“I’ll pray about it.” Four words that often form the basis for what I call prayer paralysis. While prayer, and by extension seeking the will of God, is an important and appropriate first step in any endeavour, far too often our inability to develop and execute a plan of action to achieve a desired goal is hidden behind our spirituality. It is as if through prayer we expect God to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves. As a result, we miss walking in His plans and purposes for our lives because we fail or refuse to step out in faith, trusting we are being directed as we have prayed.
I thought about this form of paralysis as I reflected on the words of the proverb writer: “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4, Living Bible). Three practical steps are mentioned – plan wisely, use common sense [and I add, believing we are being led by the Holy Spirit], and stay informed on what is going on by seeking out good counsel. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to park our brains at the door. Mahatma Gandhi was right when he said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” It is wonderful to be a person of faith; however, faith without works, the practical outworking of one’s belief, is dead.
How many decisions have been put off because someone is still “praying about it”? Of course, there are times when a period of waiting is required, but what about those decisions that are not made because of fear, excuses, or laziness? Those are the ones we are expected to make using the three practical steps of the proverb mentioned earlier. For example, a person looking for a job, after praying, needs to send out applications, do some networking, and keep on checking current job postings. To pray for something then sit back and do nothing is presumptuous. Faith is about doing, and the answers to our prayers often come after taking the first step (see Luke 17:14). Jesus encourages us to “ask…seek…knock,” all action words that produce the desired results (see Matt. 7:7).
To fail to plan is to plan to fail. Let us not confuse motion with action, or lack of planning and poor decision-making with destiny. In addition to prayer, God has given us the keys to succeed in any enterprise – plan wisely, use common sense, and stay abreast of the facts. Our destiny hinges on our ability, with His help, to consistently carry out these steps.
Military leader and strategist Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action comes, stop thinking and go in.” That sounds like very good advice. What are you waiting for to get started?