I believe in prayer. I practice prayer. I pray because I affirm the sovereignty of God over all of life. I pray to call upon God to display himself in the events of life. And, I pray because it shows my dependence upon God.
When Not to Pray
I do not pray for God to make me be holy without my obedience. I do not pray for God to save the lost if I am unwilling to declare the Gospel. I do not pray that God would bless my marriage if I fail to love and lead my wife. I do not pray for my kids to follow Jesus if I am a passive father. I do not pray for God to provide finances for our church if I do not give.
Using Prayer as an Excuse
Sometimes prayer can be an excuse for indecision, lack of obedience to God’s revealed Word, or a substitute for courage. How often have we heard a Christian “pass the buck” by foisting upon God the very thing that he has called them to do? How often do churches blame their inactivity and lack of growth on God? After all, they prayed that God would work miracles … all the while doing nothing themselves. God is sovereign-he must necessarily be to be God-but God has given us a job description, a set of expectations and a rather great commission as well. And, our response to God is directly parallel to the results we desire. Here are some common excuses for indecision that must be avoided:
- Praying for the salvation of the lost but never sharing the Gospel.
- Praying for financial provision but failing to steward and share what you already have.
- Praying for purity but failing to establish moral boundaries.
- Praying for a deeper walk with God without practicing the spiritual disciplines.
In contrast, the prayer of faith in James 5:13-20 is a mingling of prayer (mentioned 7X) and our actions (including offering praise, calling elders, oil anointings, confession of sin to one another, righteousness, persistence in prayer, and pursuing those who wander from sin). The message is clear: pray AND obey. Let us not insult God by praying for him to act if we will not.
When you pray, pray for God’s presence, his power, and pray to demonstrate your dependence upon him. But don’t ask him to do what you are supposed to do. Pray and obey, pray and do not delay to do what he has commissioned you to do.