Building vs Birthing

I’m builder, a do-er, a go to-er. I like to get things done. Goals set, accomplished, to do lists ticked off.  I can see the big picture, and know the steps that will get me where I want to go.

And it’s been the biggest hindrance to my effectiveness in the prayer movement.

We wrestled with this early on in the life of the House of Prayer.  In the place of prayer, we would catch God’s heart for a purpose, for a specific task.  And we would want to put our shoulder to the burden, labour alongside God in the job.  But this left us feeling scattered – pulled in many directions, and worn out.  We thought God would tell us what was on His heart because He wanted us to DO something, to build something.  It took us a couple of years of learning the hard way to figure out that what He really wanted us to do was to birth something.

Take for example, the prayer movement in our city of Burlington.  For years various efforts to cobble together some citywide unity met with passivity and disinterest.

Option one – build – network, meet with pastors, try to influence the leaders in the city

Option two – birth through prayer in the secret place.

We decided to try option two, and a small team of us met weekly to pray for unity in our city and for our local leaders.  And after two and a half years, all by themselves, the pastors in the city decided it was time to start meeting and praying together!  That was three years ago, and we now have a thriving citywide prayer movement where pastors meet monthly and have transitioned from being colleagues to being true friends. We have twice yearly citywide prayer and worship events, a wonderfully successful Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, and flourishing missional partnerships amongst churches.

Consider the Apostle Paul as he communicates to the church in Galatia.  He is not present with them, unable, to build in their midst, to put his hand to the plow.  However, through prayer he is able to birth, and birth he does, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth (the New King James uses the word travail) again until Christ is formed in you..” ~Galatians 4:19

Our House of Prayer is small, not much to look at – it’s just a little room that we pray in.  We call it “the womb”, and joke about it being “a womb with a view”.  It’s a place where we lay down the tools of building, and like Elijah, we bend to the ground, put our face between our knees and pray for rain.

Put Your Back to the Wind

“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” ~ Jesus (the Message)

So which way should I go today?  I scanned the surface of the lake, reviewing the riffles on the water.  The breeze was coming from the northwest, so the northern shore would be calm enough for a leisurely paddle.  Pushing off from the dock, I knelt midships, tilting the canoe high enough to pull the keel to be out of the water.  Relaxing into rhythmic paddling, I reflected on canoe trips past.

Crossing the larger lakes had always been an adventure – you had a lot of water to cover in a day, and didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the right conditions.  Many a time I had dragged myself to shore, exhilarated and exhausted, after a long battle with the elements.

Maybe it was the Tom Sawyer in me, but I also enjoyed the lazy days as we made our ways down winding rivers.  It was especially good if the wind was at our backs.  We would lash several canoes together, slide our paddles down the edges of large garbage bags, and sail the afternoon away, leaning back in our boats, fingers trailing in the water, daring the fish to nibble.

The longer I am in ministry, the less inclined I am to rage against the prevailing conditions, like Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump.  I can still see him in my mind’s eye, strapped to the top spar on his shrimp boat during a hurricane, belligerent in battle.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe that we need to worship and work with all of our strength, but I’m of the opinion (and age) that we need to work smart, rather than just working hard.

And how do we work smart?  We look to see which way the wind is blowing.  Jesus pioneered this for us, mapping out the territory.  “I only do what I see My Father doing,” He said.

I can tackle a journey of my own design, and expend myself unnecessarily, or I can stop.  Look.  Listen.  Pray.  Wait.  Discern where God is at work, and then put my oar in the water, with the wind at my back.