[originally posted on July 30th 2013]
By Jacob Toman
In yesterday’s blog, I begin a short 4 part series on a proposed paradigmatic acronym that will help Christians bring their faith into daily life in every realm of culture, namely: work, play, and family. Yesterday the case was made to Engage Reality, and today the next step is Prayerful Planning.
They were both high officials in the king’s court. One was taken as a boy and trained to be one of the elite ruling class, another was the cupbearer to the king himself. One lived through commands to cease praying, change diet, and was cast into a lions den. Another sought the glory of the Lord by the reunification of his nation and native land. Both Daniel and Nehemiah have much to say and teach concerning how believers ought to live out their faith in the midst of a hostile culture. While there are lots of differing details between both of these men and their acts of faith and approach to impacting culture, one mutual aspect they shared was prayer.
After deciding to Engage the reality of Israel’s exile, Nehemiah prayed to the Lord. In Nehemiah 1:5-11 this man of God is praying a “big picture” prayer asking for the Lord to grant success to his upcoming opportunity to impact culture for God’s glory. This is paradigmatic behavior of the faithful children of God, seeking God’s wisdom and aid before taking action. Engaging reality is the first step, but the next step isn't jumping with two feet into the great ocean of culture, family, work, and play in an effort to be the Lone Ranger who will change the world. Rather the next step is humbly submitting to the greatest authority available, who also happens to be the great authority in existence, the creator God himself.
Planning isn't something to be taken lightly, neither is prayer. The Wright brothers didn't build the first airplane by aimlessly hammering different pieces together, the great skyscrapers of the Metros of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, and London were not assembled by mindless fools throwing bricks and spit into a pile. Careful planning is important to accomplishing fantastic feats, and prayerful planning is essential to discerning and listening to the Lord’s will. Jesus himself in the night in which he was betrayed went and prayed alone in the garden of Gethsemane, he didn't ignore the reality of his purpose, he engaged it and then prayerfully submitted himself to the Father’s plan.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin
In Nehemiah 2:4 there is a short note about what Nehemiah did prior to responding to the King’s question. Nehemiah, in the crucial moment immediately preceding the decisive moment, Nehemiah paused to pray. It wasn't a long prayer, and it isn't recorded, but the author of Nehemiah 2 wants us to know as readers, and the original audience to know as hearers, that Nehemiah took time to pray even as he was engaging in the planning of God’s work.
The most discouraging part of planning in my own personal experience, is the lack of tangible progress. When I act out and engage in fulfilling a plan (regardless of scale), from doing the dishes at a certain time, to preaching the gospel in a homeless shelter here in St. Louis, it’s easy to measure tangible progress when ACTING, it’s not easy for me to stay motivated, aggressive, and passionate while PRAYING and PLANNING. I must admit I am a bit skeptical of others that hold prayer as an easy thing to do, precisely because for me it is incredibly emotional and difficult work. It’s no wonder we churchgoers enjoy coming together for Sunday morning worship more than coming together for prayer meeting, myself included! Offering up prayer is a difficult thing that requires patience, and perseverance. If there is two things I am annoyed by when trying to accomplish something, it’s having to wait, and having to keep running through similar obstacles over and over again. It may be the two most difficult things for a person to learn, but patience and perseverance are key to engaging God’s redeeming work in culture, society, and the broken world we live in. I’m not saying that prayerful planning is easy, but I am saying it’s necessary for the believer who desires to live out their faith in culture.
Everyday this week two little questions are offered in the forms of prayers that you can be praying to seek the Lord’s aid, strength, will and guidance as you seek to live life in his name.The believer who has made the decision to Engage Reality, must also Prayerfully Plan by seeking the Lord's will in the particular area of life.
Prayers for Prayerful Planning
Dear God, what am I supposed to do to serve you in this part of life?
Dear God, how do I fit into this part of your big plan and kingdom?