So far, we have seen how to effectively communicate with God through prayer by eliminating noise in the onward and feedback channels. We have also seen how crucial praying the will of God is, for which we have the Holy Spirit to help us. Now, we begin discussing how vital prayer is, starting with whether we should pray or plan.
Praying or planning
In the world, people spend time planning, thinking, gathering data, purring through statistics, etc. But in the kingdom of God, we spend time praying. In God's kingdom, we plan nothing; rather, we are to execute God's plan by praying it into fruition! The plan of God from the foundation of the earth is birthed in the place of prayer. Those who need to be physically involved in its execution are then moved by the Holy Spirit, the word of God, and prayer, to implement it.
Of course, if you are not a child of God or do not want to be involved in God's plan, you can go ahead and execute your plans. But God's children execute God's plan, not theirs! What planning is to the world, praying is, in the kingdom of God.
When Judah returned from exile and began to rebuild the temple as recorded in the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah, they were stopped shortly after laying the foundation by the opposition. After some time, the returnees gave up building the temple, but God spoke through Haggai and Zechariah. And as they prophesied, they resumed the rebuilding of the temple, and all opposition was silenced. At that time, Zechariah prophesied thus:
This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. …. The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. (Zechariah 4:6-9, KJV)
Through prayer, God releases His plan to us
As we pray, God speaks to us about His plans and gives us instructions and direction on what to do and how to implement those plans. Praying, therefore, enables us to work with God, who has the plan! Our praying helps us to yield to God's desire rather than be obstinate about our desires. Thus, through praying, we can work with God and not rebel against Him.
Without praying, we would do a lot of things in our strength, but it will not count in the kingdom of God, neither will God accept it. Thus, prayer is how we engage in good works—works that are acceptable to God.
Praying is what we need rather than planning
A man may plan, but the Lord directs his steps through praying (Proverbs 16:9). Some of us may have noticed how we may have spent countless hours planning something, but when it came to execution, something happened, and all the sleepless nights went to waste, literally. And, no matter how much effort we had put in, our plan did not come to fruition—nothing happened.
GOD takes the wind out of Babel pretense, he shoots down the world's power-schemes. GOD's plan for the world stands up, all his designs are made to last. (Psalms 33:10-11, MSG)
God's plan is what matters; our planning counts for nothing. We need to disabuse our minds of plans, targets, etc. If we pray to God, He will give us instructions on what to do and directions on how to do things.
Sometimes, you may have a plan, and as you pray, God says, "Go on and execute it." You should know at such times that such is not your plan, but God's plan, which He had caused to enter into your heart, that you are executing. Thus, you must implement that plan as God directs, not as you feel. Rather than waste time planning, we ought to pray and receive instructions and direction from the Chief Planner—Almighty God!
God knows the enemies' strategies and how to counter them
And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. (Isaiah 7:4-7, KJV)
When we pray, our focus must be on God's plan, not on what may be happening around us. Though we may be concerned about the events around us yet, our focus must be on God! World events should motivate us to seek God rather than plan our strategies.
When three nations came against Jehoshaphat, He feared and went to God in prayer with fasting—him and the entire nation (2 Chronicles 20). While praying, the word of God came to Jehoshaphat and the people, through one of the Levites, telling them that the battle was the Lord's, and that they would not need to do anything! On the morrow, the military, as usual, had strategised and were getting ready to set themselves in battle, when Jehoshaphat admonished them, saying,
Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. (2 Chronicles 20:20, KJV)
Jehoshaphat was admonishing them to believe what God had said through the Levite (the prophet). As a result, Jehoshaphat put singers, in their holy robes, in the forefront while the soldiers kept the rear. As the singers sang, God made the nations gathered against Judah turn on one another until none was standing! No planning or battle strategy was needed. All they did was believe the word of God!
God spoke through Hosea, saying,
by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. (Hosea 12:13 KJV)
Israel left Egypt not by military strategy nor by planning their exodus, but by God's word and direction at the mouth of Moses!
Also, when we pray, we need not tell God what He should do; rather, by His Spirit, He prays through us as we ought (Romans 8:26-27).
What of our daily schedules?
In Mark 1:35-39, when Peter and the other disciples found Jesus and told Him about the people who had gathered in Peter's home waiting for Him, Jesus told them, "We are going to other towns and villages." He could say that because He had prayed, and the Father had given Him His schedule. He did not need to plan or decide for Himself. If the Lord had not prayed and received His schedule from the Father, He would have engaged in ministry that would not have counted in heaven!
Indeed, Jesus said,
"I tell you the truth: the Son can do nothing on his own; he does only what he sees his Father doing. What the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 GNB)
What Jesus was saying essentially is that the Father plans His schedule. What He does on earth is first revealed to Him by the Father, and then He proceeds to do what He has seen the Father do by revelation. Jesus' schedule for the day was obtained through prayer, as was His task. The same must apply to us if we are to succeed in our kingdom assignment.
We must first minister to God before we can minister to people
We are called primarily to minister to God rather than to people. As we minister to God in prayer, He directs us on where, how, when, and to whom to minister. When the Lord chose the twelve, He wanted them, first and foremost, to be with Him, and then He can send them out to preach and empower them to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15). In being with Him, they spent time with Him, ministering to Him, and then He could send them out with specific instructions.
When we do not pray, our ministry to people counts for nothing (Matthew 7:21-23). But when we pray to God, He directs us on who to minister to, and in so doing, we are ministering to Him (Matthew 25:40).
After Barnabas, Saul, and the other ministers in Antioch had taught the people for a year, they set aside time to minister to God. As they ministered to God, the Holy Spirit announced:
Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:2, KJV)
Thus began the spread of the gospel to the major provinces of the Gentiles. Had they not ministered to God in prayer (with fasting), they would have continued to minister, but to the people, and it would not have counted before God. Therefore, we are first to minister to God, and then through Him, to the people! Without first ministering to God, which Jesus always did, our ministry will be of human effort and, therefore, meaningless!
In the kingdom of God, we pray; we do not plan
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (James 4:13-15, KJV)
What city should we go to? How long shall we stay there for? What should we do while there? The answers to these questions can be found through prayer, not by reading the Financial Times or any of those economic dailies or weekly papers.
In 2 Corinthians 1:14ff, Paul documents how he desired to visit the Corinthians but could not because it was not his decision. He could only act as God directed him, regardless of the desire he may have had to visit Corinth.
The Christian life is one of praying, not planning. Any plan a Christian has must have been received in prayer from God.
Joshua had planned the attack on Jericho based on the spies' report, but God set aside their plan and gave them His blueprint for the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-15). But when they first attacked Ai, they did not seek God's face, and they were beaten back with the loss of lives (Joshua 7)! If they had consulted God in prayer, He would have told them, ab initio, that there was sin in the camp that first needed to be dealt with, and they would not have suffered the loss of lives.
Likewise, we also must consult with God in prayer before venturing out to do anything whatsoever. Otherwise, we may incur irreparable damage and loss. Thus, prayer is crucial for those in the kingdom of God! Let us learn to trust God and depend on Him to lead us through prayers.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV)
In the next instalment, we shall examine another aspect of living that makes prayer extremely crucial, central, and critical for Christians.