Why I Stopped Praying
I’m probably the least inspiring person I know.
Mind you, being inspiring is different from being awesome, which I am in spades. But I’m not inspired by myself because, well, most of my life is very ordinary. It’s not all that risky or amazing. Even being me every day loses its novelty.
Then I realized what my problem was. I’ve been praying too much. Way too much.
So a few weeks ago, when the opportunity came to do something kind of risky and out of the ordinary, I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t ask God’s blessing, or seek out his plan for my life. I didn’t even sleep on it. I did something completely impulsive, which is very unusual for me.
Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what I did, and why I didn’t clear it with God’s “plan” for my life.
A Really Big Impulse Purchase
A few weeks ago, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary featured Seth Barnes, founder of Adventures in Missions. I’m a big fan of Jamie, and I don’t think she’d endorse just any crappy old missions organization. I checked out AIM’s site, saw there was exactly one trip that fit with my schedule, so I registered myself and purchased a plane ticket, barely aware of the destination I had signed on for. Oh, I did tell my wife. I’ll be heading to Matamoros, Mexico this July.
Maybe you’ve taken bigger risks with even less forethought, and I congratulate you for your reckless, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude. You are a big reason YouTube exists. But this, for a guy who tends to over-deliberate over the kind of cheese I should buy, or whether or not I really need bread, was a big-time impulse purchase. I’m not going to change the world, and I’m not saying “Look at how inspiring I am! I’m being completely reckless for Jesus! This is a total game-changer!” But it’s big…for me.
So why did I suddenly sign up to go to Mexico without a single “What do you think?” to God?
Pray Until God Gives Up
You know how someone at church will have a really wacky idea, and the pastor or someone in charge will counter with a gentle “Let’s pray about that.” That’s church code for, “No chance in hell.” Every pastor knows this trick. It is invaluable.
Well, my prayer life is very much the same. I’ve never claimed to pray too much, because most weeks, I don’t…unless I sense that God is giving me some ridiculous idea. Then, like a good pastor dealing with some crazy church member I pray…and pray…and pray until I “sense” that God is so sick of my prayers that He says, “Fine! I changed my mind! Do what you want! Just shut up and leave me alone!”
I pray myself right out of having to do a lot of things. It’s a great system.
The fact is, I’ve had a nagging sense for a long time that I needed to do something. So I knew this time, that if I gave myself any time to “pray,” I’d just pray myself right out of it. I’d procrastinate. I’d come up with other pressing things I have to do. I’d think about adult things like “consequences,” or “money,” or “cartels” or “safety.” I actually didn’t think about any of those things until people at church brought them up.
When the opportunity came, I didn’t need to pray because God had already given me an answer. He told me, “Matt, stop praying about it and get off your ass.”
Pray Without Ceasing?
Most Christians won’t tell you that there’s such a thing as too much prayer. (Even though we’ve all been in prayer meetings that lasted a tad too long.) But it got me thinking. Maybe there are other times I just need to get out of God’s face with the prayers. How long should you spend seeking God’s plan for your life, before you just get up and do something? How many times can you ask God for something before you’re wasting your time begging for something that God will never give you? How many times have I prayed that someone else gets their act together, while ignoring my shortcomings?
So I ask you: is it possible to pray too much? Is God sick of hearing us ask for the same things? What do you avoid doing by praying all the time?
Read more from Matt Appling on his blog, The Church of No People.