“Are all the activities that scream for
my attention really essential?” a pastor once asked me. “Am I
missing the burning bush while trying to keep the lawn cut?”
Many pastors lament that too many deadlines, meetings, decisions,
phone calls, and appointments rob them of their prayer times. Facing
a similar dilemma, early church leaders decided to choose others to
handle the details of ministry, so they could “devote [themselves]
to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4, NASB).
For today’s pastor, prayer time gets squeezed out by two cultural
standards: (1) self-reliant individualism and (2) the demand for
measurable productivity. These two values, which greatly shape our
approach to work, place little premium on an activity that seems
passive and difficult to quantify.
The struggle between prayer and “productive work” is as old as
the conflict between Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Industrious Martha
types, however, may be surprised to discover four ways in which
authentic prayer yields much.
Prayer creates a climate for wise decision making. Before Jesus
chose His 12 disciples, He spent the entire night in prayer.
One of the poorest uses of our time is when we spend it trying to
patch up and live with unwise choices. I think of all the
frustration and wasted time I’ve endured when I’ve chosen staff or
lay leaders too hastily. My time would have been spent more
efficiently had I followed Jesus’ pattern.
Prayer helps us focus on priorities. After spending time in
prayer, Jesus’ priorities were clear. Although Peter reported an
emergency—“Everyone is looking for you”—Jesus calmly reported that
He had other matters to attend to (Mk. 1:35-38).
Prayer also forestalls one of the biggest misuses of time and
energy: anxiety. “By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present
your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Most people find that a peaceful state of mind
enhances creative thinking.
Favor with Key People
Nehemiah knew that what he was called to do would require the
blessing and financial support of his authorities. His strategy?
“Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and . . . the
king granted my requests” (Neh. 2:4,8).
Frequently our goals cannot be attained without the support of
others. Countless good ideas have been squelched by superiors.
Worthy projects have been abandoned because key players were
unsupportive. Prayer releases teamwork and unity between those
involved in godly endeavors.
Once I found myself in a situation in which I was being taken
advantage of by a church leader. I complained to my wife for months.
I went to the individual and couldn’t resolve the problem. Then I
read Prov. 29:26: “Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is
from the LORD that man gets justice.” After I prayed this verse,
there was an immediate change. I was amazed at how quickly seeking
justice from God, not human boards and committees, expedited the
Some doors can only be opened through prayer. Many of the
obstacles we face are designed to drive us to Christ. When we humbly
call out to Him, doors that were once closed open miraculously.
Other times, doors of opportunity may be closed due to satanic
hindrances. These blockades require the power of the one we are
serving. Prayer is our means of releasing divine power to push back
When prayer becomes a regular part of our business plans, our
partnership with Christ becomes a reality. Someone once said, “When
we work, we work. When we pray, God works.”
Fueled by Significance
Prayer adds spiritual meaning and purpose to our work. One
complaint heard often among employees is a lack of fulfillment. When
work becomes perfunctory and mundane, low morale and poor time
management set in.
This can happen even to those doing “the Lord’s work.” In Too
Busy Not to Pray, Bill Hybels wrote, “It became obvious to me
that the pace of my life outstripped my capacity to analyze it. It
exhausted me to be constantly doing and rarely reflecting on what I
did. At the end of a day I would wonder if my work had any meaning
The Apostle Paul instructed workers to add spiritual significance
to their labor: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the
Lord, not men” (Eph. 6:7). Talking with the Lord about our
work—whatever it is—is an effective way to shift our perspective
from serving men to serving Him.
We may think that prayer is something we have to “take time” for.
In reality, however, it gifts time back to us plentifully. We really
are too busy not to pray. It’s a very practical idea!
About the Author
DR. JOSEPH (MELL) WINGER is the director of Instituto Biblico, a
ministry of El Shaddai Church in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A man
with a tremendous heart for prayer, Mell was instrumental in the
start-up of Pray!, serving on our local advisory