Plan Ahead

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.

    The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Proverbs 22:3 (NLT)

We take a little break from our series on Psalm 100, and turn to look at one of the proverbs today.

As a rule, I try to read a chapter of Proverbs every day. It is something I heard of a while back – that there are enough chapters of Proverbs to reach one each day of the month, namely 31. You read chapter one on the first of the month, chapter two on the second, and so on. It is the 22nd May today, and this particular verse nudged me.

Proverbs is frequently comparing the actions of the wise with the actions of the foolish. A wise person does one thing, while the fool does something quite the opposite. The same is true here.

A prudent (or wise) person sees danger coming, and makes preparation to either avoid or suppress it. The foolish person however, charges straight into its path.

On a practical level, there is much we can apply to our own lives. It is wise to save for a rainy day, or to address the blinking red engine light on your car’s dashboard before you see smoke in the rear view. When we see a sign that says, “Icy road ahead,” it is a good idea to slow down or find an alternative route.

There are many examples we could look at here. What might be on your horizon that you need to prepare for? If you already know it is coming, then don’t put off getting ready. Act today to make sure when that “thing” comes, whatever it may be, you are well prepared to deal with it.

In the same chapter of Proverbs, we read:

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there!

    If I go outside, I might be killed!”

Proverbs 22:13 (NLT)

This is quite the imagery, and not immediately obvious perhaps. It is astonishing at times, the excuses you hear from people who are just trying to get out of something. I have seen individuals spend enormous amounts of energy trying to avoid something, far more energy than it would have taken to just do the thing in the first place. Here, we see someone who doesn’t want to go outside, and perhaps does not wish to leave their warm bed. Instead of crying wolf, they cry “lion!”

It is all too easy to put off preparing for the future. When we are in our twenties, saving for a pension may not seem all that important, but of course we hear many stories of those who left it too late. When we see danger ahead of us, we must take necessary action.

But what about when we do not see it coming? What if all seems well and we do not know what is around the next corner?

What if you had a friend who could somehow warn you of what is ahead? That would be truly wonderful!

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

John 16:13 (NKJV)

Here we read that the Holy Spirit will tell you of the things that are to come. We can draw on this revelation knowledge and be pre-warned of things that we need to prepare for. These may be dangers of course, but they may also be opportunities.

I want to be so close to God the Spirit that I hear Him directing me. I want to be in the exact place He wants me to be. If there is a chance for me to serve Him in some way, then I want to be prepared to do that.

Join with me in praying that the Spirit of Christ will guide us:

Holy Spirit, we thank You that You are our Advocate, Helper and Friend. May You guide us in all things, showing us the things that are to come so that we might be ready. If there is danger up ahead, we pray that You would help us avoid it, if it be Your will. If there are opportunities to minister Your grace, please give us the words we need to share Your truth. Above all, help us to draw ever closer to You in worship and prayer, and that through Your guidance, You may be truly glorified in our lives. In the Name of Jesus, Amen!

Thanks so much for reading today.

Praying in the Moment

We sometimes think of prayer as an activity – a spiritual discipline if you like – which we may do for a certain length of time. Yet, the Apostle Paul encourages us to:

pray without ceasing,

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)

So how do we do that? Are we to quit our jobs and just spend our entire lives praying? I do not think so. In fact, I think Paul was instructing us to pray in the moment, while doing whatever other activities we needed to do.

Nehemiah did this.

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Nehemiah 2:1-5 (ESV)

There is much going on here, so I will try to explain. These events occur after the nation of Israel has been led into captivity. Nehemiah is essentially asking to return and begin to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.

He appears before the king to serve him yet clearly the king recognises that Nehemiah is sad. Nehemiah is afraid because you dare not appear before the king with a downcast face. You could lose your head for such a thing!

The king questions Nehemiah, and he shares the reason for his sadness. In verse 4, the king asks what he wants. What does Nehemiah do? He does not blurt out his request, but instead it tells us he prays first. Clearly he did not stand there and hold a prayer evening before making the request. He has only a split second before answering the king. His prayer cannot have been more than a simple “Help me!”

There are definitely times when we need to dedicate a set amount of time to God in prayer. But there are also times when we need to pray in the moment, and simply ask for help.

How much trouble could be avoid if we do this? Imagine the time and energy we could save, or the pain we could avoid, if we just took a moment to pray before opening our mouths. Think of the bullets we could dodge by just asking God what He thinks before we commit and make a decision.

I’ll tell you a silly story, but hope it illustrates the point.

Many years ago, I bought a CD… That alone should tell you how long ago it was! I hope no one reading this does not know what a CD is…!

Anyway, as I was waiting in line to pay for the CD, I got a sense that I shouldn’t buy it. Not that it was sinful but just a gentle nudge inside. I ignored it. And do you know, I never once enjoyed listening to that CD? I recognise now that God was trying to tell me that in advance. if only I had followed Nehemiah’s example and just checked in with God first. I could have saved the money and not wasted the time.

What decisions do you make without praying about them first? Now you have a brain and God wants us to use it. No need to pray about whether you should get and go to work, as that’s a given. But we make a mistake thinking we know it all and can run our lives better than God can.

Pray in the moment. If you are in a conversation which is in danger of becoming an argument, take a moment to pray before you say the next thing which may inflame things.

Pray without ceasing. That does not mean pray instead of doing other things, but while doing other things. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us and wants to be our Guide throughout life. He won’t shout or raise His voice over the din of our everyday lives, so we need to take moments to check in with Him and listen.

What traps or trouble might you avoid today by doing this? Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you continually to pray, and offer up prayers in the moments of your day.