How Far Ahead Do You Pray?
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
One of the unique aspects of being human is our awareness of time and the ability (and desire) to plan ahead for the future. We don’t just react to present circumstances or act on instinct. This at times gets us into trouble if we give into worry or set wrong goals, but nonetheless our sense of the past, present, and future and the opportunity to look back, look around, and look forward are good gifts of God to be wisely stewarded. One of the lessons we learn early on is that our time is not all our own! As children we are told by parents and teachers not only what to do, but when it is to be done (“Clean your room, NOW!” for instance). Then, as we get older others also impact how our time is spent—think project deadlines or the obligation to change a dirty diaper right away. And finally, at some point, many of us are subject to strict schedules regarding the taking of medication and may even reach a point in time when we wait (patiently?) for others to take care of many things for us that we can no longer do ourselves.
A common problem for us time-bound people is what has been called the “tyranny of the urgent”—when the right here, right now is all that we are thinking about and reacting to—we may not think there is time to catch our breath, let alone think about or plan for tomorrow. This highlights the need to establish both daily devotional time as well as the habit of occasional seasons of prayer (and fasting).
I hope that you pray with God’s written Word open in front of you, but I’d also encourage you to have your calendar open! Do you pray over the events you plan to participate in, the lists of things you want to get done, the special days you’re planning?
Certainly one thing I’m looking ahead at and praying for are opportunities to share the Gospel with my neighbors around Easter since our culture acknowledges that something important to Christians is being celebrated. Will you also pray for creative ways to witness to those right around you? Whether that be neighbors who live on your street or in your condominium or apartment building or the person who cuts your hair every time, we really do need to consistently be praying for God to change hearts and lives (including our own!).
When Martin Luther, who God used to start the Reformation in Germany, was asked by his barber for advice on how to pray Luther penned a little book that is still available and very helpful called A Simple Way to Pray.1 R. C. Sproul has brought that story to children in his beautifully illustrated book, The Barber Who Wanted to Pray which would make a wonderful gift for anyone this Easter. [see also A Simple Way to Pray online guide]
Would you like to join me in “praying ahead” for some things? Here is a short list of things to pray that God would bless, that His kingdom would come and that His will would be done by His people in and through these things:
- Teachers and students as they return to the classroom
- Easter and the special services that we as a Church family might see Christ more clearly and invite others to worship the Living God with us
- Our Short-term Missions Trip to JAARS2 coming up at the end of June
One final suggestion to pray about this Easter season as we focus on Jesus’ death on the cross: your own death. For some, that seems not only morbid, but almost impossibly far off, a future that can barely be seen and a day that we don’t want to think about. For others, we’re keenly aware of our mortality and see that day approaching all too rapidly but we still don’t know how to think or pray about it, much less talk about it!3 Death is an enemy, but the Good News of the Gospel speaks directly to that awful reality and tells us Christ has conquered death (see Hebrews 2:14-15)! By His death, Jesus has put death to death and by His resurrection assures all who are saved of eternal life. As we approach both Good Friday and Easter Sunday, let us remember that the salvation we have been given by God’s sovereign grace radically changes how we live every day of our lives as well as how we plan to spend all of our days. With the cross and empty tomb in mind, let us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
May we commit each day and all our plans to the Lord in prayer and submit to His all-wise purposes every moment of our days. May God bless your heart preparation for the day and days to come,
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1 – You can find it on Amazon by searching the title and looking for the 5th edition by Archie Parrish with the foreword by R. C. Sproul.
2 – JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service) is the support and logistics arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Check out their website: www.jaars.org
3 – An excellent little book by Matthew McCullough to help in thinking Biblically and well about this is called Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope.
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