For many years while in ministry, I was focused on devoting all of my energy, all of my talents, and all of my gifts into creating a good work structure and sound policies and guidelines. But over the last 10 years, I have come to see that structure and policies are not enough for spiritual breakthrough. One day not too long ago, I was praying and reflecting on my desire to see more breakthroughs in our ministry and this analogy came to mind.
- Can a person live without arms?
- Can a person live without legs?
- Can a person live without arms and legs?
- Can a person live without a heart?
While a person can live without arms or legs, a natural life is not possible without a heart. And it was at that time that I sensed God impress this upon me, “Prayer is the heartbeat of ministry and without prayer a ministry is simply a project.” While I can be effective in ministry with the resources I create or the initiatives I undertake, prayer is the key to seeing spiritual walls come down, people set free from struggles and addictions, and human hearts transformed by the power of God. And while this new insight was good for me to have, I knew that a change was going to be required in the way I see prayer and the way I approach it. I knew that it was going to impact not only the ministry I lead but my personal life as well. I knew that I was being challenged to begin to see prayer as more than just an occasional activity I do before I eat, or when prompted by someone or some meeting. Prayer is a lifestyle. When I look at my current prayer life, either in ministry or in my personal life, I see several areas that need growth.
I like to be in control
I often find myself wanting to control people and situations. But as Andy Stanley says, “You can’t control people or situations, but you can influence them.” How then can I influence people and situations? Well, prayer is a good way to accomplish that. Prayer is a petition to God and a trusting in His work even when I don’t see it or feel it. I find comfort in the words found in Isaiah 14:24,
“Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.”
I find it hard to trust
Even though I know that God’s ways are above my ways and that His ways are best, I find it comfortable and easy to trust in my own methods and ideas. I find that giving up control and trusting God is hard because it clashes with my pride and desire to having everything figured out. I often wonder how many times I could have saved myself pain and hurt if I had simply prayed and trusted God for the next step in my life? I have learned that in the marathon of life it is better to have patience along the way rather than rushing to the finish line with regrets. May the words found in Romans 15:13 encourage you,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I find it easy to be lazy when it comes to prayer. There is always another project to work on, another email to answer, or another meeting to attend. And while going about daily ministry activities is not a bad thing, it can serve as a stumbling block to a consistent and deep prayer life. All we need to do is look in God’s Word to see that a deep and consistent prayer life is something that some of the great heroes of the faith struggled with (i.e. the apostles falling asleep in the garden). Laziness is no excuse to miss out on the opportunities to partner with God and the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are encouraged as believers to,
It will change me
Sometimes I have only looked at prayer as an opportunity to ask for God’s “conviction and change” to come upon the person I was praying for, whether in ministry or personal relationships. Perhaps you have prayed like I have before along the lines of, “God, please help this person see that they are wrong.” While I do believe in the power of prayer to convict and change, I am learning that when I pray like this I often end up being the one convicted of holding onto un-Christlike feelings or thoughts. Sometimes I have avoided prayer as I would rather see God change others than be reminded of the change that could take place in my own heart. But in God’s Word I am reminded of this truth in Psalm 51:10,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
I believe that this world doesn’t need to see more faith-based projects. It needs to encounter more ministries and believers with a heart for prayer, a lifestyle of prayer and a commitment to prayer. While it is human nature to complain, it is Godly character to pray. I sense that God is not calling me into more activity but rather into deeper intimacy and relationship with Him. May the following quote challenge and inspire us into cultivating and nurturing a more consistent prayer life,
“We pray for an answer as soon as possible, but God may be asking us to pray for as long as it takes.”
(The Circle Maker)
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