Work and Prayer
The Interaction of Prayer and Effort
Many years ago a friend of mine quoted a little saying about prayer which I still remember: "prayer is work; prayer does work and prayer brings work." I don't know where he got this little gem, but the fact is that it is very catchy. I also happen to believe that it is true, both in the sense that it is biblical and in the sense that it has been demonstrated in my own experience. Here's why:
Prayer is work. Prayer can be difficult for numerous reasons. As you begin, there are immediate distractions. It is difficult to focus on God--after all he is invisible and impossible to represent. Perhaps your body refuses to cooperate due to feelings of hunger, weariness, cramped muscles or just a sense of restlessness. Sometimes you battle with doubt, guilt, apathy, anger or unanswered questions.
Prayer is work because you have to insist on making a place for it in your schedule. Your creativity is sometimes stretched to find a quiet, private place to pray. Not only this, but to pray correctly requires some study of the Bible in order to find out what God's will is on various prayer topics, such as how to address God, the types of things which may be brought before God, the right motives and so on.
Prayer is also work because of the long-term routine required for prayer. To pray now and then is one thing, but to pray daily or at least regularly for years on end is something else again. Over the long-haul, it is hard work to overcome the fatigue and discouragement that sometimes accompany a prayer life which spans many years. Although prayer is often a joy and many times a much-needed release, it certainly involves a certain amount of work.
Prayer does work. I am aware of the skeptical argument that prayer is simply wishful thinking. Skeptics believe that any perceived answers or results of prayer are either coincidental or merely due to a positive mental attitude. To this I would reply that I have personally met many dozens of people who can point to specific instances in which their prayers have been answered in ways hard to attribute to mere coincidence or positive thinking.
Of course this should come as no surprise to followers of Christ. Jesus promised in John 15:7 that if we abide in him, we may ask whatever we will and it will be done. I take this to mean that those whose lives are closely bound up with him will receive what they ask from the Lord Jesus. There are numerous passages in scripture which say, in effect that God has promised to hear people when the come before him humbly and in the name of Jesus.
Serious Christian experience demonstrates as well that prayer actually works. Things happen, people change, circumstances work out which could not have done so on their own. True, God responds in his own way and timing. At times, nothing much may seem to be happening. But he does respond. On the other hand, it is not at all uncommon for God to answer in a way that clearly grants all the specifics we have requested.
Prayer brings work. That is, prayer often spurs the person praying into action. It does this in several ways. First, prayer sets in motion a chain of divinely orchestrated events which require a petitioner to do something. Let us say you are praying for a job. In due time, a job opening comes along. But part of the answer is up to you. You must apply for the position and attend the interview. God doesn't just hand you employment on a silver platter. But what he can do is bring about the circumstances which are beyond your control. Yet, when the moment comes in which this divine circumstance appears, you must act: God will not do that for you.
Secondly, there are times in which God almost interrupts and says, "OK. Stop right there. Don't ask me to do something which you know in your heart that you alone must do. Maybe you are praying for your neighbor who has lost her job. She is facing financial difficulties. Praying for her is a thoughtful thing to do, but if you can personally help her, prayer must wait. Before you ask God to intervene, go buy her some bags of groceries. Fill her tank with gasoline. Give her children Christmas presents. God may be saying, "Yes, I will help your neighbor--- starting with you."
Work and prayer are inseparable. Communicating with God requires some real effort. God really does answer the prayers of his children. Prayer also puts us in a position where we must take a further step to carry out God's will resulting from our prayers. How true it is: Prayer is work. Prayer does work. Prayer brings work.
Find dozens of articles like this one on my website: mbogart.com. Michael Bogart
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