Ten Questions for 2009, Part 4
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
I want to establish habits of diligence and discernment. In the last year we have learned the necessity of sticking to our family budget, as it has kept the bills paid and food on the table, and allowed us to see God provide even when we weren’t sticklers for our budget. I feel the best way to honor God in this area is to be diligent in following our budget, since we want to commit to paying off all debt in the next couple of years.
Since diligence generally means “caution,” one thing I have learned from 2008 (and 2007) is that I must be cautious about those who are church members or even friends. Not all who are your sheep, nor many who are supposedly “good friends,” have your best interests at heart, especially in Deaf ministry. I’ve seen church members who I thought were trustworthy turn against me; I’ve seen people I’ve been good friends with for nearly 10 years — pastors and others — spread horrible gossip and bear false witness about me to my pastor and others. By God’s grace I’ve been protected so far, but I’ve learned a valuable ministry lesson: be careful who your friends are. People I went to seminary with and other pastors had in the past shared similar stories with me; one even went so far as to say there was “a target on his back.” I know now what he means, and when I pray for him these days I pray with understanding.
This ties in with the habit of discernment. I need to be a better judge, not just of personal things like our finances, actions and such, but of people and situations. I’ve learned a lot from watching and listening to my pastor, who along with his wife has an incredible gift of discernment. They have developed this gift over 30+ years of ministry, and I’ve been astounded at times to see it at work. They are sensitive to things I wouldn’t even notice or give second thought to. Oftentimes my pastor notices something “isn’t quite right” and has been praying about it for weeks before I even realize something is going on! In fact, it was my immaturity in this area that was my undoing in the situations related above. If I want to be a good, effective pastor I must be discerning as the Lord leads. So this year I want to consciously practice the discipline of discernment. The only way I’ll get better in my judgment is to practice judgment prayerfully.
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
Have an established time of prayer. I mentioned before in #4 that I usually pray anywhere, anytime, whenever the need comes or something strikes me to pray, and that I have always been this way. This comes from being taught early in my Christian life to “pray without ceasing.” I was taught I should pray no matter what I am doing at any given moment. Obviously, this made it difficult to have established prayer times, since “quiet time” was presented as “personal Bible study time.” Instead I want to make prayer a discipline, something done intentionally. Rather than being random, spur of the moment, situational, and seat of the pants; I want to take time to think through what needs to be prayed for. I want to, as Paul wrote in Romans 8, pray together with the Holy Spirit. The only way I currently know to do that is to be thoughtful, deliberate and intentional about praying. I know my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends are going to get on me for this. 😉
I’ll stop here and tomorrow we’ll get into the final question!