“I’ll pray about it.” “I’m praying for you.”
Ever heard someone say those things? In particular how many Christians have you heard say those things?
I imagine you have. I have said those things. I have heard them.
The problem is that its usually fluff. How often do you ask someone to do something important and they respond with “I’ll pray about it…”? What they are really saying 99% of the time is, “no.” They’re using God and the appearance of spirituality to make excuses.
There may be legitimate reasons to say, “no.” But what stops us from saying, “no, because ___”? That’s much more honest.
My pastor (Darryl Elledge) has spoken about this often. But last Sunday he added this statement: “Prayer should never be an excuse for inaction.” That statement has a lot more layers to it than just trying to appear spiritual.
Prayer is a great thing, when we actually do it. But if you say you’re going to pray for a friend or a situation and then you don’t, you have lied, broken a promise, and you have used prayer as an excuse for inaction.
Prayer is a GREAT thing when we actually do it. If you say you’re going to pray for or about something, and you actually do, great. But how long should you spend on your knees before you get your hands dirty?
Christians that perpetuate the “christian bubble” problem drive me absolutely nuts. The thinking is that the world has gotten so bad that we can’t possibly live authentic Christian lives while also authentically engaged with the world around us.
When asked for solutions for how to make the world better, they offer two things:
What GARBAGE!? Christ’s last directive to his disciples was to GO (Matthew 28:19). You can’t do that when you completely cut yourself off from the outside. Jesus also said that whatever we have done to serve the least fortunate, that we have also done for Him (Matthew 25:31-46). I am pretty sure that means we have more options than just prayer for serving our community.
We should be feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and loving our neighbors.
We need to pray for our communities, but at some point we also need to get off our knees and get our hands dirty.
Most of Darryl’s examples of prayer-as-an-excuse have been in this category. It happens whenever a leader notices that someone in their congregation is good at or talented at something, asks them to serve, and the person responds with “I’ll pray about it.”
Why not just be honest and say that you don’t want to? It is perfectly okay not to want to. Sometimes in church life you need do do things that you don’t want to, but that is the exception, not the rule.
When you are asked to serve your church, it is okay to say no. It is okay to say that you don’t want to. It is okay to say that you have other priorities. But keep this in mind: you get out of it what you put into it. If you won’t serve your church, don’t expect much from the church. Your eternity is secure as long as you believe in Christ, but this life can be hard without the deep friendships you’ll build in your church.
We need to pray for our church. We need to pray for how we can serve our church. But we eventually need to get off our knees and get our hands dirty.
I’m going to paraphrase what Darryl said on Sunday here. I didn’t come up with this, but it is worth repeating.
It is not in the bible, but there is a saying that “God helps those who help themselves.” That doesn’t mean God favors those who are arrogant, presumptuous, or thieves. It means that God will often make of the gaps between our needs and our abilities after we have tried something.
If you need change in your life, you certainly need to be praying for that change. But get off your knees and get your hands dirty.
If you need a job, don’t just pray about it, ask your friends and colleagues who they know that is hiring for your sort of work.
If you need to lose weight, don’t just pray about it, eat less and go to the gym. Even if it means getting up early and skipping ice cream.
I have written quite a bit recently on the theme of boundaries. Christians have huge problems with boundaries. We think that it’s not okay to come out right and say, “no, I don’t really want to,” or, “no, I can’t because ___.” But for some reason it is “okay” to be fake and say “I’ll pray about it.”
Just as you can’t have an apple pie with only apples, so you cannot have a prayer life with only prayer. You need to get off your knees and get your hands dirty.
Whoever came up with the question “Is prayer your steering wheel or your emergency brake?” was pretty clever. You don’t drive with just the steering wheel. You also drive with the brake and gas pedals, the mirrors, and possibly the clutch and gear shift (if your car has a manual transmission). Prayer is one element, it is not the whole thing.
To help you lead better with a better balance between prayer and action, I have created a free, one-page guide with a list of prayer suggestions and matching action suggestions. Click the button below and enter your email to download it now.