Monday, April 28, 2008

Prayer and Action

Christians have these little sayings that sound more profound than they are, and we tend to repeat them uncritically.

One I hear frequently is, “The most important thing you can do is pray for us.”

Please don’t take me wrong. Prayer is a wonderful thing. One of the great mysteries of life is that God not only allows us to speak to Him, but He even listens and will at times act on our requests.

But Christians often speak (and act) as if, having prayed, you’re now absolved of any further responsibility.

I’ve heard this in relation to missionaries and parachurch organizations: “If you can’t give us money, you can pray, and that is, after all, the most important thing you can do.”

I’ve heard this from people who say they want to take this nation for Christ: Their chosen course of action is to “get together once a month and pray.”

Prayer is terribly important – vital to the Christian life and the work of the church. We must bathe all we do in prayer to ensure that we are aligned with and empowered by God. But if all we do is pray, what we’re really doing is sitting on our butts.

If you see someone who is naked and hungry and only pray for them when you have clothes or food, “what good is it?

In the introduction to Roaring Lambs, Bob Briner points out that, in Acts, before the church did anything, they prayed. He lists 19 such references to prayer in Acts.

The important thing is that, after they prayed, they did something. They did not pray and expect the church to grow. They prayed and then preached. They prayed and sent. They prayed as a preparation to action, not as a replacement for it.

When there is a need and there is nothing we can do, prayer is not inaction. We are taking our needs to the King of the universe – that is no small thing.

But if you only pray when you can give a dollar or write a letter of encouragement or give a blanket or call a Senator, then prayer is truly the least you can do.

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