As a young pastor, I was often perplexed over the complexities of church life. The obvious benefit of laying hold of Christ and the ways of the Kingdom apparently weren’t so obvious to others. I would sometimes battle discouragement, and sometimes find myself genuinely confused over the best way to commend gospel faith and living. Clearly blasting “them” — from the pulpit or other locations — was not conducive to godly outcomes. Something about human anger not achieving the Lord’s outcomes . . .
Still, I wanted to do something. I did not want to appear timid or helpless.
How could I discern the way forward? Fortunately, I discovered an article by Lorne Sanny of the Navigators that proved enormously helpful to me during this period. It is called “How to Spend a Half Day in Prayer.” Sanny gave specific guidelines on how to spend the time, including a healthy dose of Psalm reading. I found out there really is a Psalm for every human passion, dark or cheery! Yet Sanny also advocated spending time just listening. Surprisingly the half days just flew by. Over time, I found myself hearing the “still, small voice of the Spirit” — who often spoke Scriptural teaching that applied to my frustration. Sometimes, I would discern a full-fledged plan for approaching the situation or, at least, a clear first step. Other times, I plainly understood that I was to wait. I learned (slowly!) that the Lord is much more patient than I was and am. A number of times I found that our God was preparing the way and was working out a better “solution” than I could have. Listening and waiting had a real place among a pastor’s possible actions.
These extended times of prayer were life-savers for me, intent as I was not to shirk in my pastoral responsibilities. I discovered more and more gentleness over time. And I got to know the Lord much better, too.