Heightening our awareness of God’s constant presence may do more for your life and ministry than anything else we can do. The supposed urgency of religious tasks can deceive us into thinking religious tasks are “God’s work,” and thus God is near to us as we do them. That can surely be the case, but it isn’t always. God’s work and God are not the same. Ministry and God aren’t the same, even though it’s service to God. Service to God without an awareness of God’s presence leads to mechanical ministry and often ministry malpractice. After all, it is God’s Spirit that provides our passion and integrity.
How do we heighten our awareness of God’s presence? There are other ways, but none better than prayer.
I’ll confess I’ve always found it easier to read the Word or worship God in praise or service than to pray. It’s not that I never pray, or that Word and worship aren’t prayerful in their own ways. It’s just that devoting concentrated time to “conventional” prayer has never felt like it fit me well. My mind would wander if I prayed for more than just a few minutes…particularly if I wasn’t praying for someone else.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that praying more briefly but more regularly works well for me. However, until quite recently my prayer life had no real structure to it. As a result, the awareness of God’s presence prayer ebbed and flowed as I went about the daily tasks of ministry. I soon came to find I was not alone among either my fellow ministers or the congregation. So, I decided to work on it, and I hope you will too.
We kicked off a message series on prayer at New Vintage Church yesterday, and one suggestion I made for heightening our church’s awareness of God throughout the week is resurrecting the practice of “praying the hours.” The Apostles observed the
Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth and ninth hour and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.). For us, that’s 9am, 12pm, and 3pm. It’s an echo of Daniel, who was known by others for his custom of going to his upper chamber and praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10). It’s nothing to be legalistic about, it’s just adding a spiritual practice with a rich legacy to give some structure our prayer efforts. I hope you’ll consider joining us this week.
Why do something like this? There are many reasons, but perhaps the greatest of these is that it heightens our awareness of God’s presence. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts–to know He’s there and to walk by His Spirit. Prayer cultivates this, especially in our fragmented, frenetic culture. It’s not just good medicine for ministers. It’s good for all of us following Jesus.