Is Prayer Enough?
We gathered in our office at 7:30am this last Wednesday for our weekly study of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Roughly a dozen of us prayed together – and then dissected our thoughts, the Bible’s thoughts, and the author’s thoughts for 45 minutes together. This week’s topic: Developing your friendship with God.
The crux of the chapter is that you are as close to God as you choose to be. The way you get closer is by intimate desire, time, and energy. But as the chapter goes on, it has a heavy emphasis on how we need to learn what God cares about and then do the same…
Thus, a great conversation unfolded with our group. We talked about the widow and orphan – and the homeless person flying a sign on the street corner. As that last example was spoken, my guilt ran rampant.
You see, there’s a guy who is often perched on the corner of the interstate and University Drive (the road I take to get to my office). I’ve seen him there lots. In fact, I know him quite well.
Jon has been in my life since 2007. We met at First Lutheran Church in Fargo where I used to serve as a youth director. Jon had wandered in one Sunday morning and soon called FLC his home. He was different from the prototypical church attendee that many of us picture. He didn’t come into church pretending that he was whole. Instead, he wandered in as a homeless man – reeking of booze and cigarettes.
Jon would dance in the aisles during some songs. He would other times hold his head in shame. His raw emotions were both refreshing and sometimes off putting. But I befriended Jon and subconsciously made it my mission to be a part of Jon’s salvation experience on this earth. I truly believe that God is the only Savior – but dang, I sure do get a God-complex sometimes and I think that the responsibility of salvation and redemption falls on my shoulders.
So I spent YEARS working with Jon and ‘on’ Jon. We got him housing (with the help of LOTS of others…not just me). We got him cleaned up. We, at times, got him sober. But there was always a fall from grace – and Jon’s one step forward always seemed to be accompanied by two steps back. Some of his decisions led to major destruction – and Jon was the victim in some places and a victimizer in others.
But when I was sitting in our book study this Wednesday, we talked about how we need to care about what God cares about – and I was overwhelmed with guilt. I’ve lost contact with Jon over the last 4 years – and yet I still see him from time to time on the street corner looking for cash from the kindness of strangers. I haven’t stopped to chat. I haven’t connected with Jon – because I haven’t wanted to open that can or worms again. But there’s a burning part of me that says I need to help fix Jon.
When I shared this with my co-workers, I got called to the carpet – but not in the way you might think. These loving people (who know me and my need to be ‘the guy’ in lots of situations) told me that I could pray for Jon. I didn’t need to fix Jon. I just needed to pray for him.
I’ve been riddled with thought and emotion since that conversation. Simply put – prayer makes the most sense to me when I pray with my hands and feet. When action accompanies God’s will in my heart…that’s when it clicks and feels ‘right.’ Simply praying without doing doesn’t seem like enough sometimes.
I can tell you this – avoidance is NOT caring about what God cares about. We need to pray for those that break our hearts. We need to often times do more than just pray – we need to act. But how do we know when either is the right mode of operation?
We need to trust that prayer is not only our way to connect with God, but God’s way to connect us to the world. Prayer is certainly about talking to God – but more importantly I think it’s about listening to God. And I’m not sure I’ve listened well enough yet to know my role in this (if any). I’ve probably convoluted things by trying to fix people or avoid people.
Sometimes, we need to be still and know that God is God.
Sometimes, we need to get our butts in gear and do some good in this world.
All the time, we need to pray. That is always enough. Deciphering what to do with what God puts on our hearts…that’s another story.
I hope we can figure that out together.