in surrender to God’s will. It is to think God’s thoughts and be willing to surrender to them. It may mean hearing God say you need to budget, or you need to make a budget and stick to it. It may mean hearing that too many things on your shopping list are wants and not needs. It may mean hearing God show you the ways in which you have been wasting money. This is unnerving for many, and it is not the kind of thing one expects to hear. Certainly, it doesn’t fit nicely with the dominion kind of prosperity teaching. Are you prepared to pray like this?
Secondly from our text to pray in a financial crisis is to ask God to open our hearts to generosity from our lack. Our text speaks plainly of this, and in a remarkable manner. Watch this, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor[b] of taking part in the relief of the saints
They overflowed in a wealth of generosity. Wow! Did you see that? Nowhere in our capitalist, the market economy is generosity defined as wealth. This is totally counter-cultural! [Again notice that this is the kind of thing that can only emerge from a heart that has been surrendered to God].
They gave according to their means- no matter how little you have in your financial crisis, you have something. This is a hint that prayer in such times should include a moment of thanksgiving from a place of gratitude.
It also means that prayer in such times involves an opportunity to participate. In fact notice, Paul said they begged to be allowed to participate. It is very easy for us to exclude ourselves from generosity when we are in lack and seek to justify this by the fact that we have just a little.
They gave beyond their means- This is mind-blowing. How does one give out of their nothingness? We keep going back full circle to answer number one. They had given themselves to God. Notice that Paul says they gave themselves first to God and then by the will of God to us. It is abundantly clear that God’s will for his people in times of financial crisis is that they bless each other.
I suspect these brethren may have heard of the widow of Zarephath’s example. This widow was down to bare bones when the prophet Elijah visited. Yet she didn’t hesitate to offer her last scraping of flour and oil to make him a meal. 1 Kings 17:7-16. For her surrendered life of kindness, she was blessed with an unending supply of food to last her throughout the drought. You see friends It’s in giving to others that God replenishes what we do have.
- Graham Scroggie. “There are two ways in which a Christian may view his money–“How much of my money shall I use for God?” or “How much of God’s money shall I use for myself?”
Does your giving to others reflect a heart of gold or a heart of copper? Giving under duress is a heart of copper. Giving with the kind of joy that the brethren from Macedonia gave is a heart of gold.
Those who have journeyed through the prayer of surrender will see the world around them as God sees it. There will be solidarity, fraternity, and co-dependency that will enlarge the heart so that even our of the crisis of things will emerge a willingness to give like the Christ of things.
I can never understand a person who claims to be touched and transformed by God’s grace and generosity can end up being mean and stingy. I fail to understand it. The greatest joys in life are found in giving not receiving. Indeed, I find all this modern talk about being blessed and highly favored or too blessed to be stressed to be misplaced for it focuses too much or almost exclusively on oneself. We are blessed to bless others. God gets the greatest glory from our lives when we pour out our lives as a drink offering to others for His Kingdom and glory. If the cross of Jesus means anything to us surely it must mean that we are to consistently sacrifice our lives for others for the glory of God
Our final observation on how to pray during a financial crisis from our text is the prayer of dependence on God for His bountiful provision or supply despite the challenges.
Watch the text again. Paul opens with We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia and at verse 7 he again refers to grace. Through the churches, inclusive of the one at Macedonia that shines bright here in our text the financial plight of the Jerusalem church was alleviated. God’s grace was the one orchestrating it. I have deliberately taken this less beaten path because it would be typical to place this point first. Notice that in Jesus’ model prayer, surrender comes before the petition for daily bread. God is fully equipped to meet our financial needs.
Our prayer during such times must be saturated in faith that God can. His grace is poured out upon us and there is nothing that we lack which he is not capable of providing. This prayer then is one of affirming our hope in God to whom the earth belongs.
It is God. Not the president, not the folks on Wall Street, nor the investment bankers, not the oil cartels, not the stock gurus who control finances.
Jesus describes himself to John in Revelation as the one who holds the key to the treasury of David, opening doors that no one can shut, shutting doors that no one can open.
It is easy to speak of faith when we have job security. Can faith sustain you in a financial crisis? This is where the rubber hits the road. Can you declare with confidence that my God shall supply all my needs according to his glorious riches and hold on to that when the deadlines for multiple bills are approaching? This is the kind of dependence on God that the Macedonians exhibited in their desire to bless the others in the same crisis. This is how we should pray.
PRAYER: Lord you are the one who owns it all. Our lives are in your hands. The future is already known to you. You have told us not to fear little flock for it is your good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. In financial tumultuous times our humanity gets the better of us. Lord we believe, strengthen thou our unbelief. We give ourselves to you anew, indicating you as Lord of our lives, our resources and our materials. Open our eyes to those around us that we can bless, even out of our little. Give us the grace of giving and the grace to trust your grace. Amen.