December 15, 2010

Pray More, Do Less

SOUNDS STRANGE, ALMOST HERETICAL, BUT THAT WAS THE THOUGHT THAT kept entering my mind as I struggled to balance responsibilities at home, work, church, and neighborhood. There were so many good, important things to do—visit the neighbors and attend the upcoming community meeting, call my elderly mother, write letters to those needing encouragement, help my daughter with her homework and music practice, prepare a personal ministries presentation for Sabbath afternoon, get publicity material ready and distributed for two upcoming community concerts at church as well as other outreach programs, attend community service meetings, help friends with various writing/editing needs, and practice flute for an upcoming performance—these were some of the items on my to-do list.
Pray more and do less? It wasn’t that I didn’t pray at all, but too often it was more rushed than real.
2010 1540 page31Then one day as I was working on a writing project, I came across this text: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’”(Matt. 9:35-40, ESV).*

It struck me that Jesus didn’t urge His disciples to work longer hours, or to work faster and harder to meet the great needs all around them. Instead,
He urged them to pray earnestly for more workers.
This involves humility and faith: humility in accepting the fact that I cannot fill all the needs that present themselves, and faith that God will hear my earnest prayers and provide more workers for His vineyard.
Perhaps, instead of trying to meet so many needs, keeping a tight schedule filled with activity, it would be better and more efficient to free up some time for prayer? Could it be that as I pray for more workers, God will also speak to my heart?
“As activity increases and men become successful in doing any work for God, there is danger of trusting to human plans and methods,” writes Ellen White. “There is a tendency to pray less, and to have less faith. Like the disciples, we are in danger of losing sight of our dependence on God, and seeking to make a savior of our activity. We need to look constantly to Jesus, realizing that it is His power which does the work. While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the Word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good” (The Desire of Ages, p. 362).
Recently my husband, who works full-time in research and writing, was struggling with an important article on the topic of healing. He wrestled with the article for weeks, but seemed to be going nowhere. One morning as he was praying, he was impressed to visit and pray with a family in need of healing. Ignoring the thought of not having the time for such a visit, he went and was deeply blessed, as was the family. The article on healing was finished in two days.
Deciding to pray more and do less is already making a difference in my life as well. Spending more time on my knees has given me a quiet peace, opening my eyes to how I can be more efficient in what I should be doing and less worry about what I’m not doing. In addition, it has opened more opportunities for others to experience the joy of working in God’s vineyard harvest.
*Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Gina Wahlen is an interim assistant editor at Adventist Review and Adventist World. This article was published December 16, 2010.