"When I was in Asia, in most of the churches where I preached, there were always kids and teenagers asking me to pray for their exams. I would spend 30 minutes praying for these young people with the help of my translator. I had a very intense schedule, preaching and teaching every morning and afternoon in different congregations, and spending some hours praying for the needs of the people. Among them, of course, were an average of twenty students with the same request: "Please pray that I get good marks in my upcoming exams." Behind them, there was a long line of people with various prayer requests, such as elderly women seeking healing, others who were unemployed and in need of work, young women struggling with infertility, anxious mothers seeking deliverance for their sons from drug addiction, and so on."
On my fourth day in Pakistan, in another church, I sensed the Spirit prompting me to gather all the students around me. I asked my translator to help me ask a question: "Are you doing your schoolwork?" My translator was surprised and asked me to repeat it. I rephrased the question as, "Are you studying at home for the upcoming exams?" The group appeared surprised and exchanged glances with each other and with us. Some shook their heads, some looked down and said nothing, and a heavy silence descended upon us.
I continued, "If you have been studying, I will pray that the Lord blesses your minds and helps you remember. However, if you have been playing video games, spending time on social media, or doing anything else instead of studying, my prayer will have no effect on your behalf." Most of the students seemed convicted by my words.
But I didn't want to leave them feeling hopeless, so I offered a way forward: "If you recognize that you haven't been fulfilling your duties and would like to make things right by starting to do your homework, then I will pray for your new beginning."
It was amazing to see how the Holy Spirit touched their hearts, and how humbly they accepted the Lord's rebuke. Convicted of their wrong behavior, all of them bowed their heads in repentance. After praying for them, they promised to study and left with a complete change of heart.
A few days after returning from my trip, I couldn't stop thinking about the incident. I began to wonder, "Are we Christians doing our homework?"
For more than twenty-five years as a pastor, I had people coming or calling me almost daily with various prayer requests. They shared their struggles at home with their spouses, children, and relatives, sometimes complaining about their work or their lack of it. Occasionally, they would ask for prayers for a financial blessing to help pay off their overloaded credit cards. Despite their struggles, some people remained stuck in these cycles for years without any signs of improvement or resolution. Many times I felt miserable and guilty as I would not see my prayers on their behalf answered. I would pray for them regularly and occasionally fast, but with no changes in their lives. It occurred to me that if I had asked these individuals the same question I asked the kids in Asia, "Have you done your homework?" I might have been able to help them more effectively.
As I reflect on my experiences with Christians who attended church regularly, joined Bible studies, and faithfully attended Sunday services, I can't help but wonder if they were truly fulfilling their duties. While they listened to various topics and participated in church activities, I questioned if they were truly doing the work necessary to grow spiritually and fulfill their purpose.
Let's look at some examples:
Suppose you're praying for money to pay your bills. Have you ever considered whether you have a problem with compulsive shopping? As the saying goes, "Are you buying things you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't even know?" Asking yourself this question may help you see if your financial struggles are related to overspending or poor money management.
You ask for prayer to get a job’s promotion, but you are negligent at work and neither looking for ways to improve your skills. Do you want the church to pray for you to get a job, but you stay at home watching TV? Do you think God will answer your pastor’s prayer on your behalf?
The Scriptures answer these questions: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”1
“How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”2
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some among you who walk in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” (3)
There are Christians who may appear extremely spiritual, demanding that their congregation leaders should pray to be more effective and help the community. To these individuals, it is important to ask, "What are you doing to help? Are you visiting people in local nursing homes or calling and praying with widows from your church? Are you planning to visit them?" It's crucial to remember that we, as individuals, are the church.
Others may say, "Please pray that I have a better understanding of God's word" or "Please pray for my spiritual growth as I'm feeling weak in my faith." To these individuals, it's important to ask, "Are you reading your Bible daily and meditating on it as well as praying as Scripture instructs believers to do?" Additionally, we should be mindful of the media we consume and ensure that we're not entertained by anything vile or pornographic. As the Bible says, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman," and "I will not look with approval on anything that is vile." (4,5)
If someone requests prayer for their marriage or home, we should inquire if they're fulfilling their duties as a spouse and parent. Are they taking care of their household, or are they spending most of their time talking to friends on the phone? Are they a husband and father who cares for their wife and children?
There's a story about a boy who asks his mother, "Mom, let's live in the church?" Surprised, she responds, "Why should we do that, my son?" The boy answers, "Because Dad is so friendly to us over there." It's a reminder that we should not only focus on the spiritual aspects of our lives but also our everyday actions and how we treat those around us.
The next time we ask for prayer, let's ask ourselves, "Am I doing my homework?"
To Jesus all the glory!
1. Galatians 6: 7-7 2. Proverbs 6: 9-11 3. 2 Thessalonians 3: 11-13 4. Job 31: 1 5. Psalm 101: 3
By Adauto Rezende
HAVE YOU DONE YOUR HOMEWORK?