It’s one of those little quotes that is well worth pondering, well worth chewing on for a while: “The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own.” Those words come from H.B. Charles Jr. and they’ve caused me to pause and to consider—exactly what a good quote ought to do.
If this quote reflects reality, and I think it does, it challenges me to ask a question: What kinds of things do I not pray about? The things I neglect to pray about are the things I believe I can handle on my own, the things for which I don’t think I need God’s wisdom, perspective, or intervention. I may never say or even think such terrible thoughts, but my lack of prayer proves my independence, my lack of God-dependence. So what are those things I don’t pray about? I (prayerfully) considered this and came up with a few.
Worship. Too often I find myself participating in a church service and have the ugly realization that I have not prayed for God’s grace. In fact, Charles’ quote flashed into my mind last Sunday as we were about an hour into our Sunday morning service. Right then I had that ugly realization that I had not prayed for myself and for the other members of my church. I should have done that on Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. But I didn’t. Instead, I showed up to worship as if that worship would do me any good or have any benefit without God’s presence, without God’s power. I need to pray that God will allow me to worship him in the way he deserves to be worshiped. I need to pray that he will bless, equip, and strengthen me through this worship. Who am I to worship without prayer?
Writing. I spend a good portion of every day dreaming up words and writing them down. Every morning I share some of those words with the public. There have been periods of time when I’ve done this with lots of prayer, when I’ve been careful to pray when writing and careful to pray just before hitting that “publish” button. But there have also been stretches where prayer has faded, where I’ve been content to write and publish without asking God for his grace, his favor, his help, his wisdom. And in this way I’ve shown that I think I can handle this on my own, that I have enough wisdom within that I don’t need to seek his.
Provision. God has been so faithful to Aileen and me over the years. Though I’ve had jobs and lost them, though there have been times where money has been tight, God has always provided for our every need. Somehow God’s provision has led to my complacency or my sense of entitlement. I don’t pray like I used to. I certainly don’t ask God to provide like I did in those times when it was more difficult to see how we would pay that next bill. In those days I prayed fervently and rejoiced with every answer to prayer. I want to return there. I want to pray earnestly and praise God for his every gift. But to do that, I first need to recover the awareness that he is the source of every good gift.
Travel. Like most people, I spend a fair bit of time on the road, and undoubtedly take it as normal that we hurtle along at highway speeds, surrounded by other vehicles going every bit as fast. Even though I often pass by accidents and see how quickly normal travel can lead to tragedy, I seldom pray for safety. I take it for granted that I’ll get where I’m going without trouble, without consequence.
Preaching. I have never prepared a sermon without prayer and I have never preached without praying for God’s blessing on me as I deliver that sermon. But I don’t think I’ve ever prayed the way I want to and the way I know I ought to. Even while studying God’s Word and preparing a sermon I can pray prayers that are merely light and trite and dutiful. I want to pray like one who knows my utter insufficiency and my utter dependency upon God if I am to say even a single word that has any lasting significance. I want to pray with a deep awareness that I am to be nothing more (and nothing less) than God’s mouthpiece, speaking forth his Word.
In all of these ways, and undoubtedly many more, I’ve allowed prayer to be supplemental rather than instrumental. I’ve lived with an alarming lack of prayer and in that way proclaimed that I’m okay, that I can handle these things just fine on my own.
What are the things you trust you can handle on your own?
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