“An empty inbox at the expense of an empty prayer closet is a terrible trade off.” –Garrett Kell
These words hit me like a ton of bricks when I read them last week. I am someone who pursues an empty inbox and enjoys accomplishing tasks throughout the day. This quote was a helpful and convicting reminder that an empty inbox and a completed check-list do not constitute a truly productive day.
There are countless needs in the world – from wiping the nose of a sick child, doing the laundry, changing the oil in the car, and responding to emails, to feeding the hungry, caring for the hurting, and sharing the gospel with the lost. Yet our days our numbered. What should we do? Concerning outreach, Jesus beckons his followers to consider the needs, to have compassion, and then to pray earnestly.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).
Jesus taught that earnest prayer must precede reaping from the plentiful harvest. We must abide in His presence before we can abound with His produce. Roots before fruits. Concerning other needs, Paul instructs believers to bring their needs to God in prayer (Phil. 4) and to continue in prayer (I Thess. 5). Prayer is a priority to productivity because true productivity is not just getting things done but getting the right things done for God’s glory. And for that we all need wisdom and strength.
“It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you are doing the wrong things in the first place.” -Matt Perman, What’s Best Next
Prayer is not a magic potion that ensures wonderful things will happen the rest of the day. God is not your genie. Prayer is time well-spent in the presence of God. It is simple and ongoing communication with Him directed by the truth of His Word and the delights and desires of our hearts. (As an aside, I highly recommend A Praying Life by Paul Miller.)
Jesus himself perfectly modeled the balance of praying and working, which is really to say praying while working. And while we certainly aren’t perfect, we can seek to increasingly make prayerful productivity a priority each day.