Friday, November 14, 2014

Gifted Ignorance: Part II: Passive vs. Active Prayer

I've often heard people say things like, "God told me to (fill in the blank) and now I'm just waiting for the right people to come alongside me and help me." And then they sit by their computer/mailbox/phone and wait.


"I'm praying for the right job to come along." But they don't actively look for a job.

Well, I think, you might be waiting a long time. God is not a genie.

What I want to say is, What are you afraid of?

Okay, grace is not my best attribute. I admit it. 

Merriam Webster defines passive as used to describe someone who allows things to happen or accepts whatever people do or decide without trying to change anything.

When we hear that word, we typically think of a "passive" person, one who doesn't like confrontation or doesn't set boundaries; someone who lets others make decisions. 

But "passive" also implies inertia, a lack of movement or activity, especially when movement or activity is wanted or needed.

Active involves and is characterized by action and participation rather than contemplation or speculation.

Maybe "active" is not a fair description of the "doing" type of prayer I'm talking about. Quiet prayer can also be active. But for the sake of this post, I'm going to stick with this term.

I've never been the kind of person who waits to be rescued out of my circumstances. I've always been a more active than passive person. Once I see the solution, I go after it. If there is something I need to learn, I learn it. If there are classes, workshops, lectures or conferences, I go. If I need to meet people, I figure out how to meet them. Whatever I need to do to get to where I need to go, I do it. Hence, I tend to be an active-prayer type person. "Show me what to do, Lord." 

So it's often difficult for me to pray with a passive mindset. By passive, I mean not actively pursuing the outcome. Sometimes we need to be still and let God be God and do what God wants and needs to do. Sometimes active-type of praying people need to be less active and keep our hands off things so that we can watch God move. Pray and let it go. Stand back and let things unfold. Our activity can actually hinder God's plan.

But sometimes we need to get up and do what needs to be done after we've prayed about the situation. Sometimes God puts people in our path to help us and teach us. But we usually have to actively pursue those people and find the parts that fit into the puzzle of our prayer. Passive-prayer type people need to learn that sometimes you need to do your part. 

Jesus told the invalid at the pool at Bethesda "Stand up, pick up your mat and walk." Instantly, the man was healed! He picked up his sleeping mat and began walking. He did his active part.

There have been times when God ordains the right people at the right time. For instance, Jonathan Cahn tells the story of how his book, The Harbinger came to be published by a divine appointment on an airplane. And we've all heard stories of how an opportunity or a job seems to just "fall in your lap." It happens. But it doesn't typically happen that way. 

I'm not diminishing the power of or the need for prayer. Not by any means. But ignoring the advice of people who try to help you in an attempt to "wait" for God to move is like waiting for a train at the bus station and ignoring the bus driver each time he says, "Do you want to get on? I'm going your way." No thank you. I'll wait for the train to whisk me away. Even though I see no tracks, I'm quite sure the train will come anyway.

That's not trust. That's ignorance.

On the other hand...

Sometimes, I admit, I pray "actively" because I'm afraid. Afraid that if I don't do something, I might miss an opportunity. God might pass me by and move on to the next person. God might need my help. I often find it difficult to be still (and know that He is God-Psalm 46:10). I find it hard to trust Him in the quiet. I find it hard to understand how someone can sit and wait and not do anything.

I admit it...that's ignorance as well. My way is not the right way.

Sometimes God wants us to be still. And sometimes He wants us to do something. Knowing the difference is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity.

What type of prayer do you gravitate to? I want to challenge you today to try to see things from the other type of perspective. 

I believe that we resist praying in a way that is not comfortable or natural for us because we are afraid that we'll do it wrong. And if we do it wrong, maybe God won't hear.

God always hears. Prayer is never wrong. And He is always with us. Even when we get it wrong.

Ask yourself, "What am I afraid of?" 

If you tend to wait, try taking an active approach.  Ask others who can help. Listen to what they say. Do the work. 

If you tend to move, try being still. Wait to hear God's voice. Watch God's plan unfold. Let God be God.

God just might surprise you.

Blessings Along the Path,

photo credit
Sharing this post with Laura from Faith Filled Friday, Deb with Blessing Counters, Crystal with Thriving Thursdays, Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursday, Angie at Heart Filled Fridays, Barbie with The Weekend Brew and Janis at Sunday Stillness


  1. Good Morning Laura!! I am stopping by from Faith Filled Fridays... I enjoyed your post.. I love this quote and I am tweeting it! :)
    "Sometimes God wants us to be still. And sometimes He wants us to do something. Knowing the difference is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity"
    Blessings to you

  2. Thank you so much, Danise! And thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit.

  3. I just made a big change in my life and it was great to read your encouragement to be active. I am stepping out and moving into an area of my calling. Thanks Mary! -Visiting from The Weekend Brew".

    1. Carmen, I'm so glad it ministered to you. Whatever it is, it sounds exciting, so I'm excited for you! Keep going and don't let your steps falter when you hear the deceitful and lying whispers! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Praying big will end in big results and the fear of what that could be is enough for many to not pray big. I appreciate your words about passive and active and am thankful you linked up with The Weekend Brew.

    1. so true! (FYI, your link took me to your old website)

  5. Dropping in from Sunday Stillness. I am rather like you can't be too passive. Enjoyed your post.