I learned the most marvelously diverse sayings in the three and a half years I worked construction; it was amazing, I can't even begin to tell you. No seriously... I can't tell you. Some of the more 'PG' tidbits of wisdom, however, I've actually found to be useful enough to share with just about anyone. Like, 'If you're cold, you're not working hard enough' (which I'm saving up to use on my oldest son someday), and-- 'If it's half right, it's all wrong' (which I believe is a shorter version of something my teachers used to say about tricky multiple choice questions). Another favorite: 'If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.' Which, improbable as it may sound, always makes me think-- of prayer.
Prayer is work. Which is to say, it's not easy. If it was... well, there ya go. Prayer meetings might struggle to handle capacity crowds. The Bible backs up this claim of 'prayer as work' on many fronts. Consider the Old Testament example of Moses in Exodus chapter 17...
The context: Israel is camped out in the desert, right next to perhaps the only fresh water in the entire area (miraculously provided by God, through Moses). The Amalekites have come to attack them. Moses tells his protege Joshua to "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites." While Joshua leads the battle down below, Moses will be elsewhere-- "Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."
The work: While Joshua fights (also necessary work), Moses raises up his hands to heaven, a clear sign that he is interceding in prayer before God on the behalf of Israel's army. And God responds-!- 11 "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." Now, why in the world would Moses go and lower his hands if it meant forfeiting the victory to the enemy? This is better answered through demonstration. As you keep reading this, pick up the two thickest books in your house, one in each hand, and raise the books up with your arms outstretched until they are just higher than your head. Now hold them there for 10 hours. Come on, you sissy-- if it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Get it? Interceding for his people was WORK. His arms drooped because they were tired. He had to sit down. Then his support team had to literally prop him up to keep his arms in the air. [Sidebar: Moses only had 2 guys at his prayer meeting & Israel defeated the Amalekites. A little faith > a lotta numbers.] Prayer is work.
Or how about this New Testament example... 12 "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect (mature) and complete in all the will of God." (Col. 4:12)
Do you see the words, "laboring fervently?" Here's the original Greek word: agonizomai. What English word does that look and sound like-? 'Agonizing.' Epaphras was agonizing in prayer on behalf of the Colossian church. Prayer is work.
Much of this discussion on prayer has a specific context. You see, from January 17th- February 17th, I've challenged our church to do two simple, yet powerful things:
1) "Look to Heaven At Seven" (*Sometimes cheesy is memorable)
Simply put, I asked people from our church to set their alarm clocks to 7am so that one of the first activities of our day, for a month, would be turning our bleary, sleep filled eyes towards God in a labor of prayer, to seek the help of heaven. At seven.
2) Fasting at lunch, Thursdays
Guess what day it is as I write this? Yup: Thursday. For some unknown reason, Thursday lunches seemed the least threatening to me out of all the meals in the week to purposely miss. At least, it seemed non-threatening until today, when I accidentally brought a stack of leftover danishes to the office 'for my visitors.' They're taunting me as I type.
I've called for this month of united prayer after the example of King Jehoshaphat's response to uncertainty in 2 Chron. 20, and in light of the stand-still I sense in our growth as a church. Tensions at our current location, wear & tear on our equipment from the constant load/ unload cycle, and hitting wall after wall in our attempts to secure a facility of our own are only the start. Likewise at a plateau is our attendance which, let me be quick to say, is not so much a concern in regards to numbers as it is in regards to the turnover rate. I'm troubled when I see so many new visitors come one week and not the next. Where do they go? What could we have done differently? Maybe nothing. Maybe lots of things. And we could drive ourselves crazy trying to second-guess this stuff, but instead, before anything else... I want to pray. Here's why:
"Every time the church has set herself to praying there have been stupendous movements... If we should but transfer the stress of our dependance and emphasis from appeals to men to appeals to God-- from trust in organization to trust in supplication-- from confidence in methods to importunate prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit, we should see results more astounding than have yet been wrought.
There is... too little simple looking unto that real source of success, the power of God in answer to prayer, first to open doors of access, then to raise up and thrust forth laborers and then to break down all opposition and make the truth mighty in converting, subduing, saving and sanctifying." -- A.T. Pierson
I was feeling pretty alone today, fasting away in quiet self-deprivation, when just a moment ago an Outpost mom stuck her head in the door of my office and said "I'm really, really hungry right now. So I'm chewing gum." I laughed hard in the sudden atmosphere of camaraderie and told her my hunger-numbing drug of choice was caffeine. "I'm drinking cold coffee," I said. She laughed back, waved, took her kids to the karate class next door and, with that-- I felt propped-up. I felt supported. Prayer is work, the most important work-- but many hands make the labor lighter. Thank you Outpost, for joining me in prayer; we're already experiencing the victory!
Surrounded By Grace,