Getting ahead of God …

While counseling with a pastor about his troubled life, I was assessing his practice of spiritual disciplines, which included probing about his prayer life.

I asked if he prayed without ceasing, and he seemed somewhat startled by the question, as if it didn’t make any sense.

“No, I’m a specific guy,” he answered.

What he meant was that he only prays about specific things. If he’s working on a sermon, he’ll pray about his sermon. If he’s leading a group, he’ll pray about that. He prays about specific things, but often those prayers come after the action has already been taken and he’s asking God to bless what he’s already done.

Sometimes this pastor prays in advance, but part of the problem of his not practicing “praying without ceasing” is that he easily finds himself getting ahead of God; he’s already acted before even bothering to consult with God on what action should be taken. Sometimes he prays before acting, but leaves God out while he acts, and then prays after. It’s great to seek God prior to our acting, but we really need God in the middle of our action!

Many Christians have a habit of praying in the morning, and again some time in the evening, but then leaving the house — and God — for work or their daily responsibilities until they return in the afternoon or evening. That often means God’s voice is absent in much of their day. Not surprisingly, evening prayers often consist of asking God to clean up the tangled mess we made of our day spent without Him.

The New Living Translation of the Bible phrases 1 Thessalonians 5:17 this way: “Never stop praying.” We can’t accurately anticipate everything we need to pray about in advance, and praying only after we’ve acted asks God to bless what is already done or fix what we’ve broken. But when we heed Paul’s admonition to never stop praying, we are talking with God before, during and after the thoughts we form, the emotions we construct, and the actions we take. Praying without ceasing keeps God in the thick of our lives to help us better see things as He does, feel about things as He does, and act in a way that glorifies Him and is in the best interests of those our actions touch. Never stopping our conversation with God is a vital safeguard from acting in advance of God.

How do you pray? Do you pray in reverse, asking God to bless what you’ve already done? Or is your walk through life an ongoing conversation with God?