Summary: Just praying all the time without fleshing out the answers received through prayers would tantamount to being faithless. At the same time, acting without an under girding of trust in God – which is prayer – is also tantamount to being faithless.
Three theologians sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed one. “No,” another contended, “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.” “You're both wrong,” the third insisted, “the most effective prayer position is lying prostrate, face down on the floor.” The repairman could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted, “the best prayin' I ever did was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole!” As light-hearted this conversation may sound, many a time we too take prayer too lightly. We pray for the wrong reason; we pray at the wrong time; we pray for unnecessary things; and, sometimes, all we do is just pray and pray.
So, is it wrong to just pray and pray – it is of course better than talking and talking, isn’t it? The answer may be an ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ depending upon what God created you to be – “Yes,” if you belong to an insect species called “Praying Mantis,” as you would then be called to pray all the time. However, if you belong to a species called “Human Being,” then you are certainly called to act upon your prayers, apart from just praying. There would be a time when God would call us to act only, and we need to act only; and there would be a time when God would call us to pray only, and we need to pray only.
Jesus while talking of prayer in Mathew 6:5-15, cautions us from falling into the trap of praying repetitively and using prayer as a cloak to hide our inaction. Many a time, we earnestly pray for the lost souls heading towards Hell. But we would hardly venture out to live and share the gospel which would plunder Hell. Many a time, we pray for governments and people to change for the good. But we would hardly endeavor to do things the right way, which could invariably initiate the change we hope to see. And, many a time, we gladly volunteer to pray for a friend in need. But we would just stop short of helping him/her by alleviating their existential pain.
An auxiliary point to note here is we are not called to act without an under girding of prayer. Prayer, in its very essence, is all about building our relationship with our heavenly father, Jesus Christ. Prayer helps us to trust Jesus for all our needs and actions we ought to do in this world. And, when I step out to fulfill the will of God, I am very much dependent on His grace, strength, and wisdom, just as I was, when praying from my closet or in a community.
A 24/7 ‘attitude of prayer’ or an ‘actionable prayer’ on how we pray, think and conduct every aspect of our life is the need of the hour. Yes, there should be times when we ought to stay put and cry out to God for help and guidance like what Joshua did in Joshua 7:6-15. However, post such prayer time, God would want us to flesh out the answers we received through prayers by faith in Him. We are God’s answer to this dark and dying world.
The youth of this generation is disillusioned with the hyper-spirituality of our times. They see some thundering from the pulpit without any inclination to practice what they preach; some advocating ‘24/7 chain prayers’ as a magic mantra; some deifying a ‘1000 praise offering’ to the level of a daily morning ritual; and some praying in incomprehensible languages within the Church.
When our youth finally realize that not even a dot has been moved for which we have been praying for ages and with lots of fervor, they soon lose confidence in the very act of praying. Also, they lose respect for the very person who just kept praying repetitively without any willingness to act on his prayers. It is high time we understand the real meaning of prayer, as recorded in James chapter 2 – which is faith in action.
In summary, I would like to stress that we need to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and just do what He wants us to do. God can and will use anyone and any medium to fulfill his will and purpose in this world. Mediums like community prayer, food, money, technology, etc. can either become a catalyst or a debilitating force in fulfilling the will of God. And, when these mediums become a hindrance in fulfilling the will of God, we should immediately retrospect as to the use, purpose and efficacy of such mediums.
Otherwise, when Jesus returns like a thief, we would be caught unawares like the poor Sailor of Sinbad who just loved doing two things in this world – Sail and Pray. Please read his story for yourself: As the storm raged, the captain realized his ship was sinking fast. He called out, “Anyone here knows how to pray?” One Sailor stepped forward. “Aye, Captain, I know how to pray.” “Good,” said the captain, “you pray here while the rest of us put on our life jackets - we're one short!”