I recently heard Bob Roberts make the following shocking statement:
“I think all Christians need to pray less. Instead, we need to just shut up and play ball.”
At first, I was shocked, because we so often hear that we need to pray more, and that the kingdom of God advances on our knees.
But then I got to thinking about it. I think that many of us substitute prayer for obedience. We need to pray less and obey more.
Pray vs. Obey?
We know what God wants us to do, but instead of obeying, we pray about it.
Every single one of knows that we are supposed to show love to our friends, coworkers, family members, and neighbors. But instead of actually doing that, most of us pray about it instead.
We say: “Dear God, please help my neighbor with his marital problems. Please help my coworker with her troubled kids. I’ve been praying so long for my father, God. Please do something.”
Does that prayer sound familiar?
Listen to the prayer time in your church this Sunday, or in the Bible Study you attend. I guarantee that in most of these prayer times, someone will pray that God will help the people in your community with their problems and struggles.
Then ask yourself, “What are we as a church, what am I as a Christian, actually doing about these needs ourselves?”
When we pray to God to help others, it is possible that God is “praying” for us to go help others?
How about when someone is hurting, or sick, or in financial need? Do you pray about it, or do you actually help them? What do you think God wants you to do?
Let Me Pray About It
I am constantly haunted by a conversation I witnessed about five years ago between a father and his son. (The father was a pastor, by the way.) I was working at a Bible camp, and we needed some staff for the following week. The son asked the father if he could stay and help out. The father answered, “I’ll pray about it” and walked away.
The son turned to me and said, “That means ‘No.'”
The son had his dad figured out. His dad was using prayer (and God) as a way to spiritualize his own decisions to not grant his son’s requests.
I wonder how often we treat the commands of God this way? Instead of just telling God “No” we tell him “I’ll pray about it.” Prayer, when used in such a way, is a spiritual way of stalling so we don’t have to obey God.
The next time you catch yourself saying (or writing) to someone, “I’ll pray for you” stop and ask yourself if there is something you can actually do for the person instead.