As a missionary and agriculture development worker in rural Tanzania, I have countless opportunities to teach both Bible and agriculture. Everyone wants the knowledge I (am perceived to?) possess,* and I am regularly invited to teach new groups of people. But my time is limited and finite.** Perhaps the least mentioned task of cross-cultural workers is one of the most important skills for them to develop in order to be effective in their work.
I was reading this morning, and the first words of Colossians 4:2 stood out to me:
“Devote yourselves to prayer…”
προσκαρτερεω (proskartereo) =
to be devoted or constant; to be steadfastly attentive to
I looked up a few other passages where this word (devote / proskartereo) appears in the New Testament:
- Acts 1:14 – Believers, with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer.
- Acts 2:42 – Believers devoted themselves to several things, among them prayer.
- Acts 6:4 – Apostles appointed deacons so they could devote themselves to prayer and ministry.
- Romans 12:12 – Devotion to prayer listed as a key element in church unity and function.
Early every morning I pray alone — usually over a list I keep. Then Christie, Baylor, and I pray together after reading scripture at breakfast. Every run I go on involves at least a little bit of prayer time, and sometimes a lot. Also, Christie and I pray together every night before bed. I can certainly say I’m “devoted” to these four prayer practices. But I’m not sure I can say that I’m devoted to prayer. I want to be. And perhaps I’m on my way there…
Committed to a Game
But I’m forced to think about things to which I’ve been truly devoted in my life. When I coached high school soccer, I spent:
- 12 hours a week practicing with the team
- 5-10 hours a week taking care of the logistics of practices, scheduling, and travel
- 5-10 hours a week coaching in, and traveling to, actual games and tournaments
- 2-4 hours a week scouting other teams
- 2 hours a week painting and caring for the field
That’s over 30 hours a week I spent on soccer (in addition to a full-time job). A game. I was truly devoted to a game. And it paid off. Our team was very successful. But I was devoted to a game.
So if prayer truly is powerful — and if New Testament authors were right to encourage us to be devoted to it — I can only imagine what would result from a deepened level of commitment to prayer in my own life. Or in our families and churches.
Consider how devoted you are to:
- your job
- your children
- your blog
- church attendance
- other churchy opportunities* and activities
- college football teams
I wonder if we even committed to a “least common denominator” approach to prayer — devoting to prayer only the amount of time equal to what we spend on the least frequent of the above activities — what would happen?
I want to challenge you to pray more. I’m not suggesting that you start by attempting to pray for an hour a day. But pray more. I’m convinced we begin to devote ourselves to particular activities by increasingly devoting small increments of time to those activities.
Tomorrow I’m going to post some practical ideas on how we can begin to devote ourselves further to prayer. And I’m not just thinking through these as an exercise for others. I desperately want to learn to pray without ceasing; and I could use your help in getting me there. If you’ve got some practical ideas, feel free to post them below. [I’m not compiling my list until late tonight or early tomorrow morning.]
* Just a little shout out to Nacho.
Filed under prayer, sports
It’s nice to know that if Jesus ever shows up at my door, he’ll be perfectly content eating popcorn for dinner. This from Luke 10:38-42:
As Jesus and his disciples were passing through a village, a woman named Martha invited Jesus into her home. As she was busy making preparations for a meal worthy of the Son of God — slaughtering chickens, peeling potatoes, cutting tomatoes into little flower shapes, and making a mighty fine mustard cream sauce — her sister, Mary, sat with Jesus on the front porch and listened to all he had to say. Martha wasn’t happy about this one bit and complained to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my slacker sister’s leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get off her bubble goose and help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus replied, “why you buggin’ so? You’re stressed and worried about so many things, but only one thing’s needed. Mary’s chosen what’s most important, and it won’t be taken away from her. Now go order a pizza and get out the paper plates; and let’s sit and talk.”
I can’t help but think about some of our complicated, elaborate, and time-consuming systems of “doing” worship, church, and missions:
Buildings, programs, and sound systems.
Ministers and worship leaders constantly scurrying about.
Flow charts, diagrams, and studies on church models, church attendance, and church growth.
Can’t we just have a cup of coffee on the front porch and listen to Jesus?