It started with conviction when I heard JD say, “Prayerlessness is the inevitable result of pride or a lack of faith, usually both. You fail to pray, instinctively, because you are too proud to realize you need God or too unbelieving to grasp God’s willingness to help,” in staff meeting. I could no longer chalk up inconsistent prayer to a lack of discipline.
Choosing to follow the church-wide prayer guide, I read Luke 1:8-17 and found myself identifying with Zechariah more than I expected. Zechariah was in his routine of serving God (v. 8-9) while surrounded by people who were praying (v. 10). His occupation and religious duty caused him to miss the worship for the service.
Working in ministry can sometimes make prayer seem redundant, after all, “I already know what God wants me to do today – it’s in my job description and on my calendar.” It can become a mindset of, “Why talk to God when I already know the assignment. When I get stuck, I’ll check back in for clarification and direction.” I have a tendency to view myself as God’s servant more than God’s son (adopted child, little “s”).
But it’s more than that. I also grow comfortable (a nicer word for “pride” per JD’s quote above). I treat God like a mentor more than my Savior. The more I learn about what God wants me to do, the more independent I feel like I can be.
With much of this kind of thinking I quickly reach the point that, like Zechariah, I am surprised and questioning of God’s “interference” in “my” assignment (v. 18-20). Honestly, Zechariah had much better reason than I do. He was struggling with decades of unanswered prayer about the desire for a child (v. 7). I just tend to make second things first.
It struck me how the description of John the Baptist is a part of ministry to which I rarely pay attention. John was to “prepare the way” for Jesus. So much of the impact of teaching and counseling is what happens before the conversation begins. John proclaimed the sinfulness of humanity so that the grace of Jesus would be the answer to the question people were asking. Without the right question, Jesus’ message would have been thought-provoking not life-changing.
This made my subtle pride less subtle. The tasks God gives to us are not side jobs over which we take dominion but cooperation with His moving in the life of people. It is humbling to remember that what I can’t control is so much bigger than what I can. When I grow comfortable with “my assignment” it is because I have shrunk the scope of God’s activity to my life. I merely want to check off that “I did it right, so nobody can get on to me.”
From these points of conviction my prayers centered on:
- Asking God to reverse the way I shrink life and ministry to make it manageable.
- Praying for the events prior to the prayer meeting that God would prepare His people.
- Praying that God would use the events before each ministry task a Summit pastor engages in.
- Reflecting on and thanking God for the number of “coincidences” that made ministry more effective in recent weeks.
- Praying that God would “prepare the way” for the Gospel in places that are hostile to Christianity.
I hope these reflections serve as an encouragement for you to pray and to share with others how God uses prayer to change you and change the world around you.