Monday, January 6, 2014

Prayer burnout


Have you ever just gotten tired of praying for people?  I can't tell you how many old style Wednesday night prayer meetings have left me irritated and exhausted.  Most of the requests seem to be about people who get sick and stay that way:

"Dear Lord, Aunt Edna's gout is out of control again...please make it ok for her to eat whatever she pleases and still be able to get around enough to make her Christmas fruitcake..."

Ok, I do have more compassion than that.  I've been in pain regularly and it's, well...a pain.

As many of you know, I'm writing a lab manual for a Prayer Lab--a course on prayer that focuses on praying, rather than lecture.  As I was writing the chapter on long term intercessory prayer, I included a guideline that our vertical time with the Father should always be longer than the time we spend interceding for others. Of course, if we are praying continually, that leaves lots of room for intercession.  I felt uncomfortable with including it, not because it was a bad guideline, but because I didn't have a specific scripture I could use to back it up so I began to ask the Father about it and this is what He sent me from John 15:
  • “...I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing
  • Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
  • But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
So the equation is this:

Life from Christ in > Fruit for Christ out
For my not so mathematical friends:
The life we receive from Christ will always be greater than what we can fruitfully give out. 
We cannot give what we have not already received from Christ.
That's what, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing," means.  We can do things of our own strength, even pray for others out of our own strength, but it will mean absolutely nothing in eternal terms.  It's what Paul is referring to when he talks about us building with wood, hay and stubble.  When we build out of our own resources, the product will amount to kindling in God's eyes.  When we build from what He provides, it will be something worthy of Him because the gold, silver and precious stones He provided are the stuff He deserves. 
Personally, I wear out of energy not long after I start trying to minister in my own strength.  For this I'm grateful.  I know the difference between prayer that is bourn on the winds of the Holy Spirit and the labor of prayer from my human capability.  The moment I find I'm struggling to find His power or drive for intercession, I know I haven't had enough time with Him for myself and for His glory.  No fruit means I haven't been abiding.  I have a choice.  I can keep trying on my own or I can stop and enjoy Him--and that's an easy choice, though it may take me awhile to make it sometimes.  Part of what He does when I abide in Him is assure that my focus is on Him and not my circumstances or difficulties. 
What about you?  How is your own time with Him coming?  What can you do practically to make sure that your focus is on Him and He has your full attention before you start to minister, whether it's prayer, service or speaking?  I'd love to hear from you...