“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:12-13
Jesus here brilliantly brings together work (do the works) & prayer (ask in my name) in his teaching of his disciples.
Let us, for just one moment, put these two (prayer & work) on a spectrum. Don’t we all err toward one side — Some of us often asking, breathing, wishing, praying to God for things, then doing nothing to work toward bringing them about? Others of us diligently putting our noses to the grindstone to improve our lives and the lives of others by much effort, then neglecting to ask God that He might be given due credit, made more famous, and glorified through our work?
On which end of the spectrum do you tend to fall??
In his 1885 book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray writes:
To every complaint as to weakness or unfitness, as to difficulties or want of success, Jesus gives this one answer: ‘He that believes on me will do greater works, because I go to the Father, and whatsoever you ask in my Name, that will I do.’
…to him who seeks to pray the effectual prayer of faith, because he needs it for the work of the Master, to him it will be given to learn it; because he has made himself the servant of his Lord’s interests. Prayer not only teaches and strengthens to work: work teaches and strengthens to pray.
I was encouraged as I read Murray’s thoughts this morning. No matter what end of the spectrum we tend to fall, God is able and ready to teach and strengthen us in our weaknesses, through our strengths, for His glory. As I go about my week this week — doing far too much work and not enough prayer OR far too much prayer and not enough work — Jesus will be lovingly, faithfully working & praying alongside me, making me into more of the woman He created me to be. And maybe that woman falls a little more on the middle of the spectrum.
One more thought: In the slow bringing together of work & prayer in my life, I have found that the work which God wants to do in partnership with me is two-fold.
First, it includes the kind of external work which usually first comes to mind when I think of “work” (bringing order out of chaos in your home and social calendar, efficiently and effectively carrying out your duties of employment in honor of your boss, ministering to others with my particular strengths and talents, caring for children and the elderly, practicing hospitality, caring for shut-ins and sick people, reforming systems in this world that oppress people, etc. etc.).
Second, it includes the kind of interior work which hardly ever comes to mind, but is absolutely essential if one is to follow in the Way and work of Jesus. It is the interior work which leads to personal transformation (confession, repentance, realizing that your recurring problems must not be blamed on everyone else but rather owned and sorted through, experiencing the salvation of Jesus each new day by believing the Good News again for areas I’m feeling stuck, etc. etc.).
Both kinds of work (external and interior) are absolutely necessary to the transformative kingdom work which Jesus wants to do in my heart on the way to this world.
And I have come to call this kind of interior work: prayer.
I have fallen on both ends of the spectrum at different times in my life. I recently came across the Benedictine Monk mantra “ora et labora” (pray and work), and adopted it as something God’s been balancing out in my life. Putting prayer front and center seems to be a key component.
Love it! Thanks, Sam.