Monday, November 12, 2012

I'd better pray again

By God's grace, my wife and I are nearing our fundraising goal. As a result, last week I mailed out an appeal letter to several monthly donors who had been giving at their current level for at least several years. My desire was to let them know that their gifts are making a big impact and then ask if they'd help us reach our goal by increasing.

As I sealed each envelope, I prayed for the donor and also asked God to provide and lead them to increase as the letter had requested. As I neared the end of the small pile, however, a familiar feeling began to creep into my heart...

Fear.

What made me afraid? A thought process that went something like this:

What if this letter offends them? What if they think I only care about money?What if this letter makes them realize how much they've given over the years and conclude that they should direct their funds elsewhere? What if I need to go do significant fundraising just because I wasn't willing to settle for less than our goal? What if God stops providing for us tomorrow?

Then I actually had a moment of clarity! I thought to myself, "I should stop fretting and just pray!"

So I prayed.

When I was done praying, I thought to myself, "Hmmm... that could've been better. I better pray again."

So I prayed.

When I was done praying that time, I thought to myself, "Some of these are fairly big 'asks'. I better pray one more time just in case."

So I prayed.

Though this might initially sound "holy", I was actually wandering further from the Lord.

But praying is good, right? Absolutely! And many of us, myself included, generally ought to pray more. 

However, in this case I wasn't trying to rely on God through my many prayers. Rather, I was trying to convince God to do something because of my many prayers. I was essentially trying to say a magic spell as though I could control my own fate if I just willed it enough.

The Scriptures, however, tell me that that won't do me any good whatsoever:
"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:7-8 ESV)
How true! God has proved this to me in every possible way. Even the fact that I have faithful, multi-year donors already giving generously every month means that God knows what I need and provides it. Rarely are those monthly gifts sustained by "many words", yet they've kept coming.

Our very conversion stories illustrate this as well. Few if any of us heaped up prayer upon prayer to God so that we would come to know His Son Jesus. Rather, most of us merely uttered pathetic little prayers that the Father heard and accepted nonetheless. Moreover, even those prayers weren't of our own doing but were rather a cry of the Holy Spirit back to God the Father, made possible through the blood of Jesus. It just so happened that the words came out of our mouths as a result.

So pray! Pray often. Pray passionately. Pray when you feel frightened or weak or lonely. But remember that your fund balance, your future and your fears will not be affected by how you pray or how much you pray.

They're affected by Whom you pray to.