Do I Pray My Priorities?


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More often than not, when a speaker addressing Christians addresses the topic of priorities, an established order of what’s important surfaces: God first, others second, self third. Generally “others” is broken down into family over friends or neighbors or business associates or church contacts.

I suspect most Christians, when asked, would also say they value missions highly, care about their pastor, and are interested in evangelism, missions, or some other ministry. I’m confident many would add a concern for our schools, public or private, and what’s happening in national government, maybe in state government, and some even in local government.

These things and others that we care about according to our priority lists, should be occupying more of our time and money and energy and thoughts than what we so often do think—and pray—about: things that will make me, my family, and my friends happy or more comfortable.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t “live my list” like I wish I did. But even if I fail to welcome the new neighbors on the corner, can’t I pray for them? Even if I don’t have offering money beyond what I give to my local church, can’t I pray for missionaries or other ministries? Even though I don’t write a note of encouragement to my pastor, can’t I pray for him?

Living out our priorities is hard, hard work. Prayer? I know some people talk about laboring in prayer, but it seems to me conversations with God about the things I care most about ought to be conversations I rush to have, ones I look forward to, and have to be pulled away from with reluctance.

And if that’s not the case, then maybe the problem is my understanding of prayer, or my list. I know what my priorities should be … what I say they are. But are my priorities like my New Year’s Resolutions—a list I make knowing full well it’s more wishful thinking than a guide for what I intend to do?

I understand wishful thinking. I’ve wished I was a good housekeeper, a good correspondent, a conscientious exerciser. But do I wish those things to the point of change? The first clue to the answer to that question, I think, is whether or not I begin to pray for the thing I say I care about.

If I believe God hears and answers prayer, and I do, then why, why, why wouldn’t I pray about the things I say are top most on my list of priorities?

From the book of James:

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (vv 16b-18)

Elijah’s nature was just like ours. James was clearly implying that we have the same kind of power in prayer as Elijah had. But his prayer had to do with God getting the attention of a wayward king, a disobedient people. In other words, his prayer had to do with the spiritual welfare of those to whom he was sent as a prophet of God.

Would that my prayers will become more centered on spiritual needs than on physical ones!

From the archives: this post is a revised version of one that appeared here in July, 2009.

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Published in: on March 1, 2019 at 4:51 pm  Comments (7)  
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Do I Pray My Priorities?


More often than not, when a speaker addressing Christians talks about priorities, an established order surfaces: God first, others second, self third. Generally “others” is broken down into family over friends or neighbors or business associates or church contacts.

I suspect most Christians, when asked, would also say they value missions highly, care about their pastor, and are interested in evangelism. I’m confident many would add a concern for our schools, public or private, and what’s happening in national government, maybe in state government, and some even in local government.

These things we care about and others, according to our priority lists, should be occupying more of our time and money and energy and thoughts than what will make me happy or more comfortable.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t “live my list” like I wish I did. But even if I fail to welcome the new neighbors on the corner, can’t I pray for them? Even if I don’t have offering money beyond what I give to my local church, can’t I pray for missionaries? Even though I don’t write a note of encouragement to my pastor, can’t I pray for him?

Living out our priorities is hard, hard work. Prayer? I know some people talk about laboring in prayer, but it seems to me conversations with God about the things I care most about ought to be conversations I rush to have, ones I look forward to, and have to be pulled away from with reluctance.

And if that’s not the case, then maybe the problem is my understanding of prayer, or my list. I know what my priorities SHOULD be … what I say they are. But are my priorities like my New Year’s Resolutions—a list I make knowing full well it’s more wishful thinking than a guide for what I intend to do?

I understand wishful thinking. I’ve wished I was a good housekeeper, a good correspondent, a conscientious exerciser. But do I wish those things to the point of change? The first clue to the answer to that question, I think, is whether or not I begin to pray for the thing I say I care about.

If I believe God hears and answers prayer, and I do, then why, why, why wouldn’t I pray about the things I say are top most on my list of priorities?

Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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What about the Church?


The Church doesn’t have a good reputation in society. Christians don’t as a general rule. And that would be okay if society found us offensive because we were preaching Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Unfortunately, the truth is, Christians and the Church are often slammed as unloving, bigoted, legalistic, shallow, self-righteous, controlling, money-grubbing … need I go on? These are not the kinds of qualities people associated with Christ, and I suspect they aren’t ones He’s happy to see others connect with us.

Certainly there are exaggerations and some of these caricatures have developed as a result of false teachers claiming the name of Christ when in fact they are far from Him. But an honest assessment also says a lot of people who love God and believe in His Son Jesus still have spent most of their time and effort making life more comfortable and easier for … them and their families.

We teach the importance of family, don’t we? So what could be wrong with a dad or a mom who puts a high priority in making a safe and secure and nurturing environment for their loved ones?

Nothing’s wrong, it’s just that it’s not complete. How we’re to balance it all, I can’t say, but Scripture is clear that we are to look beyond ourselves. In the New Testament, believers are authorized to “make disciples.” We are told we are to be salt to the world, we are to be light in the darkness. And we are told others will know we are Christians by how we love each other.

What does salty living look like? The Old Testament gives us a window to understanding what God expects. In Isaiah, God rebukes His people:

Is this not the fast which I [the LORD] choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And to bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn.
– Isaiah 58:6-8a

I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people …
A people who continually provoke Me to My face …
Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!’
– Isaiah 65:2-5

I don’t know about you, but … ouch!

Those words sting me because I have been caught up in my own stuff for too long. How different would our culture look if we Christians took seriously our call to sacrificially love those we rub shoulders with day after day. If we carried our enemy’s bag an extra mile instead of playing the gotcha game. If we stopped walking to the opposite side of the road when sinners came along and realized instead that nothing separates me from them except the blood of Christ.

What if we all took the money we normally spend for Easter eggs or candy or new clothes or cards and did something selfless with it instead? What if there was so much giving in a time of recession the news media would have to cover it and viewers would be scratching their heads wondering why millions of us suddenly cared more for others than we did for ourselves. Now wouldn’t that shed some light?

Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Comments (7)  
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