Recently I attended a prayer meeting with a group of godly people, the purpose of which was to seek God’s face on behalf of the city in which they lived. I listened as they asked God to unite Christians so that the body of Christ would make a positive witness to the city, they prayed for open hearts, they asked the Father to pour out his Spirit, they prayed for the Lord to make a way to reach multitudes with the gospel. Anyone listening could not help but be moved by the sincerity of their prayers. They were a small group praying to a big God on behalf of a city of eight million people.
Near the end of the prayer one woman prayed that “we might not strive” in our work for the Lord. Later she repeated that request again in slightly different words. “Keep us from striving in our work for you.” Immediately I started thinking about what she said because I had never heard anyone pray like that before.
What are the signs that we are striving in a bad way?
1. When our personal agenda consumes us morning, noon and night.
2. When we get angry if our plans are questioned or criticized.
3. When we interrupt others to talk about what interests us.
4. When we try to manipulate circumstances to get our desired result.
5. When we are nervous and fretful about things we can’t control.
6. When we use sarcasm to keep others from questioning our views.
7. When we get angry over little things that normally wouldn’t bother us.
8. When it has to be “our way or the highway.”
9. When we justify unkindness because, after all, we’re serving the Lord and his work comes first.
10. When we can’t relax, can’t let go, can’t rest, can’t laugh, and can’t enjoy life because we have taken ourselves too seriously.
I find that list convicting because it’s easy to strive in a bad way for something that is ultimately good. That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? We become consumed by things that aren’t bad or evil and are actually good things, but it’s not the end of the world if our plans and our dreams don’t go through. Because we tend to forget that, nothing of value gets done. Meanwhile we make everyone else miserable.
We can strive in our own strength or we can wait and trust and fret not. Those are your basic choices.