Are you planning a vacation? Memorial Day in the U.S. traditionally marks the beginning of summer and vacation season. There was a news report recently about the cost of air travel and how many people are expected to fly this summer, with Memorial Day weekend being a peak travel period.
I’ll be flying this Memorial Day weekend, but not for vacation. The annual gathering of all churches in the Texas Annual Conference begins on Sunday evening, and I will be there to worship, fellowship and learn about the business of United Methodist churches in the Houston/east Texas area. I’m excited about heading to the place where I was formed as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.
However, this will be the third trip away from home in the last three weeks. I’m a little weary.
In Luke 4:42 we read about a weary Jesus. He had just been baptized, spent 40 days in the wilderness resisting temptations, went on a teaching tour and began an intensive healing ministry. My recent participation in mission work, worship, workshops, and seminars is nothing in comparison to what Jesus did in Luke 4. But there is a key lesson in how Jesus handles being weary. He withdraws to a place where he can pray.
Prayer is our preparation. Just as we prepare for vacation with careful plans for travel, packing the right clothes for the weather, searching out activities to do, choosing a book to read, so also can we prepare for our daily lives as Christians through prayer. Through prayer we open ourselves to hear from God, to allow the Spirit to prepare our hearts for the work before us. Before we choose a mission trip destination, before we decide what work we are willing to do, before we pack our suitcases, we open ourselves in prayer and listen for the Spirit.
God’s purposes can be made evident to us through prayer, and God’s purposes for us can be made evident through prayer. Jesus withdrew to pray in order that he would be ready to live out his purpose (verse 43). Prayer is preparation. Prayer helps us to know why we go out in mission.
Janice Virtue, in teaching a seminar on leadership in the church says “When you know your why, your what becomes more impactful.” When we prepare through prayer, we will know more deeply our “why” – the reason why we go on mission trips, the reason why we pack clothes that can get dirty, the reason why we bring an extra suitcase full of medical or school supplies. The “what” – the actual work that we do on mission trips – doesn’t matter unless we know deeply our “why”. Our actual work will witness the grace and love of Jesus if we take the time to prepare through prayer, and know more deeply our “why” behind our mission work.
Even though I am not at home and in my usual routine, I rely on Pray As You Go, which has a website and an app. No matter where I go or how busy I am, time away for prayer is available. Less than 15 minutes a day is all it takes to hear scripture proclaimed, to be still and listen for the leading of the Spirit. I encourage you to find time each day so that your hearts are opened and you come to know the leading of the Spirit more deeply. If you have a favorite app or website, please share it below.