For what do we accomplish when, relying upon every vain assurance, we consider, plan, try, and undertake what we think is fitting; then – while in our very first efforts we are actually forsaken by and destitute of sane understanding as well as true virtue – we nonetheless rashly press on until we hurtle to destruction? Yet for those confident then can do anything by their own power, things cannot happen otherwise. (Institutes II.I.2)
Though Calvin isn’t speaking about prayer in this section of the Institutes, his words about humanity’s incessant independence in seeking to better themselves instead of trusting in the gospel are equally appropriate to the Christian’s life without prayer. How often do we as believers, pastors, elders and church members assume that our ideas and plans are God ordained and right? How often do we set about to evangelize our neighbors, lead a bible study, transform a church, or even establish a prayer meeting without truly seeking God before, during and after?
As a pastor, I must confess that it is far “easier” to dream up an idea and then baptize it with a little prayer before and after the plans have been laid than it is to soak in prayer and seek the face of God for every bit of leading and direction that I need to effectively pastor. The more I have devoted myself to communicating with my Father and listening to his voice, the easier things go, but the more I press on without praying the more failures I experience and the harder the work.
As believers we are called to follow the lead of our redeemer. We are called to recognize his voice:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
And prayer informed and guided by the Word of God is the only way I know of to grow in effective ministry. Will you commit to praying at all times, in all places for all kinds of instructions? Will the church be known as a “House of Prayer” or will we forever be known as people rushing from one great idea to the next? The choice is yours.