I know, I know: the title of this post sound sacrilegious. But I'm not trying to be. I'm saying this respectfully when I say that I've recently become aware that I'm praying too much and not acting enough. ( I don't mean acting as in pretending or prancing around on the stage, either).
Here's just a little example of when praying could mean laziness or foolishness. We have our house listed for sale. There's a nice little sign out front telling the world that we're interested in selling our house. We are also Christians, so that means we are probably also praying that our house sells. Christians are supposed to "let our requests be made known to God"(Phil. 4:6). I think most Christians are pretty good about talking to God about all their problems and requests. I do that type of thing pretty well.
But what we also need to be doing, beyond praying about our house selling, is making it sell-able. I don't think God is going to do that part for us, no matter how much we request that He do. Though we did a lot of work on the interior, it's not the interior of the house that you first see when you drive by. Our driveway needs patching and a new top coating. We have more landscaping to do. One nice agent said that it has "a rather alpine feeling to it". That's a nice way of saying that we're covered in brush and trees.
We've got work to do if we want to get this house sold. That's just the plain hard truth. And that hard truth has recently been showing up in our life over and over again. Many of the things we want to progress in and change about our life have to do with the actions we will be taking, not the prayers we will be praying.
I do mean that literally. Most of the things that will physically change in our life ( our weight, our bank account, our jobs, our meals that we eat) all have to do with physical actions we take. Prayer might motivate these actions, or prayer can even sometimes spiritually hinder our actions. Well, not exactly Prayer itself- but what we think Prayer is and what Prayer does.
When I read Self-Help books, I'm always reading with an eye for what "the Christian" would say when reading statements about progress, change, behavior, action, goal setting. For many Christians, these words shock us or offend us. These words don't sound spiritual. They sound man-oriented, and we know we are supposed to be God-oriented, Faith filled, spiritually minded people. Do spiritually minded people make goals, plan ahead, make money, grow businesses? There's a debate about that. There's so much spiritualizing that goes on whenever talk turns to money, earning money, planning for business success, etc.
Want to make people squirm a bit? Try telling them that you are a committed Christian and you are a seeking to make more money. Or try telling them that you are reading the Bible and also reading 101 Ways to Grow a Multi Million Dollar Business- and that you're getting a lot out of both books. (And no,I'm not reading that book...yet- I just made it up. But something close to that title probably exists).
In this Chapter that T Hard Eker writes about playing the role of victim, he talks about Victim Clue #2: Justifying. He's a straight shooter. Listen to this:
"Rich people understand the importance of money and the place it has in society. On the other hand, poor people validate their financial ineptitude by using irrelevant comparisons. They'll argue, 'Well, money isn't as important as love.' Now is that comparison dumb or what? What's more important, your arm or your leg? Maybe they're both important."
I immediately thought of the many times I've prayed about something or heard about a friend praying about something- as though only prayer were needed. Have you ever heard a Christian say they're praying about a problem- and then months later you ask them how they're dealing with that problem, and they tell you they're still praying about it?! Maybe prayer and action are both needed here! But that's sometimes a tough thing for Christians to deal with.
She's so heavenly minded, she's no earthly good- ever hear that saying? It's a terrible indictment of any faith-professing Christian. Earth is where we need to be doing some good, 'cause Heaven doesn't need our help. Earth is where we need to be praying up a storm- and acting, in faith, because we have prayed.
Let me put another little blurb from Eker here: "Listen up, my friends: Money is extremely important in the areas in which it works, and extremely unimportant in the areas in which it doesn't work. And although love may make the world go round, it sure doesn't pay for the building of hospitals, churches, or homes. It doesn't feed anybody. Not convinced? Trying paying your bills with love."
Or in my case, try fixing my driveway with Prayer. Or try "bathing it in prayer", as we like to say. Hmmm. It still looks like a mess. The sink hole at the end of our driveway still is there. It's not as bad as the huge hole in the library's parking lot. That hole is so big they put orange cones around it and I don't even think that is warning enough, because if your car drove over that hole, you'd wind up in China- that's how bad it is!
So all this to say that Prayer is always good. Always. It's just that Prayer, by itself, is not always enough. At least, by that I mean, what we think Prayer is. We think it's talking to God about things and then God starts his heavenly fixing and arranging and orchestrating of events while we wait patiently- and maybe put a few orange cones around the problem so no one falls into it while we are waiting for our answer to prayer.
But that's a bit infantile of an understanding. Just like we can't deposit "love" into a bank account and expect to receive green bills in return, we can't just pray about things and then expect an answer to drop from the heavens.
We need to pray. And then we need to get to work. Whatever the work is, that's involved in the answer, you'll know. You'll know by the size of the problem and by the way it screams out for you to do something. Start with something simple, like seeing that the problem is there. Add some protective cones circling around it while you debate and pray and think about what to do. But don't wait too long. The hole will not fill itself.
The smelly problem does not get bathed in prayer and then miraculously stink no longer. No, the problem requires an answer. An answer usually involves action, of some kind. And maybe that's where we can start to see that not only though we prayed, but because we prayed, that we have work to do.