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The Hidden Efficiencies of Prayer

Issue 15
Four Reasons Why we’re too Busy Not to Pray

Joseph (Mell) Winger
Nov/Dec  1999

“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.

Inspired Decisions

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 solution.

Open Doors

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 these forces.

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 at all.”

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 board.

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