I’m a big fan of prayer. All the time. At work. At home. At play.
Prayer is conversation. When we are in relationship with someone, conversation is a normal practice. Or it should be. If we stop conversing, we put distance between us. Duh.
I’m a fan because I’ve seen it work. Because I hear from God. Because I need wisdom. I need strength. I need to come clean. I need to trust. I need to rely on God. He centers me and gives me perspective through prayer. He helps me recognize his faithfulness as I pray and remember.
The list goes on. And let’s not forget, I pray because God instructs us to many times throughout scripture and it was Jesus’ habit.
I don’t pray about what to clothes to wear. I don’t pray about what to eat. I don’t pray about hygiene choices.
I don’t pray about everything.
It’s not that I don’t want God’s opinion. God speaks to me in other ways besides prayer. Through other valid vehicles.
I don’t need to ask God about what to wear because there are cultural rules, common sense, style, modesty concerns, wisdom, city laws and ordinances, and my own personal style that come in to play there. Not to mention my wife’s tastes and opinions.
It’s not necessary to get on my knees regarding breakfast or dinner. Those choices are sometimes dictated by what’s in the cupboard, who I am dining with, how much time I have, my dietary restrictions, and my cravings. Sometimes I eat too much. My stomach tells me that. And, I feel guilty sometimes because God has already revealed to me in His word I shouldn’t be a glutton.
I don’t pray about hygiene because my stink and discomfort dictate when it’s shower time. Even if my dentist didn’t remind me my health is predicated on good brushing habits, my breath and sore gums would surely give me away.
I don’t get on my knees about every decision I make as a leader.
I was recently challenged on my lack of prayer in decision making. We are starting a short-term meeting for the men of our church upstairs in a coffee shop on Sunday evenings. When we revealed the plan someone asked how God revealed we should do this. I told them it seemed like the right timing, we had a few patterns we are observing that need to be addressed, and we decided, “Why not?” I told them we were willing to give anything a shot for a period of time if all the planets aligned.
Apparently the phrase, “If all the planets align” reeked of some mystical new age sentiment to them though I only used it as an idiom to mean everything seems right surrounding the decision. They asked, “Did you guys pray about it?”
Here’s the thing: We pray regularly for the needs of our congregation, our families, and our city. We ask God for wisdom and direction. He provides answers through wise council, history, personal reflection and past lessons to name a few. We know some choices are better than others based on what we know about our city, our church, our own skill sets and abilities, our own tastes, and the temperature of the congregation. We know what things we should not do because they are either expressly revealed in the Bible (we shouldn’t open a strip club for Jesus), it isn’t our personality, or we are too taxed with our current calendar of events.
So, did we pray about it?
Not specifically at a given moment in time on our knees in a prayer closet with an open Bible. Not about the specific start or end time. Not about the location. Not on a prayer retreat. Not with the entire church. Not with a vote at the end.
We prayed about it on the way.
On the way to paying attention. On the way to listening to opportunities as they present themselves. On the way to engaging our city. On the way while we listen to our people and hear their struggles. On the way to being good human beings. On the way as we invite the Holy Spirit to partner with us and direct our steps.
When it comes to decision making, we want to be able to respond quickly to the Spirit, or to a need, or to our intuition, and that requires us to be constantly in prayer. We pray in advance of any crisis or opportunity so we don’t have to slow down and try to hear from God in order to move forward. That way, when good opportunities come, we can capitalize on them quickly and with confidence.