A .300 batting average is considered impressive for a baseball player nowadays. The same is downright shameful for a Christian’s intercessory prayer life.
After some statistical research, I learned that .300 is considered an impressive batting average for baseball players. I’ve never played organized baseball, and never will, unless you’d count the three seasons I spent attempting to whack a ball off a vertical rubber pole when I was 3′ tall. Nonetheless it fascinates me how grown men “earn” so many zeros on their paychecks in part by running 90′ (the distance to first base) without being caught a mere three times out of ten tries. Granted, it requires the prior superhuman hand-eye coordination of causing a wooden stick to make contact with a small spherical object flying in who-knows-what direction at a bare minimum of 70 mph; I couldn’t do that in a batting cage or on a sandlot to save my life, let alone in an MLB context.
The point of my paragraph-long introductory analogy is this: sports analysts may tell you it’s “great” for an MLB pro like Andrew McCutcheon (hey, I grew up in Pittsburgh) to reach first base at a .300 rate over the course of a season, but I certainly wouldn’t celebrate at home plate over that in light of a Christian’s intercessory prayer life. This has nagged my heart for years, and you can read the first prayer request I shared for 2015 for more detail. The idea of “pitching” to pray for someone (not the athletic definition here), and failing to follow through (i.e. “swing and miss”)…it’s biblical to be bothered about that. I believe I represent a significant population of believers that in general would have to admit to lifting others up in intercessory prayer at a meager .300 average. And allow me to describe this with one blunt word: shameful!
Various factors contribute to this problem: forgetfulness, laziness, offering prayer only when you can’t think of anything else to say in conversation, procrastination, a bad attitude towards the needy/hurting believer, and there are likely many more possibilities. This is when we ought to collectively say, “Houston, we have a problem.” Regardless of one’s earnest and heart-felt intentions, telling a brother or sister that you’ll pray for them, and ultimately not doing so is a lie. Above all, it’s blatant disobedience to Christ’s clear commands and teaching to pray (I Tim 2:1, Rom 8:26, Jas 5:13-16, Eph 6:18, Luke 18:1, Phil 4:4-8, Col 4:2-3, I Thess 5:16-18). Why do Christians seem to treat this so lightly? Altogether, these failures denigrate the real power of prayer, dishonor the recipients of our offers to pray, and bring reproach on Christ.
Perhaps worse is that it’s not just a lie, a sin that sent Christ to the cross, but we also rarely (if ever) admit to have fallen flat on our faces between home plate and first base to whomever we offered prayer (i.e. our guilt). Christ had to die for that too, and it disgusts me personally to write that knowing how terribly guilty I often am!
Now to avoid sounding as though I believe I’ve completely struck out in this area, please know that I’m abundantly grateful for the Lord’s grace, as He’s enabling me toward a more consistent intercessory prayer ministry. I just know this isn’t an OK problem to have in the first place! So to aid me practically, I’ve been working on using an app called PrayerMate. It’s available for Android and iOS devices, and an excellent tool to help a believer practice a consistent, varied prayer life.
I refuse to hang my head low, or punish myself by keeping track of every time my intercession average takes a hit in 2015. And if you struggle similarly, neither should you. God uses shame to cause course correction in our lives at times, but He never wants His children to wallow in in it. Besides, Christ already bore every punishment we deserve. Regardless I hope to be clicking at a much higher than .300 rate when this calendar runs out, assuming that Christ doesn’t come before then to rapture the church. I hope you can eventually testify along with me to a similar result!