I’ve always been a doer. If it’s a choice between doing something tranquil and quiet versus running about planning, making phone calls, and talking to people, it’s pretty much a no-brainer which one I’d choose.
I suppose that’s one of the reasons why full-time ministry suits my personality. There’s always a meeting to attend, an event to be coordinated, a party or dinner to be planned. It keeps things interesting, on the go, and in other words, busy. There, I’ve confessed. I like being busy.
But recently, I’ve started to wonder – at what point does doing things become a bad thing? And where do we draw the line?
Mary and Martha
If you’ve been Christian for a while, then I’m sure you’ve at some point heard the phrase “don’t be Martha when you could be Mary” or some variation of that. (Luke 10:38-42) We all get it, it’s better to sit at Jesus’ feet than run about doing things, even if they seem good like preparing food and tidying the house before guests come.
But even though we know this, I still think sometimes we as Christians have a tricky time putting this principle into practice in our everyday lives. Or at least, I do. It’s hard when there are so many things available to get involved with, from bible studies to mission trips, to volunteering and visiting the sick… the list goes on. Even the Bible doesn’t always seem clear, sometimes telling us to go and do, and other times to sit and wait.
So how do we figured it out then? I think the answer lies in asking the right question. Namely, not what and how much we’re doing, but rather how much are we praying?
Pray, Then Do
I’ve learned a lot from my mother. She might be just another petite Asian woman whom you could take in a fight (no, not all Asians know Kung Fu contrary to popular belief), but she’s a powerhouse when it comes to prayer.
Whenever I am home visiting in Singapore, it’s not unusual for me to wake up every morning to find her sitting in the living room, hands lifted in worship, quietly soaking in the presence of God. Some days she awakes as early as 3am in the morning to pray for anywhere between 2 and 3 hours. And that’s just her warm up. The rest of her day is filled with intermittent prayers to God as she goes about her tasks.
Her example has taught me that no matter how busy we might get, however many things there are to do, nothing, and I mean NOTHING can happen without prayer. It is what centers us, puts us in line with God’s plan, and ultimately what lays the foundation for us to accomplish the tasks He has assigned to us.
Prayer – A First Response NOT A Last Resort
“… Prayer is in many ways the criterion of Christian life. Prayer requires that we stand in God’s presence with open hands, naked and vulnerable, proclaiming to ourselves and to others that without God we can do nothing. This is difficult in a climate where the predominant counsel is ‘do your best and God will do the rest.’ When life is divided into ‘our best’ and ‘God’s rest.’ we have turned prayer into a last resort to be used only when all our own resources are depleted. Then even the Lord has become the victim of our impatience. Discipleship does not mean to use God when we can no longer function ourselves. On the contrary, it means to recognize that we can do nothing at all, but that God can do everything through us. As disciples, we find not some but all of our strength, hope, courage and confidence is in God. Therefore, prayer must be our first concern.” – Compassion – A Reflection on the Christian Life (Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison)
This week I’ve realized that prayer hasn’t always been my first priority, but I’m committed to changing that. I’m committed to making sure I make time to pray for everything and anything I’m doing, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour. Because it’s not enough to know that nothing happens without prayer, I have to put it in action too.
So I invite you to join me in journeying deeper into prayer and making it an active part of your daily lifestyle as a Christian. Prayer is the key to seeing God do many things in our lives, and we would all be wise to dive into it head on.
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org