The Prayers Of A 40 Year Old Pastor
I do remember thinking 40 was really, really old when I was a kid. I was young and stupid. As of today I’m a 40 year old pastor, father of five boys, and husband of an awesome wife. As a kid I thought for sure that if I ever made it to 40 I would be really smart and have it all figured out. So, now that I’m here and I feel like I know less then I did before does that make me old and stupid? Maybe. That could explain why it has taken me so long to finally start asking the right questions in my prayers. Here’s what I mean. I’ve spent so much of my twenties and thirties asking God “place” questions instead of “pace” questions. Don’t get me wrong, place is important. I firmly believe God guides us to specific places for seasons of our lives. After all, I am now in Kona after 10 years in Seattle because of God’s specific place for me. Once, I get to that place though, I find myself continuing to try and find my place. My place very often involves my reputation, my relationships, my positions of authority, my perceptions of myself and the perceptions others have of me. This is all fine and good until my seeking for place causes me to lose God’s Spirit-led pace. I end up having no peace in my God-given place because I’m letting my pace be determined by insecurity, inferiority and my “Type A” drive to matter. When, what really matters is that I follow the Spirit’s pace in whatever place He brings me to.
Paul models these “pace” over “place” prayers in many of his letters to the churches. Paul explains why he must delay his plans to visit the church in Corinth and stay longer in Ephesus in 1 Corinthians 16: “5 I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia, for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. 6 It could be that I will stay awhile with you, perhaps all winter, and then you can send me on my way to the next destination. 7 This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. 8 In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost, 9 for there is a wide-open door for a great work here, and many people are responding. But there are many who oppose me.” The pace of the work of the Holy Spirit is determining the place where Paul is staying. Paul’s desire is to go, but he doesn’t call the shots. That simple phrase in verse 7,”if the Lord will let me”, is what I’m just now discovering is the key to peace wherever I am at. In John 5:19 Jesus describes the pace of faith this way “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
This whole idea of the Lord setting my pace came into bold view as I was trying to get to church on Sunday. I was already running late, so Elijah and I hopped in the truck and I pulled out of the driveway at a quick pace. I stopped at the Stop Sign long enough to notice the car that just pulled out in front of me was a Driver’s Training Car. The sign on top and on back reminded me to slow down and have patience as the person behind the wheel was just learning how to drive. “Please don’t turn, please don’t turn, please don’t turn” I chanted to myself in hopes that the car would go straight so I could be free to speed up after turning left. As soon as he turned on his left turn signal I let out a grunt of frustration. Elijah looked at me and smiled as I grumbled about how the driver was now going five miles under the posted 25 mile an hour speed limit. I couldn’t pass because it was double yellow line. Every time that cautious and timid driver hit those breaks my frustration grew. It was taking FOREVERRRRRRR to get down this hill! Another opportunity to turn was coming up and I began to chant “Please turn, please turn, please turn.” It worked! The car and its inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears, find-another-road-to-drive-on, driver were finally out of my way. Just as I was about to push on the clutch and shift from second to third gear and really get my speed on I noticed the car that had just pulled around the corner. It was a police car. I had to laugh. I told Elijah, “That was the grace of God right there.” He didn’t understand. I explained, “If that Drivers Ed car hadn’t been in front of me I would definitely have been going over the 25 mile an hour speed limit and that police car would definitely have given me a ticket. God saved my butt.” Then after we both laughed another police car drove by. We laughed again as I stayed at 25 miles an hour and thanked God for caring for me enough to change my pace so I didn’t get a ticket on my way to church! We may not like the current pace God has us at in this place, but He knows exactly what He is doing and we very often do not!
So, here, now, in this brand new place I’m living I want to use this brand new decade I’m entering to pray a very raw and different prayer then before. If you aren’t experiencing any peace in your place right now, you might want to pray this prayer for God’s pace along with me:
Father, in the Name of Jesus and by Your Holy Spirit I come just as I am today. As I look back over my life I feel that in some ways I have left a legacy of works rather then power, of words rather then presence, of doing stuff rather then being with You. My place starts at Your feet first and my pace flows from that connection and conversation with You. I remember all the times we would walk and talk together and time slipped into the background. You would show me how to look at things I was facing in life. I want to return to that with You. I have been consumed by so many things. Now let me be consumed You once again. I want to come back to that place in You again where I don’t have to pretend Your presence is with me. I don’t want to simply proceed with my plans even if You aren’t coming along. I pray that the appearance of spirituality and assumption of intimacy would no longer be enough. Oh Lord, that what You think about me would matter more then the opinions of others. That my attention and affections would no longer be attached to anything other then You. That I would no longer wait to run after You. That I would no longer run to hide behind other things instead of hiding in You. That I would no longer posture for position with those in power rather then prostrating myself in in Your presence. That it would be more then enough to trust You enough to let You set my pace in this place You have led me to. My life is Yours so I will live it that way, Your way, my Jesus.