A surprising number of Christians and Christian leaders confess that they don’t pray enough. I recently surveyed a group of Christian leaders and asked them what three things they felt they needed to grow in – nearly all listed prayer in that short list. Now there are many reasons why this might be and an equal number of things that need to happen to change this but I want to look at one that I recently was confronted of. Prayer demonstrates and flows from a dependence on God – and we simply do not put ourselves in that position very much. We surely bite off more than we can chew and often find ourselves stressed and overburdened. But that isn’t the same as being dependent on God. In my own life, there is much I set out to do that I cannot – but I could if I had more time, more volunteers or more resources. I fundamentally fail to recognize a vision that comes from God and can only be fulfilled in reliance upon him.
In Luke 10, Jesus declares the “harvest is plentiful” and he asks them to pray “to the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into his harvest field.” Do you notice the God-centered vision (Lord of the harvest, his harvest field). Jesus then turns around and commissions those same 72 to be the workers as he sends them out to preach. But here (unlike other places) Jesus specifically commissions them to go out with a need. “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals,” He says. Jesus is telling them not to hedge the bets by providing for their own needs. He is telling His disciples that He is sending them on His mission and He will provide for them through the success of the mission.
As we make changes to our vision and structure at Dunbar, I’m unstable. In church ministry it is far easier to make one centralized path that everyone must walk. People are discipled by coming to the Sunday service and maybe a centralized mid-week Bible study. Mission is done by holding outreach events at the church so there is one place to send volunteers where roles and job descriptions are easily defined (even if they aren’t very flexible) making it easy to swap one person in for another if they move or are burnt out. This is the factory approach to discipleship and mission. But God is not a factory worker, He is a handcrafter. Disciples are made by being life-on-life with other disciples, by living life in community and by being involved in mission in everyday life.
Instead of ordaining one path, we give opportunity to grow in the areas that are needed and challenge people to seek God’s direction and passion for mission. Then we try to support this vision and passion with training, opportunity and others with a similar call. This is something I have started to do with the practical leadership of the LEAD protégés, it is something that the Global Missions Team has been growing in and it will be a hallmark of our shift in home groups to missional communities next fall.
But this is difficult to do because it involves helping each believer to grow and be on mission in the context of their everyday life – so instead of one path there are many. From a leadership development perspective, I am trusting God to build community among His people and lay similar visions on peoples heart so they can be in community and feel called to similar mission that they can engage together. No amount of time or resources will make this work if God doesn’t lead. As I have been coming to grips with this more and more, I have been feeling a stronger call to prayer than I have every felt before. I have been literally feeling forced down on my knees to pray.
So why don’t I pray enough? I can’t speak for every leader, but I’m increasingly becoming aware that, in my own life, it is because I don’t have a big enough vision for what He is doing in my life and the life of those around me. I don't pray because I'm not forced to. I haven't engaged a vision and a mission that requires change in peoples hearts, that requires the Spirit to work in ways I could never manufacture. I have traded in God's handcrafted masterpieces for my junk off the factory floor. So I just work harder instead of being driven to prayer.