Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life.”—John 6:68
Faithful husband of 15 years. Dedicated father to three young kids including a son with specialized needs. Family Pastor to hundreds of kids, students, and families engaged in seasons of ministry growth. Add to that frequent camp speaker and contract writer and you’re staring at a life well lived. From the outside, the house looked great. Inside, things were neat and organized well. There was a slight stench, however, and it was growing. Deep in some dark attic dormer of my heart was a spot left untouched. Something was rotten and leaking out into the livable spaces of my life. It was a corner of disbelief that I had buried and forgotten existed.
As perfect as life and ministry seemed, my family needed a new car. New is a relative term. What we really needed was a more reliable, lower mileage, used car. And I wasn’t asking God for it. It seemed too small. Too trivial. Far beneath the important things God needed to keep atop His priority list. So I didn’t ask.
There was a part of me that did not believe God wanted to hear from me about the mundane details in life.
I was a pastor busy begging God on behalf of the mom in our church whose husband just moved out. No warning. I was burdened for the hope of three more kids now fatherless. I was desperate for parents to seize the opportunities expressed in Deuteronomy 6 to become spiritual leaders in their homes. I was hopeful for the lost in our community, by the power of God’s spirit, through the ministry of our church, to recognize sin and trust Christ for salvation. I prayed for God’s Kingdom to grow. There were—and are—far bigger fish to fry with my limited life in terms of prayer, right? Why clutter up the list with my insignificant details?
Because God is my Father and Christ holds the keys.
As a leader, I had forgotten that long before I became a pastor/influencer/warrior that I came to Jesus in faith becoming a child of God. Long before God revealed my call to ministry and appointed me an apostle of His gospel, I was first an adopted son.
The role of pastor had become so heavy that I stopped allowing myself to be the seventeen year old on the side of the highway calling up dad because the car wouldn’t start. By itemizing my petitions based only on what I deemed important to pray about, I was making a play to set God’s priorities. And I was attempting to brush aside what really weighed on me.
My problems, be them slight, had become parts of life I intended to handle on my own. I rested comfortably in the theology that there is no problem too big for God, but readily accepted that there might be problems too small for me to bother Him. Bother Him? How distant I had grown. I needed reminding that the all-powerful sovereign creator I served is also my Father.
When prayer becomes an item on a to-do list, even a highly prioritized item, it’s no longer a lifeline. When intercession for the flock trumps respiration for your own soul, something looms in the attic. It might be a corner of unbelief that needs to be eliminated.
When asked if they would join the deserters, Simon Peter spoke for the Twelve. “Where else will we go?” he asked. Next, Peter declared his belief in Jesus as Messiah. To whom else would they go? Christ alone spoke the words of eternal life.
The same Greek word for “life” in John 6:68 is found in John 10:10. It’s the word zoe. It indicates a full, active life, dedicated to God. It’s the life available to believers, and most fully enjoyed when prayer exists first as our communion with God. Prayer is as much the worship we bring as any song we sing. Far more intimate. We honor God when we depend on Him. We ascribe worth when we admit our need for Him, when our approach comes as kids who need their dad not just pastors with important work to do.
An Ellis Research survey for Facts & Trends finds just 16% of pastors are very satisfied with their personal prayer lives, 47% are somewhat satisfied, 30% somewhat dissatisfied and 7% very dissatisfied.
Perhaps you’re part of the 16%. If so, glory in your heavenly Father today and engage the work of helping others come to Christ in childlike faith and remain childlike in their need for God. If you’re stuck in the other 84% ranging from only somewhat satisfied to downright disgruntled, eliminate the list. Set intercession aside. Seek Him out as Father first. Let Him know your needs too. After all, where else can you turn?