It seems like today everything is built for speed not the long haul. We live in a world of one hundred and forty character quips, six-second videos and instant gratification. The idea of praying unhurried and quietly day in, day out, seems as exciting as Parcheesi. But this is what a spiritual leader is called to do.
The Apostle Paul prayed and he urged the church leaders he had appointed, like Timothy, to follow suit. However the praying leader has been sidelined by busyness. We have been sidetracked from prayer because there’s too much other ‘ministry stuff’ to do and too little time to do it. But the thing is everything about spiritual leadership and the ministry starts with prayer. Eugene Peterson wrote, “Anything creative, anything powerful, anything biblical, insofar as we are participants in it originates win prayer.”
Can spiritual leaders make a difference in such a messed-up world like the one we live? Can we help people live in a world where things are always going wrong? Yes, but not by muscle, smarts, or piety, nor by cleverly catering to whatever the market demands. Only God can bring about the genuine, lasting changes that are called for. The big deal isn’t to understand what’s going on with the world but to be part of what’s going on with God – what he’s doing in the world – and then join in. And for us this means praying. This is how spiritual leaders respond and get in on the action.
This isn’t prayer-on-the-run or prayer on request but unrushed, answering prayer. Prayer that listens first. Again as Peterson puts it this way, “(Prayer) is never the first word, it is always the second word. Prayer is answering speech… the first word is God’s word. Prayer is human word.”
I remember Wimber telling a group of us young pastors, “You’re not people fixers.” In other words, he was saying that ministry isn’t primarily problem solving and repairing what’s wrong. It’s tuning into the actions of God and then joining him in what he’s already doing in people’s lives. So that means dealing first with God in prayer and then with the world around us. Prayer that listens first and responds second. Prayer that’s built for God’s long haul not for speed. It’s the sort of praying that doesn’t necessarily get us what we want, but what God wants. But aren’t they the only things that make a difference and last anyway?