Wednesday, November 6, 2013
I’ve been thinking about prayer lately … and trying to be more devoted to prayer. (Doesn’t do much good to just think about it!) In a conversation with a friend last week I realized that when I pray, I sense that the Lord begins to put his agenda on my heart through the leading of the Holy Spirit. His ideas begin to flood into my mind. “Call or email this person. See how they are doing. Apologize to this person whom you wronged… etc.” When I pray, I begin moving with him and not apart from him. Not only do I experience this personally but also when I pray with others. Some of my best memories of my early years of marriage were long walks with Julie, where we prayed and talked the whole way. It was as if God was not only a part of our conversation, but in a sense leading it. The three of us talking together in a very natural way as we walked. Boy I need to do that again!
Yesterday the pastoral staff gathered for a morning of prayer together. This was one of the best times I’ve ever had and this is why. It was as if we invited God into the very center of our discussion that morning. We had a lot of conversation (which we always do) but this time we had a real sense that we were on God’s agenda and not our own. It was if we were dreaming his dreams for our church. We didn’t just pray and then get on with business like we usually do. We prayed, talked, then prayed and talked some more, continuing this pattern for the whole morning. Colleague and friend, Dave Wilson came with a plan and led this time, but did so with a real sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading. Thanks to Walt Pitman for making this a priority ever 1st Tuesday of the month!
Mark Brown has done a tremendous job leading our church family through the book of Nehemiah. The pattern we see over and over is pray, plan, act. As part of the leadership of Trinity, I sense that we’ve made a faulty habit of planning and acting without the appropriate focus on prayer. Yesterday was all about prayer; I’m eager to continue on to the plan and act portion!
James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:2–3 ESV) Without pulling this out of context I think we’re safe to say that God wants us to ask for things and for the right reasons. There are two mistakes we make in prayer. First, I think we don’t ask for the things we should ask for. The band Rend Collective Experiment has a lyrical prayer at the end of the song, Broken Bread, that says, “God let your dreams come true through us.” “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, …” (Ephisians 3:20 ESV) We are not bold enough! God invites us to ask and think (imagine and dream), and then promises that he is able to do more than that! God’s agenda is better, bigger and way more exciting than ours will ever be.
The second mistake we make in our prayer life is doing all the talking and no listening. We’re thinking about our passions, asking for the wrong reasons. Praying throughout our day, conversations, or planning meetings, keeps us in listening mode and helps us better align ourselves with God’s will. The practice of continual prayer keeps us from both mistakes. After all, God really is with us. His Spirit lives within us. He wants to be a part of every conversation, every decision. Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18) He tells us that this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus! When we do this, God’s agenda becomes ours, and that’s the ultimate purpose of prayer!