If you are anything like me, you like to have control of your environment. Whether it’s for security or efficiency or necessity, we typically like to keep things in line and have some idea about what’s going to happen in the future. We make strategic plans and organizational charts. We have insurance policies and contingency plans. We make projections and set expectations. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with any of these things, we run into problems when our plans become the only acceptable outcome.
My favorite example of this is the weather. I love the weather and would fancy myself to be quite the armchair meteorologist. Have you ever noticed how people talk about the weather forecast? The conversation goes like this. “What’s the weather supposed to be like tomorrow?” “Oh, it’s supposed to be hot with a few storms.” Supposed to? Supposed? Weather forecasting is not a cause and effect relationship. Just because the forecast says something doesn’t mean that it’s supposed to happen. We’re just giving our best guess given what we know, and even the most confident weather forecaster will tell you that it’s a rare day when they perfectly predict the weather.
Life is filled with broken expectations. We can hope and prepare and plan and analyze and in the end have everything go awry. That’s a big reason why we pray. Prayer acknowledges the fact that we can’t predetermine the outcome. We know things can and will go wrong. In the end, the only one who has total control is God. We are subject to his power and in need of his guidance. If we believe that God is all powerful and that he is loving and attentive, then why would we resist getting his attention, appealing to his love and acknowledging his power? We do that through prayer.
So when should we pray? First. Now, this is the hard part. There is a place for planning… after we pray. Prayer submits the outcome to God before we make our plans. Prayer changes our expectations. Prayer puts us in a position to say “thy will be done” rather than “my will be done.” An amazing thing happens when we align our prayers with God’s purpose before we plan. God moves. He doesn’t always move the way we think he will, but he moves ahead of us doing things that the best of planning could never accomplish. Pray first. Pray hard. Pray with your heart. Don’t worry, planning is always best done while keeping up with what God is already doing. The only way that can be done is by praying first.