One of my favorite lay pastors was a retired doctor with a sense of humor. He often used his sense of humor during his Sunday morning remarks at our Adult Bible Study. Occasionally he crossed a line or two with some in the study. You see, he was the Life Stage Pastor for the believers fifty and above. Many were well into their seventh decade, and in some cases, their sense of humor seemed to have disappeared in the annals of history.
One joke, in particular, brought a scathing rebuke from one of the group matriarchs. Standing at the podium one morning he was attempting to make a point similar to the one I hope to make here, prayer without action is sometimes not the answer. The joke goes like this:
A young woman, a strong believer, prayed regularly. She prayed for all the things one would expect, but she also prayed she would win the lottery. One morning during her prayer time she stopped and looked up toward the heavens. With a sigh, she raised her arms and said, "Heavenly Father, I have prayed for years to win the lottery, so I could use that money to do good works in Your name. Why have I never won?" As she closed her eyes and lowered her head again in prayer, a voice whispered in her ear. "First, you've got to buy a ticket."
Okay! If you saw the movie “Bruce Almighty,” you have a pretty good idea of how many people are praying to win the lottery. As a believer you, just like the lady in the class, likely do not think God would answer such a prayer, and if He decided to grant her wish she wouldn’t need to buy the ticket. Still, the idea of taking action is the topic here, not the lottery or winning scads of money.
The point the pastor hoped to make was prayer alone is not always the answer. Sometimes believers must actually do something. We cannot sit back and wait for God to supernaturally print a winning lotto ticket and place it in our hands. The lady in class may have been right when she told Pastor Jim God would never answer such a prayer. If He did, the recipient’s lesson might not be what they expected, but that discussion will need to wait for another day.
Sincere prayer is a necessity in any believer’s life. It is important as it is an expression of one’s submission to God’s power and authority. It is important as it helps us focus on our relationship with God. It is important, because He expects us to ask for what we want and need, not simply be bystanders waiting for someone in the parade of life to throw us a candy bar.
Sadly, the pastor delivering the Sunday sermon which inspired this essay may have left some who heard him believing that is exactly what a believer should do, pray and wait. I do not feel he meant it that way, but that could have been the message many heard.
The mistake, if he made one, was tying the message to the debacle that was 2020. He was attempting to preach a message of hope, by admonishing us not to become so wrapped up in the world that we forgot God is in control. He specifically, mentioned the tendency to lash out at others or express our views on subjects via social media. He encouraged us to fall back on our faith, pray and trust in God.
What made the message so ironic in a way was the opening message from another member of the pastoral staff. In his opening remarks, he shared how much our congregation had done through tithing to help saints around the world fight for the unborn, fight to stop human trafficking, and take other steps to help believers deal with the world. Yes, as a church we prayed for God to do something about these issues, but we also took action to do what we could to deal with the matters.
Prayer is essential to a mature believer’s life. Yet prayer in and of itself is not all God calls us to do. He calls us to support, financially and otherwise, those called to the ministry and mission field. He also calls us to be a light, to let others see Him through us. That is very hard to do if all we do is pray and expect God to do all the heavy lifting.
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