I previously wrote a post entitled Forcing our Will about how we can discern when we should take things into our own hands verses when we should pray and wait for God to give us direction. I love this concept because I have classically tried to force life to fit my expectations and as we all know – that typically doesn’t work. In what seems like a contradiction, I then wrote about how we need to Take Action instead of sitting on the sidelines. Personally, I love these apparent contradictions in God’s word, something I have resolved to explore at a later time, but today, I wanted to explore this specific one.
This weekend, my wife was reading in Nehemiah and made the comment, “Interesting, it says pray, but act”.
9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
– Nehemiah 4:9
This occurred during the time when Nehemiah had started rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, but was being threatened by people who didn’t want it to happen. Since that conversation with my wife, I have been thinking about this quite a bit as it relates to what I posted. Frankly, looking back, I could have expanded on the concept of Praying and Waiting a little more than I did at the time. Well, no time like the present.
Pray, Wait AND Prepare.
In reading Nehemiah and some other similar passages, I believe that I should add to the thoughts in my original post in this way. Rather than just pray and wait for God to deliver an answer that brings “more than we have asked or imagined” (Ephesians 3:20), we should also be preparing for the answer. David writes about this in the Pslams by saying we should wait “expectantly”, but does not give us much of an idea what that looks like.
3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
– Psalms 5:3
Peter writes about waiting by saying you need to “prepare your minds for action” and talks about working on sanctification (making ourselves holy like God) and staying in scripture.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
– 1 Peter 1:13-16
I believe Paul does the best job of describing what preparation looks like in his wonderful Armor of God passage in his Letter to the Ephesians.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
– Ephesians 6:10-18
We are called to pray continuously (v18), wait in faith (v16), and prepare ourselves (v15) by staying in the Word (v17), remembering the truth and working on our sanctification (v14).