Does God have more important things to do?

prayer

Pray without ceasing.

 – 1 Thess 5.7

Have you ever heard someone dismiss prayer with the statement, “God has more important things to do than listen to me”?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

– Phil 4.6

The apostle Paul was extremely clear that we should pray.  A lot.  All the time, even.  And about everything.  So what would lead someone to think that God is too busy or He has more important things to handle than our small little prayers?  It could be any multitude of things:  a false humility, saying that other people are more important so I will not bother Him; a lack of understanding about the nature of God – the simple fact that He is everywhere, all of the time; a lack of understanding about the character of God, that He loves to take care of His children and He actually is glorified by being the benefactor in our relationship!

James, the brother of Jesus, teaches us plainly that,

You do not have because you do not ask.

 – James 4.2

Jesus Himself said,

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

– Matt 7.7-11

But Paul is clear.  We should pray in everything.  Not just in want.  Not just in distress.  With thanksgiving we are to make our supplications known to God.  We should be in constant communication with God, always with a heart of thanksgiving and then making our requests known.  Three types of prayer are exemplified in this one little verse: prayer (constant talking to God), thanksgiving (saying thank you) and supplication (making requests).

And it glorifies God to meet your needs!  To provide a meal, to provide a spouse (or with hold a spouse, if that will bring him more glory), to guide you through trials, to cure cancer, or to let cancer run it’s course and give the ultimate healing through death, and to end wars!

God is sovereign.  He is in control.  And He has ordained to use prayer to accomplish His ends.  And He is magnified in greatness when we ask Him, rely on Him, and trust Him – and He is the benefactor, the provider, the Almighty and all powerful who takes notice of His small, finite children.

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

– 2 Chro 16.9

God is searching out the entire world looking for those who have devoted their hearts completely to Him.  He wants to strongly support them.  Is your heart completely His?  Do you rely on Him and rest in Him?  Do you communicate with Him constantly, with thankfulness, and making your requests known?  No one wants to listen to an ingrate.  Remember His privileges, His blessings, His gifts and thank Him for them.  All the time.  And let Him know your needs and desires!  He is a good father, who knows how to perfectly care for and provide for His own.  Nothing is too big or too small, and He is not too busy.

One thing all Christians should stop saying

 

I am guilty.  If you are a Christian, have spent any time in a church, or have even just had a friend go through a rough patch in life, you are probably guilty too.  It flows off the tongue so easily, but then taking action is so difficult.  When someone is in the midst of deep pain, we are looking for a way to comfort and console him.  We often feel awkward and without an answer to the problem of evil and suffering, so instead of simply listening and grieving with him, we throw out the empty phrase,

 

“I’ll be praying for you.”

 

We said it.  We sound spiritual, we feel as though we have offered a bit of comfort and have given ourselves a graceful exit from the conversation or situation.  We walk away, relieved to no longer be in the presence of the unanswerable and even though we feel badly for the person it slips out of our thoughts while we go on with our busy lives.

 

I was in college.  I had a friend who was going through a hard time, and I told her I would be praying for her.  I walked away and her heartache did not cross my mind again until I saw her a few days later.  When I saw her face I instantly remembered our conversation and I wanted so badly to ask her about any progress and to affirm that I had indeed been praying for her, but the reality was that she and her problem had not crossed my mind.  Even keeping a prayer journal with a list of “prayer requests” had not drawn me to prayer; none more deep than “God help so-and-so”.  I decided then and there that I no longer will make that empty promise.  Instead, when the pleasantry sought to roll off my tongue, I would snatch it up and say, “May I pray for you right now?”

 

Six years later I moved overseas.  I knew – academically – the importance of prayer, I had heard sermons, read testimonies and seen God radically changing and healing people, but prayer was not my default.  I spent a year in language school and I became friends with a couple who was about two months ahead of me in the program.  They are from England and they have a faith the likes of which I have rarely seen.  Finding solace in speaking English, we would get together fairly regularly just to be able to speak without having to utilize every mental faculty and enjoy the company of close-culture friends.  The first time they came to my house, we sat and talked, laughed and had a great evening reflecting on the things that we had been learning and experiencing.  Suddenly, in the middle of dinner, and in response to a small topic – one that was not a pressing need but just light conversation – they said, “Let’s pray”.

 

That felt weird.

 

Why?  Because prayer, to me, was when I woke up, before meals, during my quiet time, before bed, and at prayer meetings and church.  And, of course, on the occasion that I ran into someone who was going through a tough time and I had vowed to pray for them on the spot so as to not lie to them with the empty comfort that I would pray for them when in fact I would not.

 

But then we proceeded to have a lighthearted time of prayer where we laughed – mid prayer – and also lifted up these people amongst whom we lived and with whom we could not communicate.  It was inexplicably refreshing.

 

I was inspired.  I wanted to be like them.  Nearly every time we hung out that type of random, unplanned and encouraging prayer happened.  Never by my initiation, however.  They have a spirituality in which they turn to God – not just in their time of need and distress, but when they are happy, encouraged, thankful, hungry, tired, excited – anything!  They want to interact with God in all things.  And they know that God wants to interact with them in all things.  He is not just a cosmic problem solver.  He is a loving father.

 

“Pray without ceasing.”

 

 – 1 Thess 5.17

 

Praying without ceasing necessarily means you are not asking all of the time.  It is reflecting on and enjoying God for who He is.  It is thanking Him for His provisions, for His faithfulness, for salvation, etc.  It is confessing sin to Him.  It is remembering and interacting with Him as a real and vibrant being.  Children are dependent.  They need their parents to survive, and they ask (sometimes aggravatingly) for what they want and think that they need.  But they also play, cuddle, learn from and are disciplined by their parents.  Do you ever play with God?  Enjoy His company?

 

“…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

– 1 Thess 5.18

 

God hears our prayers.  He loves us as His children.  So let us turn to Him.

 

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

 

– Ps 116.1-2

 

And when we encounter a friend, a fellow Christian, a stranger who is in their time of need, let us remember that we are to:

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

 

– Rom 12.15

 

If someone is hurting, take a moment and pray right there.  Stop lying to people.  And if you truly do pray for someone when they are not around, send them an email or give them a call to check in on them and let them know that you are praying for them.  We feel isolated, alone and uncared for most when we are hurting.  Bringing someone before God is the ultimate blessing to bestow upon someone, and letting him know it has been done or doing it in his presence is dynamic and encouraging.  You do not have to have the reason or an answer to their suffering.  Most people are not looking for an answer.  Just do as God instructs us:  cry with those who cry.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Pray in all things.  Love and enjoy God, and help others to do the same.

 

Prayer

Prayer (Photo credit: Boofalo Blues)

 

Do We Still Have Commandments?

“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances.  But examine everything carefully;  hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

– 1 Thess 5.14-22

Yesterday I wrote on the necessity of devotion to prayer, and I quoted one verse from 1 Thessalonians 5, “Pray without ceasing”.  I love this entire chapter as it is so practical and full of exhortations that are simple.  Well, they are simple in their instructive nature; they are extremely difficult to live out regularly and establish deeply in our hearts.  In these few verses there are fifteen commands:

  • Admonish the unruly
  • Encourage the fainthearted
  • Help the weak
  • Be patient with everyone
  • Do not return evil for evil
  • OR LET ANYONE ELSE return evil for evil
  • Seek everyone’s best interest
  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Give thanks in everything
  • Do not quench the Spirit
  • Do not despise prophetic utterances
  • Examine everything carefully
  • Hold fast to everything good
  • Abstain from everything evil

Being active, in the sense that I implied yesterday, is to engage in active ministry.  There are admonitions, these fifteen for example, which we are to be purposeful about all of the time.  We do not have to pray about whether or not to engage in sin.  We do not have to seek God’s direction or desire for us to rejoice in all of our circumstances.  We should be intentional and single-minded about returning good for evil and looking out for one another’s best interests.

It is so easy to fall off the wagon in either direction.  We can get so distracted by ministry that we forget prayer and we forget these basic precepts for living in community with one another.  We can also get so paralyzed by fear or needing to hear clear directions from the Lord that we sit and wait and do nothing.  But God has given basic instructions for everyone, everyday – such as this list of tenets.  God will direct our steps, and He will reveal specific callings and ministries for our lives.  But in the day-to-day, in the outliving of your ministry, and in your mundane life, these things are the basics that all Christians should do.  Through love for God.

Let’s not wait for special revelation or a special calling to obey.  God has revealed His intention for how we should live with one another, as we see an example above.  He has revealed His will for the world, that we would make disciples of all nations (Matt 28).  Once we get busy about doing what He has already told us to do, with prayer at the foundation, He will reveal and lead us into more service.  For “he who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16.10).

Be Busy About Prayer

“If you want to be busy about something, be busy about prayer.”

– Kay Dewitt

I am a doer.  I like to feel purposeful.  I like to set goals, work hard and see results.  I moved to Denver about 9 months ago and have found a church and am itching to get involved.  The church had a new pastor start just around the time I started attending and we are in the praying phase of seeking the Lord’s direction for the Church.

That is essential, vital, foundational.

I, however, am ready to serve.  To do.  To feel purposeful.

Last week I was meeting with my mentor and we were talking about purposefulness, being useful to the Kingdom and the fact that I want to be more active.  And she made this profound statement, “If you want to be busy about something, be busy about prayer”.

God wants our hearts before He wants our actions.

“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

– Hosea 6.6

He does indeed want our service.  In fact, he has prepared good deeds for us to perform since before the foundation of the world!

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

– Eph 2.10

But He only wants us to perform good works through a heart that is fully devoted and committed to Him.  And that through prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” 

– 1 Thess 5.17

Major movements of God in a city or in our hearts will be predicated by prayer.  He will be glorified in the things that He does.  And He uses His people who are clinging to Him and seeking His plan.  And we can only know His plan by aligning our hearts with His, and we hear His heart through prayer and the study and application of His word.

Therefore we should not be quick to act.  We should be quick to listen.  And slow to speak (James 1.19).  And when we hear, we should be quick to obey!  To act without the instruction or leadership of the Spirit is to try to fill the need to be purposeful on our own.  It becomes all about me, instead of all about God and His plan and His glory.

Therefore, let us be busy about prayer.  Let us turn always, regularly, and earnestly to God to hear His instructions for our lives.  Then, and only then, let us be busy to work.  Don’t just act.  Follow His clear leading.  He will lead us and guide us every. single. day.  And He wants to use us, as we are willing and available!