Summary: When we think we are too busy to pray, we are succumbing to the issue of control: either we suppose we can manage everything or we want to abdicate. Prayer is the way to find priorities and strength.
Let me throw some numbers at you. Imagine that you were in charge of an operation that involves, on the average, some ten thousand people a week, almost all of whom come together at one time. Of these ten thousand or so, not all will get there every time, but sometimes many more than that will show up. A variety of factors, including weather and whim, means that sometimes it will be down to six or eight thousand; other times it will climb to perhaps fifteen thousand. And you who are in charge do not know until it happens how many are coming. Do you see the potential for things getting out of control?
In addition, when they gather for a few hours, creating logistical problems ranging from traffic management to restroom maintenance, there are to be a couple of large meetings and about 300 smaller meetings, all at once. Most of these little groups are to be led by people who may or may not show up prepared to lead their groups. If you have 300 meetings going on simultaneously, it is almost certain that some of them will go spinning out of control.
In addition, the bill for running this enterprise comes to more than ten million dollars a year. Where does it come from? You don’t actually know. It’s uncertain. But you are in charge of getting it to come! As well as of getting various other things to happen. As well as of attending to the individual needs of the ten thousand. People are pulling at your sleeve all the time, asking you to do this, be that, go somewhere, get it done. You are supposed to be in control.
At the end of the day, when one of these huge gatherings is over, the last car has left the acres of parking, and the last door has been locked, then someone hands you a brochure advertising a prayer retreat: five days out in the woods, no telephone, locked in prayer.
What is your response? What do you reply?
Now I know that you think you know what I want you to reply! I know what you think will please the pastor! You think you are supposed to say, "That sounds great, just what I need. Five days of peace and quiet with the Lord. I’ll go."
But come on, now, get real. What do you really say? Managing ten thousand people, dealing with uncertain helpers, finding ten million dollars, and somebody wants you to get away for a prayer retreat? And you say, Oh, how wonderful!" Get real! No, what you are far more likely to say is, "I don’t have time for that. I have too much to do. I couldn’t afford five hours, let alone five days. I’m just too busy to pray."
Too busy to pray. That is the mark of Christians living in a fast-paced, high-powered world. Too busy to pray.
There are dangers in being too busy to pray. I want to insist this morning that in fact we are not too busy to pray. Instead we are too busy not to pray. Do you get that distinction? It is not that we are too busy to pray. It is that, if we only really knew it, we are too busy not to pray. Because we are busy, we have no choice but to pray.
The issue at its heart is the issue of control. How do you control the situation you are in? How do you control your own life? One avenue is prayer.
The situation I was telling you about a moment ago is the story of Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, near Chicago. It’s one of those fast-growing churches in the outer suburbs. It has to be an absolute nightmare to manage.
As I read about Bill Hybels and Willow Creek, of course I made the obvious comparisons to myself and Takoma Park. How can one man begin to manage ten thousand church members, when I can scarcely deal with half of our seven hundred? How can one person even grasp what is going on with 300 plus classes and ministries, let alone plan any of it, when it seems we here labor mightily just to keep a few programs going and start a couple of new ones?
Most intimidating of all, how can Bill Hybels find time to write a book, when Joe Smith can scarcely find time to read it? I suspect the answer is found in the title of his book, Too Busy Not To Pray. This morning’s message is derived from that book title, although the development of it is mine.
Too busy not to pray. The issue, I say again, is how to be in control of our own lives.