A few weeks ago, Pastor Tim wrote a really great blog called Pray to be Effective. I loved reading it. (If you didn’t get to, go ahead now and then come back to this one!) It is easy sometimes to pray and ask God, in his power and might, to accomplish what we ask of him; but sometimes we can neglect to ask God to make us effective in the work he’s given us to do.
The blog defines being ‘effective’ like this: To be effective means you fulfill your calling in the Lord. You see results. You fully accomplish the purpose God has set for you. You are a fruitful gospel worker! This is a good definition, but also a pretty lofty one. Can we ever fully accomplish the purpose God sets for us? What if we don’t see fruit? What if the work we do seems to yield no discernible benefit?
As God said to Sarah, Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Gen. 18:14) Our question is not whether we are effective, but whether we are working in the power of the Holy Spirit and letting God be magnified through our work.
In light of this, can we still know with sure conviction whether we are effective workers? Will we see results – particularly in work that requires a long view? And if we don’t see results, how does this change our prayer to be effective?
As I pondered these questions, I was challenged by Romans 12:12, which says Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. The happy worker of God grows in these three areas – in joy, patience, and faithfulness – because as he works to God’s ends, he more clearly emulates his master. The work of his hands is blessed not because he is effective, but because God is effective and works through him!
Faithful and weary church planter, parent, ministry volunteer, young adult, Christian brother and sister, take heart: you can be effective. Not because of your might or power but because of our great God, who gives you work to do and establishes it (Ps. 90:17).
Right alongside praying to be effective, let’s also pray to be faithful to what God calls us to. When the work seems long and the results seem hidden, how can this change our prayers? We can pray joyfully and hopefully, because we know that God always ‘works his sovereign will’ (to quote a favorite hymn). Our prayers during dry, seemingly fruitless seasons can deepen our dependence on the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do.
My greatest comfort when I don’t feel particularly fruitful is that I can still pray and ask God to bless the work he’s given me to do; since God is who he is, I will be effective when I do the work he’s given me. And this effectiveness will always happen in his time, not mine; the fruit of the work will be revealed according to his plan.