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Come to Him Who Answers Prayer

April 30, 2015 No Comment

by Robert Bugbee

Rev.Dr. Robert Bugbee

Rev.Dr. Robert Bugbee

An old Christian teacher and author told a certain pastor long ago, “Expect more from your prayers than from your sermons.”  Does the Lord say that in so many words? Maybe not, but it’s worth pondering.

Pastors who studied preaching at the seminary, who spend hours preparing to preach, who read books and attend conferences to improve preaching skills are hopeful about accomplishing things in the congregation with their sermons. They can picture people out there needing comfort right now. They see others who have grown careless and should be warned. They realize members require teaching on the truth of God, so they can sink roots down deeper into the Lord Jesus. If the pastor truly cares for people’s needs and works hard to prepare messages for them, why wouldn’t he expect much to come from his preaching?

“Expect more from your prayers than from your sermons.” Even if it’s not a verse drawn from the Bible, it’s healthy for the pastor to think about. It’s true also of other things he does; counseling, strategizing, and administering. His efforts alone will not get very far, no matter how well-prepared and energetic they are.  Solomon sang about this, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

This does not only apply to pastors. Christian fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, teachers, business people, health-care professionals, those who work with their hands, and every other believer could take this to heart. “Expect more from your prayers than from… your planning, your toil, your correcting, your friendliness, your investing, etc.” The list goes on and on. We’re not used to thinking that way! We’ve come to respect hard work and giving it “your all.” Aren’t we right to disdain half-hearted effort and lukewarm commitment?

Every believer could take this to heart. “Expect more from your prayers than from… your planning, your toil, your correcting, your friendliness, your investing, etc.” The list goes on and on.

I never knew the teacher who told that pastor to expect more from his prayers than from his sermons. I don’t imagine he intended for the pastor to be sloppy about his work. He was pointing instead to where the power comes from to affect situations and to change people. It comes from the Lord, not from us. “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). Yes, the Lord is pleased to use your hard work and influence as His tool. How does He work with tools? The tool is nothing unless He lifts it off the workbench and wields it to transmit His power and love.

“Expect more from your prayers than from your         .” You fill in the blank! I’ve asked people across Synod’s family to think about such things since our convention last year in Vancouver. We gathered there under the theme “Come to Him Who Answers Prayer” a reminder from Psalm 65:2.

The Lord does not merely command you to pray. He solemnly pledges to hear your prayers, to answer them in His best way and time. He’s yearning for you to bring Him your need, the troubles faced by others around you, and to praise Him for hearing your prayers in the past. (By the way, you’re always the first to benefit from that sort of thanksgiving, since remembering God’s help in days gone by can re-kindle strong trust for the prayer-concerns you are taking to Him now.)

By the time you read this page, we will be in the middle of the district convention season across the Synod. It runs from mid-April to the latter part of May. Our friends in the Alberta-British Columbia District especially are working through trying times with the crisis relating to their Church Extension Fund. Nobody knows what the future will bring to structures now shaken as their convention prepares to meet. District leaders there cannot craft a magic solution to the challenge. Neither can pastors nor lay delegates. I am as powerless to do it as any of them. The Lord already sees exactly what the best way forward looks like. All who care deeply about our church family’s troubles in that part of the country do well to expect more to come from our prayers than from any other preparing we might do, so that we cry to Him repeatedly and ask Him to lead our people to His gracious gift of a solution.

It’s true for any other trial—great or small—faced by any district, any local congregation, or faced by you in your personal life. Like a diligent preacher preparing a sermon, go ahead! Study! Plan! Think deep! Work hard! But expect more to come from your prayers than from anything else you do. I do not say this because we who pray are so strong and holy and are thus able to make things happen. I say it because we who pray are fleeing to the strong and holy Lord who can make all things happen. Your constant, hungering prayers to Him are the beating heart that shows you really believe that.

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Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee is President of Lutheran Church–Canada.

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