I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to leaders who have come out of a difficult situation and said something like I’ve done everything I can, so all I can do now is pray. To be perfectly honest, I’ve heard those words come out of my own mouth a time or two.
It’s true that turning to almighty God in prayer is something we can do when all else fails. But if we only use prayer as our spiritual backstop to save us after we’ve played our own game, we are both limiting prayer and communicating to those around us that isn’t necessary if we can generate the results without it.
Jesus invites His disciples to pray, and guarantees an answer.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7, 8 ESV)
So I would like to suggest both to myself and anyone else who sees prayer more often as a last ditch effort that we take a more active approach.
We start as Jesus said by asking. This comes first, even before the challenge. We are invited by God to ask and promised that as we come asking, we will receive. Remember, my friends, that we come to the creator of the universe, the all powerful, almighty, all-sufficient God. Let’s not mock Him with small prayers. Ask for love when your heart feels dead, ask for power when you feel weak, ask for boldness when you are timid, ask for provision when you are poor, ask for forgiveness when you can’t forgive yourself. Ask for the impossible. Then watch and wait for the answer.
Now, we know that God doesn’t always give us what we ask for. But Jesus did promise that we would receive. So as you pray, keep your ears open for an answer. Just because God may not answer the way we want, doesn’t mean He will withhold an answer altogether. Our God is a God who communicates clearly, so pray and listen for an answer. The answer may be yes, it may be no, it may be not yet, and it may be keep asking. But let’s not assume that no answer means it must not be God’s will and then give up on persistent prayer. God promises to answer, so don’t stop praying till you have your answer.
Seeking comes next, when something needs to be found. The challenge has come and the way is unclear. Instead of leaving yourself alone in the forest without a map, seek the way through prayer. Ask the God who sees the end from the beginning to make the path clear, or at the very least to point your feet in the right direction. Again we are promised that if we seek, we will find. The finding may not be exactly what we expected when we started seeking, but we will find.
Finally we come to the knocking. You have asked God for wisdom, you have received direction, but now you come to a closed door. You know this was the way God led you, but now you can’t proceed. So what to do? Knock on the closed door with your prayers! Don’t knock softly either, make a ruckus out of it. Knock like you mean it, lay your heart out for God and argue your case. Remind Him that He Himself led you to this closed door to begin with. Remind Him that He promised to open the door to those who knock. Remind Him of His unfailing love and grace. Like Moses on the mountain, argue with God for His reputation’s sake. What will unbelievers say if you once rescued your children only to let them perish in the wilderness? Pray like this not out of exasperation, but expecting God to be true to His promises. Take God at His word, knock on the door and watch it open before you.
Instead of saving prayer till the end, after we’ve tried everything else, pray right from the start and all the way through. This way you will find strength and direction all through the challenge, and you will also demonstrate the power of God at work through your leadership.