Have You Fallen into "Bookend Prayer"? (part 1 of 2)

We’re all guilty of it. In the fast-paced world of leadership, there’s plenty to do and not plenty of time. We know we need God’s wisdom, so we fire off a prayer and charge into our project without waiting for His response. When the task is complete, we pray again, asking God to bless our efforts. A friend of mine calls it “bookend prayer.” Let’s examine why it falls short of God’s design for prayer and leaves us short-changed in the process.

Imagine this scenario. There are three-inch-wide holes and tunnels all throughout the mulch in your flowerbeds. You don’t know whether they’re from voles or moles or chipmunks, but you’re determined to relocate the critters. You race to the hardware store, track down an employee, and ask him to recommend something. As soon as he opens his mouth to answer, you notice some products on a shelf nearby, grab an armful, and head home to wage war. A few weeks later, one of the items did the trick and you happen to see the hardware guy in town. You say, “Hey, got rid of those pests. Thanks for your help!” He looks back at you, baffled.

Unfortunately, as ridiculous as that sounds, we often do the same thing with God. Let’s see why it happens and what it results in.

5 Signs and Symptoms of “Bookend Prayer”

1) Pressure’s on. Whether it’s a time crunch or a crush of responsibility, we can be duped into thinking we don’t have time to pray. When this becomes normative, not only do we live with higher levels of stress, we’re doing things apart from God’s wisdom (James 3:17).

2) Feeling invincible. We wouldn’t say it out loud, but our half-hearted prayers and self-confident actions convey we’ve got our projects under control. But Jesus was right when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Guaranteed, the outcome falls short when we do things on our own.

3) On the fly. This happens when we’re already heading into our project, and we shoot a prayer heavenward without pausing to listen for God’s guidance. As a result, we’re largely relying on our own ingenuity and methods instead of God’s perspective and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

4) On the shelf. If you’re like me, you’re asking questions via Google all day long. In contrast, how often do our Bibles remain on the shelf? When we make decisions and progress without mining the truths and principles of God’s written Word, we’re missing essential light for our path. (Psalm 119:24).

5) Absent relationship. If we’d stop to ask ourselves if we’re aware of God’s presence and help throughout the day, many times we’d have to say “no.” Besides having wisdom and strength for us, God deeply desires a vibrant relationship with us. When we operate solo, we lose the moment-by-moment companionship with the Greatest Friend we’ll ever have (James 2:23).

A primary reason we’re inclined to shortcut prayer is the menacing pressure to get things done a.s.a.p. The enemy shouts, “Get it done yesterday!” The Lord whispers, “Take time to talk with Me and work with Me today.”  

The enemy shouts, “Get it done yesterday!” The Lord whispers, “Take time to talk with Me and work with Me today.”

- Lisa Hosler

God designed prayer for many reasons: relational intimacy, a way for us to unload our burdens and express love and gratitude, a source of wisdom and direction, etc. All of these take intentionality and time. But the depth of relationship and blessings reaped for God and for us are well worth the investment.

Tune in next week to learn how to grow in relational, discerning prayer.

What contributes to “bookend prayer” in your own life as a leader? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

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