When I read some of my blog posts (especially the last one) I wonder if people think I have a hate-on for the church.
I don’t. I CAN’T. I’m nose deep in church life. Church people are some of the finest people in the world. I don’t want to give the impression that I have nothing but admiration and respect for those faithful servants of Christ toiling away for the kingdom. And I see churches doing phenomenal work in service to God and the world. And I'm grateful for every second I'm able to serve as a pastor. Even those days when I fantasize about walking away.
I just have questions. Lots and lots of questions.
For example, while in Mexico I read Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood. It’s about a Microsoft pooh-bah who turned in his key to the executive washroom to build schools in Nepal, creating the Room to Read organization along the way. You may have heard of it.
Wood talked about how quickly the organization grew, how positively people responded to his vision of building schools and libraries in developing countries, how hard work, tenacity, and luck paid off.
I have a few books on my shelf like this, except they’re about churches or ministries. Books on how the Dream Center in LA grew so quickly and unexpectedly.
Or how Willow Creek or Saddleback exploded with growth in the 70’s and 80’s.
Or how Mars Hill, Grand Rapids outgrew their building so swiftly they had to buy an old shopping mall to house their mushrooming congregation.
And they all attribute their growth to God and prayer. Hours and hours of prayer. They say that, without the countless hours on their knees, they wouldn’t have seen such success.
But I got thinking. Room to Read grew almost uncontrollably in the first few years of its existence. Without the hours of prayer. No mention of God. At all.
I thought about it some more and wondered, Does God REALLY want us praying for hours and hours before starting something new?
Or is such prayer a form of holy procrastination? Does God just want us to get on with our jobs, knowing that God gave us two hands and a brain for a reason?
It’s not that I’m against prayer. Obviously not. Prayer’s an important tool in my ministry toolbox.
I just wonder if prayer is meant to change us rather than to spur God to action. Prayer helps us focus on God’s priorities and makes us say those priorities out loud.
We choose our words carefully when we pray. At least I do. I only use words that I know are part of God’s vocabulary.
I don’t pray for hateful things to happen to bad people because I know God doesn’t honour such a prayer.
I don’t pray for money because God probably thinks I have enough.
I don’t pray for happiness because I don’t think God cares about my happiness as much as my faithfulness.
I pray for wisdom against my foolishness. For healing for sick congregation members. For love and compassion when I’m angry and spiteful.
I pray for healing in a broken world. For peace in hostile world. For justice in an unjust world.
That’s what I pray for.
Wisdom. Healing. Peace. Faithfulness. Justice. Love. Compassion. When I pray for those things, those are the things I become.
Then I put those items on my To-Do list and roll up my sleeves and get to work.