Saturday, July 31, 2010

Are You Too Busy?

I’ve always wondered why people didn’t pray. I mean, why do they go days and days without praying only to pray over a big test or a presentation, or when someone they love is faced with an illness or accident?

In my private life, I pray a lot. I pray when big presentations or meetings come up, but I’m also praying when I drive because I’m nervous about other people’s safety [with my eyes open], I pray when I’m walking down the street alone, I pray thanks after a good time with friends, I pray thanks for being in control of a difficult situation. I pray in many different situations. I pray constantly.

My prayer life has gotten a boost in the last few years. I no longer hope that God might speak back in reply; now I expect Him to. I no longer wonder why I’m praying or if praying matters; now I sense the intimacy that I’m building with God, even if He doesn’t respond. I feel like I’m talking with my best friend, my caring counselor, my favorite teacher. I have had prayers answered! And prayers not so much answered.

And then I read Bill Hybels’ Too Busy Not to Pray. I recommend this book to anyone who has wondered about prayer. It can be read in one day yet contains deep insights to how we ought to approach prayer that shouldn’t be simply breezed through in a day. I borrowed it from the church library but I’m going to find a copy for my own library.

Hybels covers things like God’s willingness to hear us, God’s ability to answer our prayers, and what it means when God doesn’t answer and what we might do about it. He also took a section to talk about prayer and the “Authentic Christian” [in chapter 9: Slowing Down to Pray]:

“Authentic Christianity is not learning a set of doctrines and then stepping into cadence with people all marching the same way. It is not simply humanitarian service to the less fortunate. It is a walk—a supernatural walk with a living, dynamic, communicating God. Thus the heart and soul of the Christian life is learning to hear God’s voice and developing the courage to do what he tells us to do.

Authentic Christians are persons who stand apart from others, even other Christians, as though listening to a different drummer. Their character seems deeper, their ideas fresher, their spirit softer, their courage greater, their leadership stronger, their concerns wider, their compassion more genuine, their convictions more concrete. They are joyful in spite of difficult circumstances and show wisdom beyond their years.

Authentic Christians are full of surprises. You think you have them neatly boxed, but they turn out to be unpredictable. When you are around them, you feel slightly off balance because you don’t know what to expect next. Over time, though, you realize that their unexpected ideas and actions can be trusted.

That’s because authentic Christians have strong relationships with the Lord—relationships that are renewed every day. As the psalmist said of the godly person, ‘His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither’ (Ps 1:2-3).

Embarrassingly few Christians ever reach this level of authenticity; most Christians are just too busy. And the archenemy of spiritual authenticity is busyness, which is closely tied to something the Bible calls
worldliness—getting caught up with this society’s agenda, objectives and activities to the neglect of walking with God.

Any way you cut it, a key ingredient in authentic Christianity is time. Not leftover time, not throwaway time, but quality time.”

This is the passage that I bookmarked for myself. In the last few years, I’ve come to recognize the difference of my previous life walking on my own and my current life of walking with God. If anything, I don’t want to be a Christian who never reaches any level of authenticity. I see it in others around me and as I grow and claim all the blessings that God is bringing, I’d like to be able to bring others along, out of their complacency and into their own vibrant, Technicolor walk with God.

One of the things that the book is causing me to face is to pray for something and fully believing that God will do it, in His time. It isn't that God's an ATM; rather, I'm praying for a few friends to have a softened and opened heart towards God. When I think of one friend in particular, Friend's got a hurt and hardened heart at the moment. I think Friend lets observations of Christians and absolute reliance on logic to obscure and sometimes block Friend's view of God. I'm sure many people see Friend as a "lost cause." Well, I don't believe it. My God is all-powerful. My God has changed the hearts of hardened criminals and the rich and the every day man. My God can change Friend's heart. My Friend is not a lost cause and I will keep praying for Friend. It may not happen in a day, in 20 years, in my lifetime, but I will keep praying.

I have some questions about a few things Hybels said, but I’ve heard it also from other people, so I will save my reservations for a different entry.

All together though, I think Hybels did a good and credible job of covering the different issues people tend to have about prayer. Again, I recommend this read to anyone with questions/ reservations about prayer.

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