By Nikki Dabney
In my community group, we’ve been working on counseling each other with Scripture. When someone brings a situation to the table, instead of responding with our immediate thoughts, we pause and search for Scripture to inform our response – it can take a while. What we’ve noticed through this practice is how often we start sentences with, “I think…” While our advice is usually not contrary to God’s Word, it’s been an edifying process to seek God before responding.
It’s got me thinking about how slow I am to pray before – or even instead of – speaking, writing, or acting. I see two primary responses that usually trump our inclination to pray: worldly wisdom and worry.
When I offer a friend advice and conclude with, “I’ll pray for you,” I am foolish and prideful enough to believe my “words of wisdom” are more valuable than my prayers.
But the truth is, only God can change hearts.
I can’t convince or control or convict. Only the Spirit can.
While offering sound counsel is biblical and commanded, it is not the greatest good we can do for our friends – believers and nonbelievers alike.
Then there’s worry – the most unproductive and heavy weight we just can’t seem to let go of. We cling to worry tighter than we cling to prayer. However, there are some notable exceptions.
For example, when we hear a prayer request for a medical emergency, we drop to our knees. Why? Because it’s laughable to imagine myself giving medical advice to a doctor. All I can do is pray. This is obvious to me in a medical situation, but really the same is true in every situation. I am not in control, but I can yield to the One who is.
And we know prayer isn’t just to make something happen – heal him, help her, provide this.
It’s a heart response. It’s a desire for communion. It’s the process of yielding.
We live this out in our closest relationships. Like other mama’s girls, I call my mom (multiple) times a day. And it’s not just to ask her for or how to do something; it’s to tell her (nearly every detail) of my day. When almost anything happens, I instinctively pick up the phone to tell my mom. I wonder what would happen if it felt this normal to turn to prayer.
The only way for it to eventually feel normal is to start. So this week, catch yourself. Notice when you are quick to respond or give your opinion. When you tell a friend you’ll pray for her and don’t. When you’re overwhelmed by a situation – a wayward friend, a season of life, the state of the world – and feel stuck. Then replace worry with prayer and compliment prayer with wisdom.
Praying is not an excuse for inaction, passivity, or neglecting to train yourself in the Word. Rather, prayer is the most powerful action. And with enough time, we’ll really believe that.