Have you ever done anything big for God without praying about it first?
You’re not supposed to. We all dream big dreams and we want to make an impact for God. But you and I know that you’re supposed to pray really hard before taking a step. You’re supposed to seek “discernment.” You’re supposed to wait for the Spirit’s “leading.” Following God isn’t supposed to be like an impulse purchase.
Last summer, I got sick of waiting.
Not Knowing Where to Go
For a long time, I had some inkling in my mind that I really needed to go on some kind of a mission trip, out of the country. It was a feeling that would not go away. Plenty of my friends had gone overseas, but somehow, I had avoided it.
But the problem was I did not know where to go. I did not know where to start. And I was pretty skeptical about the whole calling. Most friends I saw come back from mission trips looked like they had spent most of their time vacationing. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be a lame American tourist, treating poor people like zoo animals to gawk at. I didn’t want poor people to accommodate me so I could feel like I got my life-changing Jesus fix.
So one Saturday afternoon, without any prayer, I was just in my blog reader, and there it was.
It was an interview with Seth Barnes, founder of Adventures in Missions. And, what do you know, they had lots of trips available on their website, which detailed all the hard work you’d be doing. I scanned the schedule. Exactly one trip coincided with a free space in my summer schedule. A few clicks later, I was registered and had paid my non-refundable deposit.
I Know Better Than to Pray
No, I didn’t pray over this new opportunity. I didn’t even really notice the destination, which was Mexico. The fact was I knew myself too well to spend a lot of time praying. I knew that if I “prayed” for any length of time, it would just turn into procrastination, and I’d pray myself right out of going. God had already spoken to me. There was no point in asking Him again.
So when my wife came home that afternoon, I told her I was going. She promptly agreed. Apparently, she didn’t need to pray about me being out of the house either.
I announced my plans the next day at church, and the irony was that while people were encouraging, the encouragement wasn’t all too encouraging. “What about the cartels?” they asked. Well, too late now. I truly did not care about any danger that might be present. The church did agree to pay my expenses.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
I arrived in Matamoros, Mexico to some surprising realizations. The year before, the city, equipped with a large missionary campus, was the most popular destination for missionaries with AIM. This year, the campus sat empty. The group of a dozen strangers I arrived with were the only people all year who decided to show up. It seemed that everyone else decided to avoid the cartel violence. Everyone else had prayed themselves out of going.
Perhaps the people in my church had been right.
But the truth, almost disappointingly, was that we were never in any real danger. In fact, as the week went on, I became ashamed by the excuses that I could have made to not go. Our group included a pregnant mother of five, as well as a sixty year old deaf woman. Late in the week, I found myself mixing concrete (the old fashioned Mexican way) with a seventy year old woman with a rod in her spine. I felt pathetic. Here I was, an able bodied twenty-something, who could just as easily made excuses and stayed home.
The Big Victory
The reality was we didn’t conquer the world or make a huge impact for God. Who could in a week’s time? It would be foolish to expect that.
But maybe the big triumph of the week was that I showed up. I was present. I hadn’t waited on God so long that I just sat, waiting. That’s a big victory for an overly deliberate person like me. And I wasn’t a tourist. The work was not fun and games. We weren’t given busywork so we could feel like we got our life-changing Jesus fix. We did not eat at McDonald’s or go sightseeing. There were no sights to see.
I don’t know if anyone has ever boasted about not praying. But I highly suggest it. Perhaps God has already given you all the answers you need. You just need to move and not delay when the opportunity comes along. Sometimes, you have to move, almost on impulse. Maybe that’s what being led by the Spirit is.