One of the core values of the Christian organization I work for which has based me here in Taiwan is that “PRAYER IS THE PRIMARY WORK OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD.” Here are some reflections on that core value and how it relates to another important topic, namely, ACTION (Most of the thoughts reflected here are not original!)
Prayer without action can be like never putting a vehicle into gear. The engine will keep on running without the car actually going anywhere. On the other hand, action without prayer is like trying to drive a car without adding any fuel. The car will likewise not go anywhere. A balance has to be struck because prayer and action go hand in hand.
A web article asks if Christians promote prayer over action. Some people have the impression that Christianity tells people to pray for those who are sick or in need at the expense of doing something practical about their needs. This impression is incorrect in two ways: its substance is incorrect, for the Bible teaches us to act as well as to pray, but it also mistakenly assumes that prayer is ineffective. The Bible emphasizes in several places that one must put faith into action by deeds, not just praying or thinking nice thoughts or saying nice things (eg. 1 Jn 3:17-18; James 2:15-17).
Similarly, Jesus' life included both prayer and action. If God meant for us to spend all of our time praying, Jesus would have spent all his time praying for people instead of going out to help and teach them. Although Jesus devoted plenty of time to prayer, it was not the only thing he did. In fact, he taught that we should not pray long redundant prayers (Mt 6:7-8, Lk 20:47).
Why then does the Bible emphasize prayer? When we pray, God is interacting with us and teaching us about Himself, that He loves us and cares for our needs, that He is faithful and will respond when we ask him for what is good (Matt 7:7; Mark 11:24).
Prayer, however, requires action. What do we do after we have prayed? Sit around and wait on God by doing nothing? Sometimes perhaps, but prayer most often demands some kind of action on our part. Is God able to answer our prayers supernaturally? Of course! But since we pray out of faith, true Biblical faith requires action.
If you are praying for God to heal your body, pray, but then do something about it. Go see the doctors and specialists that are out there to help you heal. If you are praying for God to help your church to grow, pray but then do something about it. Similarly if you are praying for God to meet your financial needs, pray, but then do something about it! Seek out successful men and women and get their wise counsel. Sit down and put a financial game plan together. Don’t bide time by doing nothing! Engage in those actions which you believe God would use for His glory. If you are praying for your marriage or for a relationship, pray, but then act! Seek out Godly counsel from your pastor or some other qualified Christian counselor.
To summarize, we are not just praying out of dependence upon God, but out of faith in God. If you really believe something, you will act in faith after you have prayed. That is because God honors our faith. God blesses our faith. We pray in faith, therefore, our prayers require action.
Never forget that prayer is not a passive exercise but an active one. We are active participants in God answering our prayers. It is God who is answering our prayers, but our faith almost always requires us to be involved in that process. Just as James wrote to believers that “faith without works is dead,” so prayer without action is powerless!