Sometimes I feel like prayer is an enemy of productivity. That’s not an easy statement to make out here in the open, but it’s nice to release doubt from the basement every once in a while.
Productivity is my accomplice.
I tap away at my keyboard during meetings, feel guilty watching sitcoms (except for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, that show is hilarious), and envision the perfect evening as a combination of cake and Microsoft Word. It doesn’t matter if it’s chocolate or yellow cake, I’m not a diva.
I’m writing this piece from a friend’s house in Dallas. It’s 12:14 AM and I’m almost ready to prop open my eyelids with two tiny Doritos. I don’t know if this is an inspirational example of productivity or just sad.
Prayer doesn’t always fit into my definition of “work ethic.”
I might have X, Y, and Z to complete before the end of the day. If I take thirty minutes to pray, I still have X, Y, and Z to complete before the end of the day. Now I’m behind on my schedule the length of exactly one Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode.
My current resume is a soup swirling with titles like minister, professor, writer, and a few more that would bore you. There’s even a drop of stay-at-home dad for flavoring. Did I also mention my role as a husband because I really should just in case the ladies get any funny ideas.
Productivity is fundamental to my lifestyle. Productivity is why I stop praying. There are moments when it feels nearly impossible to reconcile time spent in prayer with time that could easily become a checkmark on my to-do list.
Prayer is like a teeter totter. On one side is laziness, on the other is extreme productivity. We all struggle with one or the other; possibly both at times. Rarely are any of us programmed with perfect balance. Some people need to move. Some need to sit on the couch and eat cake.
I was jogging a few months back when I realized what side of the teeter totter I fell on. A string of lines from Psalm 46 struck me at about the second mile mark:
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! (vs. 10)
The focus of this verse—and entire chapter at that—all revolves around God’s grip on the universe. Its helped me to understand my attitude toward productivity. When I don’t stop to pray, when I’m not still, I’m communicating through my actions that my success or failure is just that. My success or failure.
When I truly realize that God is ultimately the mover and shaker of the nations, of the earth, I can afford to stop.
I can take a break. I can pray. The world doesn’t hinge on the duration of one Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode. It doesn’t hinge on me either.
There’s a comfort that comes even when we don’t always see instantaneous results from our prayers. We’re being more productive than we could ever imagine. When we understand both our place in the universe and God’s place above it, we put our limited quantity of knowledge in its proper perspective. God hears and responds to our prayers, though it’s not always in the way or timing we want.
It also means that there are moments when we don’t “feel” prayer. This doesn’t necessarily signify weakness, sin, or even its lack of productivity, this feeling is simply a reality of our feeble human state. In those moments, days, months, we must make it a habit to continue in our prayers. It does matter. Despite our lack of perception and limited vision, prayer does more than swallow up the clock. It changes both our circumstances and our spiritual reactions to those circumstances.
If we truly believe that there is a God who is powerful enough to stitch the universe together, then we also have to understand that there is a reason we as humans are here in the first place. Our existence is a product of his grace. Prayer then, is necessary. Even if you are not a follower of Jesus, you must acknowledge that God’s presumed existence, in some way, allows for prayer. It is not unthinkable then, for those seeking God to pray even if they are still somewhat unsure of their own personal belief.
This is an area I need to struggle with, because right now there isn’t much struggle. I’m throwing in the towel without a fight. I have to come to the important (applicable) realization that I’m most productive when I pray. Prayer is the enemy of my productivity, but the friend of God’s.
I need to be still.
What about you? What side of the teeter totter do you fall on?