Requirements for a Faculty Ministry 1: Prayer
Today I was talking with a campus minister who works with our faculty group. He mentioned that his organization is going to focus this next year on prayer and evangelism in the various faculty ministries around the country.
Prayer is somewhat of a touchy subject for me. I have been blessed with several spiritual gifts, but prayer is not one of them. In other words, prayer doesn’t come easily to me and it isn’t the first thing I think of typically when I have a problem. However, that does not excuse me from doing it, and it is therefore a discipline I must challenge myself to develop. It is well and good for those with ‘the gift of prayer,’ and I ask any of you with it to lift university faculty up in prayer to the Lord fervently, faithfully, and frequently. (Preaching may be one of my gifts—three points all starting with the same letter—I’m golden!)
For the rest of us, which is probably a majority, we still have a responsibility to pray.
I had been a Christian for a couple of years before it clicked for me that Christianity was less a religion and more a relationship. For a relationship to work, the parties need to spend time together. Prayer is one of the key ways of spending time with God. When I started praying and reading Scripture regularly, my growth and maturity as a believer skyrocketed.
As I have gotten ‘too busy’ and ‘too tired,’ I’ve noticed my effectiveness drops off. James, in his epistle says that we have not because we ask not. If we want our ministries to be successful in any lasting way, it makes sense to spend as much or more time with our Commander than in ‘ministry activity.’ He’s more passionate and more invested in reaching the world than we could dream to be. He loves our colleagues and students infinitely more than we do. How many of you would willingly die for the worst of your students? He already did. All too often, I’m more eager to get rid of them than to die for them.
Prayer is more than just asking God to open hearts to the Gospel and to bless ministry events. It is more than ‘thinking God’s thoughts after Him,’ as good as that is. It is searching, exploring the depths of His infinite Being, which He delights to share with us. It is swimming in the very fountains of life. It cannot help but change us, and through us, our worlds.
Fervent prayer will not magically unlock all of the doors of difficulty. It will open some, but, truthfully, it will also slam shut others. Difficulty is part of this life, and as we are more effective in being salt and light, difficulties will gather around us to attempt to limit that effectiveness.
When working with metal, particularly when drilling through it, one has to be careful to not work too fast, yet keep pushing through. Otherwise, something called ‘work hardening’ (also known as ‘tempering’) occurs. The heat changes the molecular arrangement of the metal so that it becomes harder and resists being cut away by the drill bit. The very act of moving through the metal causes it to resist being moved through. The analogy breaks down because you want to (and usually can) avoid work-hardening in real life, but if we are praying well, work hardening is often a sign we’re in the right place doing the right thing. Another way to look at it is from the viewpoint of a fighter pilot. They have a saying, “If no one’s shooting up at you, chances are you are over the wrong part of the battlefield.”
At the same time that work hardening is occurring, God is usually working both in us and in our surroundings, and things will happen we don’t expect. Breakthroughs in areas we are hoping for happen in strange ways. Breakthroughs in areas we didn’t know existed appear seemingly out of nowhere. Opportunities happen, sometimes merely because we come aware of them through prayer—they were always there, but we didn’t recognize them as such.
Prayer is given as the single most effective tool we have to improve this world. Yet we tend to ignore it, largely because we don’t see its effectiveness—we may intellectually know its potential, but are not yet convinced in our hearts of it.
One last confession to make: this post is less for you than for me. >I< need to take my own advice here. This choir needs the preaching to. For me, sadly, it is an act of the will, a choice, not to make the time to spend with God. How stupid is that? Pray for me, would you?