It's a relief to know that there's at least one thing of which we can NEVER
do... or get... or have to much!
What might it be?
Several weeks ago, I started a series that I'm hoping will be both a challenge and encouragement - it has definitely been a challenge for me - based off of a sermon by the senior pastor at my sending church.
I've identified seven priorities that are absolutely essential - ones that protect me from burnout and the temptation of sin, ones that give me direction and hope for the future, ones that remind me from whence comes any and all measure of progress and success. Those priorities are:
- Growing an increasingly intimate relationship with the Lord by consistently, daily and throughout the day, seeking Him;
- Praying without ceasing (steadfastly, continuously, patiently, powerfully);
- Striving to maintain a good balance between personal growth and service or ministry;
- Welcoming accountability;
- Committing to marriage and family;
- Choosing to be teachable even in difficult circumstances; and
- Determining to be a genuine team player.
Prayer is the second priority. I believe it was Spurgeon who said something along the lines of "We can never pray in excess." Some may disagree, but the older I get, the more I'm convinced that is truth. After all, God, Himself, tells us to "Pray without ceasing!" and if you look carefully into the original meaning of, it means to pray without intermission. In other words, that means to pray without any interval, break or respite in between.
What else does God say about prayer? It inspires hope and encourages (Psalm 43); prayer is a refuge where we can run to enter the presence of God for hope, for care, for comfort and for strength - just to name a few. (Psalm 71) Through prayer, we can both praise and petition (Psalm 71). We should feel the liberty to pray every day, at scheduled times throughout the day, but also whenever God's Spirit compels us to talk with Him, or to listen to Him (Psalm 55:16-17). He longs for us to cast the heavy things of this life on His capable shoulders and trust Him (Psalm 55:22). And He promises that when we pray for things in His name, according to His will, He will answer - so we have that confidence each time we approach prayer (John 15).
How do we know if we are praying according to His will? First, we have to make spending time with Him, intentionally seeking His presence, a priority. Jerry Richards defines ungodliness as characteristic of those who live their daily lives with very little thought or consideration of God and what He might think. Thus, to know what pleases God, we must be spending time with Him, in His Word and allowing Him to disciple us. I also love this quote by Dutch Sheets: “Prayer is not a check request asking for things from God. It is a deposit slip – a way of depositing God’s character into our bankrupt souls.” Prayer changes us.
Prayer should guide our strategic planning: Just as the ant prepares, the rabbit anticipates, the locust organizes and the spider remains determined - we are first to see these examples in Scripture; then we learn them and apply them. This drives our vision to reach future generations for God - it must flow out of hearts who love and long to pray (Proverbs 30:24-28).
The really unbelievable thing is that what is mentioned in the above verses is barely the tip of the iceberg of all that God's Word shares about prayer and its importance.
What prevents us from spending significant time, then, under our knees? As Charles Stanley has said more than once: "God's voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamour."
We get so busy or so tired or so distracted that we really believe we don't have time to pray. We begin to think like a "practical atheist," and relegate prayer to the realm of those who have nothing better to do, a great ministry for the bed-ridden, home-bound, or others who can't do what we qualifiy in our minds as "real ministry." We don't actually sound a whole lot different from Madalyn Murray O'Hair: "An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated." The world has convinced us... Satan has blinded God's people so that prayer is trivialized and less important than some other priorities. We forget the truth that the Spirit laid upon the heart of Oswald Chambers and which he later penned for all of us to benefit. Chambers believed that "...prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."
It comes back to that truth my pastor started off saying at the very beginning of his sermon: "Work like it all depends on you; pray like it all depends on God."
Or perhaps even more compelling, look at Hudson Taylor's thought on this subject. "I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working."
If you want to live it, you must believe it.
Do you have any testimony of how you've seen, very specifically, God work to answer one of your prayers?
Series: Longevity in Ministry
1. Just Think About a Horseshoe, 26/07/2014
2. Trusting in the Sufficiency and Sovereignty of God, 09/08/2014
4. The essentials? Or merely superfluous? 13/09/2014
5. Habituate yourself? 27/09/2014
Italicized words are from my notes or from the guided notes in the church bulletin
and are, to the best of my recall, actual content from the sermon.
The rest comes from my continued study and meditation prompted by that sermon.
To listen to the actual sermon "Start, Run and Finish Well," click here.