Many people limit prayer to their understanding of what is “spiritually important.” They don’t want to bother God, or they don’t think God is really interested in everyday matters.
What, then, do we make of Jesus’ words, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).
Here’s my working principle: If it matters to me, it matters to God.
So how do we apply this to our daily responsibilities?
What burden(s) do you feel as you live for the Lord in daily life?
One significant aspect of my vocation is communicating God’s Word through preaching, teaching and writing. The burden of this responsibility has grown as I’ve seen how powerless I am to change human hearts and minds. I may be interesting or even inspiring for a moment, but that falls far short of “taking every thought captive to obey Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
My work as a pastor is like many other careers. There is, however, a unique dynamic to ministry that affects us all, whether we serve as “volunteers” or as our vocational calling. It’s expressed well by P. T. Forsyth (1848–1921), a Scottish theologian.
The work of ministry labors under one heavy disadvantage when we regard it as a profession and compare it with other professions. In these [other professions], experience brings facility, a sense of mastery in the subject, self-satisfaction, self-confidence; but in our subject [of ministry], the more we pursue it, the more we enter into it, so much more are we cast down with the overwhelming sense not only of our insufficiency, but of our unworthiness.
No wonder Paul asked, “Who is sufficient (competent) for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
I have found hope in Jesus’ words to his disciples, “When they drag you into their meeting places, or into police courts and before judges, don’t worry about defending yourselves—what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes” (Luke 12:11-12, The Message).
Based on this promise, I have developed a prayer that has energized my preparation and presentations for many years. “Lord, give me what you want to give me for your people.” And before I speak, I pray, “Lord, give us what you want to give us in this time.” (I mentioned this briefly in my blog “Pray with Open Hands,” September 23, 2019).
It’s a joy hearing people comment, “That message (blog, teaching) was just what I needed. I felt like you were speaking right to me.”
Recently, I spoke at a men’s gathering at our church we call Man Night. The next day I received this email:
Doug thanks for last night. After a very long day yesterday, while getting the kids off to the High School group and my wife off to her Bible study, I told her I was fried and would probably skip Man Night. I was worn out and just not feeling it for some reason. Then God tapped me on the shoulder, telling me I ought to go.
Then this man, whom I’ll call James, described how he remembered my talk was on staying motivated as Jesus’ disciples—and that he really needed motivation. In my talk, I presented Jesus’ strategy of invitation, not condemnation. I departed from my notes and made some applications to parenting. I shared how it’s easy for parents to become anxious and pressure our children. We condemn them instead of discovering how to invite them into God’s better way. “James” continued his email:
I feel like we’re continually condemning our high schoolers, which just causes more of arguments. So, the power and confidence to back off on the condemnation and instead model Jesus, guiding more through grace, like the examples you gave, was powerful medicine. Thanks be to God.
So, I came for one message, but was moved by another that I wasn’t thinking about, but I really needed help with. Sounds just about the way God works. Sometimes the most important thing is just showing up.
I had not planned to speak on parenting, but that was what the Holy Spirit gave me to give these men, especially James.
Prayer can empower us to fulfill the most significant responsibilities of our lives.
The Lord is ready to give his blessings to others through us. The big question is: Are we ready to receive them and pass them on?
“Lord, give us what you want to give others through us. In the strong name of Jesus. Amen!”