• Eldon Peterson

Too Busy NOT to Pray


For nearly three decades people have read Bill Hybels’ book, Too Busy Not to Pray. As the title suggests, we need to pray the most when we think that we have the least time to pray! It is our failure to come to God in prayer when we are busy that I want us to consider.

What role does prayer play in your relationship with God? Do you pray when you need an extra boost or is it your daily sustenance? While we know what it should be, it is likely that prayer plays less of a role in our daily lives than we would like. Why the disparity? Many will blame their busyness saying they are “too busy to pray”; however, as these words pass over our lips we realize our problem! We are too busy NOT to pray.

How can we circumvent our busyness with prayer? The first thing that we must do is to not put prayer on our “To Do List.” Prayer will not fit on our “To Do List”. While prayer is certainly something that we must do, it must flow from the heart not as one of many tasks on a list. What then? The kind of prayer that we need is the type that flows from a life transformed by grace. Prayer done out of duty does us little good.

The difference is expressed in Bill Hybels book, Becoming A Contagious Christian, “Religion is spelled 'D-O', because it consists of the things people do trying to somehow gain God's forgiveness and favor. Thankfully, Christianity is spelled differently. It's spelled 'D-O-N-E', which means that what we could never do for ourselves, Christ has already done for us.” If we approach prayer from the “to do list” perspective we may pray more often, but we will likely wonder if our prayers are clearing the ceiling.

In Psalm 3 we find the Psalmist praying and singing to the Lord as his shield and protector in the midst of hardship. He can do this knowing that it is the Lord who holds his head high and gives him the strength to go forward. Do you believe this – can you say AMEN with the Psalmists? If yes, then it is likely that prayer comes naturally for you. If not, then it is likely that prayer is a struggle. Jesus’ prayers were natural because he knew that he was “too busy NOT to pray.” The greater the pressure that surrounds us, the greater our need to call out to the Lord who answers our prayers.

The urgent need for us to pray for our families, our community and nation is probably clear. However, our busyness can still keep us from making time to pray. Before we pray, we need to rest in two unchangeable truths: God is the same powerful, just, holy God he has always been; and true prayer—prayer that changes us and allows us to participate in God's work in the world—is our response to our loving Lord.

Jesus’ example of retreating to pray as the crowds pushed in teaches us of our own need to step back and pray in our busyness. While prayer is a wonderful discipline, unless it flows as a response to who God is it can easily become a duty. If the demands on my time have crowded out time to pray, then I need to pause and pray now or it is likely that I will fail to pray at all. I can pray on the run, but from Jesus’ example, we should see our need to drop everything to pray.

Those that tempted to push through the busyness of life can learn something from the story of Mary and Martha. Martha is the stereotypical doer who shows her love by busily serving, while Mary shows it by dropping everything to sit at the Lord’s feet to listen. Jesus commends Mary saying that she has chosen what is better. Bill Hybels asks, “Is the ambient noise level of my life low enough for me to hear the whispers of the Lord?” Unless I stop to listen, I am likely to only go through the motions of prayer.

The busyness and noise of life today can overstimulate us. It can be difficult to stop at Jesus’ feet and listen. However, unless we slow down to listen, it will be difficult for us to stop and pray. And if we will stop and listen, I am confident that we will be able to hear the Lord speak.


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