A few months ago, I had a speaking engagement. Often when I get speaking engagements, picking the topic is much like a description of the Holy Spirit: “the wind blows where it wishes.” Typically, when speaking at a church or a camp or somewhere, I’m told, “Yeah, speak about whatever. Just mind the time, please.” I don’t always mind the time, but that is neither here nor there.
The aforementioned occasion was different, however, because I was assigned a topic. Not Scripture or anything. Just a topic. And here is the topic: “Prayer in Leadership.”
And so I went about doing some study on prayer. I read and read about prayer. I asked others about prayer. I did some writing about prayer. And you know what I came to realize, there at my home “office” (fancy way of saying the desk in the corner of our family room) with my Bible open and notes and books out? I hadn’t been praying about prayer!
I hadn’t been praying much at all, really.
All I kept reading is how important prayer is. How it reminds us of what God has done, shows us what God will do, connects us to God, and gives us peace in a helter-skelter world. And with each reminder, I’d say a churchy, “Amen.” I’d fist pump. I’d think, “How cool is that!” In truth, it seemed the one reaction I never seemed to have was, you know, to actually pray.
Not long ago, I was on a faraway beach. (And if that comment causes you to stumble into delirium on this -22 degree day, I apologize.) It was warm–hot even–and sunny. But here’s the deal, I’m not a “lie there and bake until my skin reddens and falls off” person. The sun is hot, and I like activity. So I left my beach chair and walked around a bit. Not far into my walk, I happened upon a sand volleyball court, and there upon it, yep, people playing sand volleyball. I love this! I like sports and volleyball and meeting people and actually making my body move (yes, even on the beach). I was Ponce de Leon, only I had actually found what I was looking for.
I leaned up against a palm tree and I watched. And watched. Man, did it look fun–all that bumping and setting, and even the occasional spike. Bump, set, spike–beautiful stuff, that. I inched closer and closer to the court. After a string of games, the players on the court began inviting bystanders onto the court for the next bouts, “Wanna jump in?” they said to lookers-on and passersby.
And here is the crazy thing. I had been waiting to play for like thirty minutes. I had been precisely hoping for this opportunity to “jump in.” It looked great, exactly what I needed to avoid more dreaded lounging. But, in that moment, when the time came to get myself in the game, I inexplicably walked away.
Call it pride, call it stupidity, whatever it was, it was the exact same thing I tend to do with prayer. Man, that Elijah, he could pray it up–I wish I could connect with God like him! What a sweet prayer of repentance David just had in Psalms . . . man, if only I could do that!
Well, I can. God allows it and even encourages it. It really is just a matter of “jumping in.” He’s called us into the game, all we must do is step on the court. And we can do this so many ways. We can write a prayer down today. We can say one aloud in our car. We can grab a friend or a spouse and utter a prayer with them. We can allow our minds, our hearts, to speak with God at any point in our day–at our desk, at lunch, in the blustery cold walk to our cars. And we can pray for anything. Sure some of our prayers will prove silly and selfish, but God will use even those prayers to begin conforming us to be less silly and selfish. We can pray for our friends, our families, our jobs, our community, our Nation, our world, our troops, our mindset, our souls . . . I mean, really, there is no shortage of topics! Bump, set, spike.
I need to pray. But the question for today: Do I want to pray? That isn’t a ‘yes or no’ question, either; it is a ‘do or don’t one.’ If I want to pray–if I really want to–I will.
Prayer is a good thing. It is activity and not just lying around–it is the very thing many of us are wandering about the beach of life in hopes of discovering. I think I’ll “jump in” to prayer today, and I hope, maybe, just maybe, you will too.