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We Struggle To Pray Because It Feels Like A Waste Of Time

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By: Chris Martin

One of the authors I coach has a book coming out in September, and we are in the process of ramping up some strategy in anticipation of the book launch. As much as I love serving authors as they serve their readers, the fact is that success is often measured by numbers more than it is measured by how much everyone feels helped.

I can serve authors so well they promise never to publish with another company, but when it comes down to it, blog stats and other metrics matter. How much everyone likes each other doesn’t necessarily measure success.

This is difficult for me.

I am most comfortable when success is measured by how well people are served rather than by how many people are served. In short, I focus on quality over quantity almost to a fault—because metrics and stats do matter, especially when you’re running a business.

Good feelings don’t pay salaries and bills, unfortunately.

Because of this battle with metrics and measures, prayer can feel like a burden. This is a problem.

Why Does Prayer Feel Like a Waste of Time?

Prayer feels like a lack of action, sometimes.

When I am forming strategies and planning meetings to help with a book launch, I think to stop and pray, but it feels like a burden.

Why?

Praying feels like a burden when you’re trying to accomplish a task, like meeting a sales number or a certain number of page views, because praying for God to help meet those needs feels petty and self-centered.

I sometimes think, “Why should I stop to pray for God to help with this project instead of doing more to help the project myself?”

Somehow, in my sin, I think that God doesn’t have any interest in helping with this project.

He has too many sick people to heal and travels upon which he must show mercy—he doesn’t have time for my work project.

This is a lie that weasels itself into my head, and yours too, at times, I’m sure.

The work we do on a daily basis, whether at a construction site or in a cubicle, matters to God. Our work is not divorced from his will and how he is to bring about his plans.

We miss out on engaging with the God of the universe because we think our plans and projects aren’t important enough for his attention, or because we busy ourselves to the point of sinful God-neglect.

Three Simple Prayers to Pray for Your Work

We need to stop and pray for our work. Don’t know how or what to pray? Here’s a start:

1. Give me wisdom.

In the spring of my freshman year of college, I was reading about Solomon and how the Lord answered his prayers for wisdom. I said, “If Solomon did this and the Lord listened, maybe he’ll listen to me,” and he did. God grants wisdom when you ask for it. Ask the Lord for understanding, and trust the Lord to give it to you.

2. Keep me humble.

Humility is incredibly difficult to maintain for anyone, but it becomes even more difficult when the Lord answers your prayers for wisdom. When the Lord gives you wisdom, you will be tempted to glory in yourself rather than God. Resist this temptation, and pray that the Lord would remind you of who you are in light of who he is.

3. Make me grateful.

Praise God for all he has done for you, and ask him to keep your heart thankful, protecting it from becoming entitled. You didn’t earn anything you have. The only way you can enjoy the blessings of wisdom, humility, health, or other such blessings is because of the grace God has shown you in Christ. So, as you pray, praise God for what he has done, and ask him to remind you to praise him when you’re tempted to praise yourself.

Posted by Chris Martin with
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God Is Not Safe

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In Acts chapter 6, one of the first deacons in the church, Stephen, is wrongfully accused of a crime he didn't commit.

He had been testifying powerfully of Jesus resurrection and won many arguments with Jews who opposed him (Acts 6:9-10). They lied, and he was arrested (Acts 6:12).

At his trial, Stephen told the story of the Exodus. He pointed out that God sent Moses to the people of Israel as their deliverer to lead them out of slavery. But time and again they rejected Moses as their leader. 

Moses was the one who foresaw God raising up a prophet like him, Jesus, in the future (Acts 7:37).

Stephen rebuked the Jews saying they were just like their forefathers. Their forefathers rejected the prophet Moses, and now the Jews had rejected God’s prophet and Son, Jesus.

But rather than hearing Stephen's warning, Israel doubled down killing Stephen. They did precisely what Stephen had rebuked them for doing. They rejected another one of God’s prophets.

This is a tragic moment, the first Christian martyr to follow in Jesus footsteps. Another unjust trial happens. God’s message is rejected again.

If I didn’t know what happens next, I would guess that it’s judgment time! Not only did you just kill God’s son, but you keep on killing his followers.

God’s got to stop all this, right? They can’t just get away with this!

But that’s not what happened. At least not immediately. God is a just God. And the Jews who murdered Jesus and Stephen were guilty before Him. But it’s here where God’s ways are higher than my ways, and his thoughts are higher than my thoughts.

Two stories emerge that show God’s wisdom and mercy.

Only God Knows Why

Things don’t immediately get better, and judgment doesn’t quickly come. In fact, things get worse. Great persecution springs up from Stephen’s murder that scatters the Jerusalem church (Acts 8:1).

One of Stephen’s co-workers and likely his friend, Philip was one of those scattered. Imagine yourself in Philip’s shoes. Your friend was just brutally murdered.

You may have even seen it take place. You are in danger, and so is the church you work for. Everyone is panicked and flees from the city.

What do you do? Two words immediately pop into my head — PITY PARTY. Never been a better time for a pity party man. This sucks. I just lost my buddy and my job.

My life is in danger. I think it’s time to crank some Puff Daddy “I’ll be missing you” and sit down and cry for a while.

Maybe Philip did that for a while, but he didn’t stay there. He turned to the Holy Spirit for strength, and he went to Samaria.

This would have been a shocking turn for a Jewish reader. They hated Samaritans. Remember the Samaritan woman with Jesus, "Jews have no dealing with Samaritans." (John 4:9)

So Philip loses his friends and decides to go to his enemies. Only the Holy Spirit would inspire a story like this.

As Philip goes, the Holy Spirit goes with him. And a chapter that started with mourning turns to joy as many people believe when Philip shares Christ with them and does wonders through God’s power (Acts 8:5-8).

When I scream for JUSTICE, God is more concerned with spreading His glory.

When I scream, “God you have to do something.” God whispers back, “I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done. I’m drawing people to myself. I’m showing grace and mercy.”

Stephen's death seemed so pointless and shocking. It must have been incredibly hard for Philip and the other believers to handle. But the Holy Spirit had a joyful purpose in mind.

We don't know why we go through times of suffering and difficulty, but we know our God is wise and merciful!

He’s not who I thought he was

The second story is one you’re likely familiar with and yet no less shocking.

There was a man who had a significant part in Stephen’s murder who wrote two-thirds of your New Testament. Saul who later became known as Paul.

Saul hated Christians. He hated Stephen. He hated Jesus.

He was “dragging off men and women and putting them into prison.” (Acts 8:3)

And after doing it in Jerusalem, decided to track down those who ran away. He got permission and headed off to Damascus to exterminate these Christian pests (Acts 9:1-2)

Saul is not just an unkind person; he is an ENEMY of Jesus and Christians. If anyone deserves the justice of God to swiftly come down and say, “NO MORE!” Saul is that guy.

Will God do something? Surely He is going to step in and stop this. Surely He is going to stop the madness that is happening, the murder and imprisonment of His people. His people who are being treated so terribly!

Yeah God did something. But not what I thought He would do.

He changes Saul to Paul in an instant. Like a snap of the fingers. Boom. He goes from breathing threats against the church, to prostrate on the ground unable to see calling Jesus the LORD.

I didn’t see that coming. Neither did anyone else.

Ananias who God told to heal Saul. He's like "God, you sure you got the right address?". This guy is here to imprison me and possibly have me killed; I think we should maybe heal a different guy (Acts 9:13-14 Elisha Standard Version).

The Christians in Damascus hear him preaching after this, and they’re confused (Acts 9:21). The Greek word is that they were entirely beside themselves and couldn’t explain it.

Jesus disciples…they were afraid to let him hang out with them until Barnabas told them he was cool. (Acts 9:26)

I’m sure the Jewish leaders were confused when they heard about it. Is Saul a Christian? No way bro. Have you met Saul? He hates Christians. He killed a guy because he was a Christian. There’s no way.

God didn’t hear my screams for JUSTICE. Instead, he heard Stephen’s prayer, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60)

And God answered that prayer saving the very man who oversaw his murder.

Guys, I’m not like God. And that’s an excellent thing. And just to be clear, God did show justice; on the cross. My screams for justice were already answered by Jesus.

God is wiser than us. He is more just than we are. And He is far more merciful than we are. I’m deeply humbled seeing how God loved His enemies. God loved his enemies so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for them (John 3:16).

And you know what? I’m one of those enemies that Jesus died for. I’m more like Saul than I am like Stephen. And I’m so lucky that God is not like me.

God gives His Holy Spirit to live inside of and completely change His enemies. And oh what a joy to receive that gift.

Thank you, Father, for showing grace and mercy to those who have opposed you and lived against you like me!

Posted by Elisha Lawrence with

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