I saw a post recently telling people that we need to stop praying and start doing. I understand that the purpose of the post was to encourage active service, however, and with all due respect to the author, this is perhaps the worst possible messages the Church could receive at a time like this!
21For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. ~Jeremiah 10:21
I’ve noticed that so many of our brethren yearn to pray but struggle in prayer. Far from discouraging prayer, the Church must be encouraging prayer!
Shepherds who make plans without seeking the LORD “will not prosper”.
I heartily sympathize with the sentiments that “we need to do more”. I remember feeling the same way in college as I looked around and saw the rampant apathy surrounding me. But, again, I want to reiterate that these sentiments are poorly expressed in the statement “stop praying and start doing”. It showed, at least in me, a wrong understanding of prayer. At that time, I had never known what it meant to “travail” in prayer, or strive on behalf of someone in prayer. There is little more you can do that is more “active” than these!
Here our exhortation from God:
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” ~Ephesians 6:18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
Why is it so important to God that we pray?
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Our Father is so greatly glorified in His Son when His Son accomplishes for the children of God what they ask for in His name that He commanded His children everywhere to pray on all occassions!
There is so very little faith in the true power of prayer! And there is so little power in prayer because the hands of the children of God are unclean and their hearts are impure; their lips share both slander and praise, and their hands work both iniquity (tax fraud, cheating, sexual impurity, violence, and slighting) and “service” (helping the poor, etc). This is not honoring to God nor does it bring glory to Him! In fact, the scripture says, “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (Jn. 9:29; c.f. Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 15:8, 29, 28:9).
Prayer is never a passive action. The very fact that it is commonly viewed as passive demonstrates the fact that prayer is greatly misunderstood and there is very little faith in those who pray!
I’ll give an example: why does God exhort us to pray that He would raise up laborers to send into the harvest? He said, “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). This prayer is not a passive prayer! When the children of God have met together in earnestnessto pray for this, God has translated those prayers into callings in the lives of those who prayed! This prayer only becomes passive when those who pray it do not have the faith to believe that God will raise them up as laborers in His harvest!
I have heard people say things like, “well, I’ve always felt called to________, so I prayed that God would send someone there.”
Where was the faith and obedience to the calling? The prayer was passive and so the pray-er was passive.
In addition to this, prayer is not passive because it always requires sacrifice. Offering up the incense (sacrifice) of prayer before God is not merely a beautiful poetic phrase that king David wrote, it is the reality of the effect prayer has on the life of the one praying.
When God raises up His servants for the work He sets before them, does He not also prepare them in holiness, righteousness, love, and zeal for the work that He has now set before them to do?
Another example: hurricane Sandy has hit. Are you praying for the suffering in that devastated area? If you are praying that God will provide for them, will God not also stir it in your heart to help them? But in your praying for those who are suffering, the glory of God is manifested in that His children unite together in this way to help!
There is no limit to the examples that could be given of how important it is that the children of God do notstop praying, but I will stop here with this last one.
Read the following from Luke 18 and notice Jesus’ last words on the subject:
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”
6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
But when Jesus returns, will he really find faith on the earth? Or will men be busy going about the plans that they have made of their own divining without having inquired of the Lord?