I watched this video again (more here) and it reminded me of my struggle with jealousy. I am a writer and a pastor, so this video hits me on both sides. Jon Acuff, who is a successful Christian author, is talking to Ed Stetzer talks about his struggles with envying other authors, and Stetzer talks about “Ministry Pornography”, which is a way of describing a pastor/minister’s struggle with being content in their own church in a world of mega-churches and rock-star preachers. I know I have struggled with both of those. And without even noticing, it effected my prayer life.
My prayers used to sound like this:
“Lord, I’m okay where I am, and thank you for the church I serve… but if you want to grow the church to 6000 that’d be okay too. I love writing, and I’m happy if you help just one person with what I’ve written… but if you want to give me a million readers, a national best seller, and have me speak at conferences, that’ll be okay too. Actually Lord, what’s wrong with the way I’m doing things? It’s all for your name! Father, send revival! Reveal to me the secret of having this kind of influence and success so more people can be saved. In your name, Amen.”
Have you ever prayed that way? I really believed I was being sincere, but in truth I was saying “Lord, I want influence, and I’m not satisfied with where you put me. I want a big church because I want to feel successful. I doubt myself, my call to ministry, and even your love for me sometimes, but I wouldn’t have those doubts if the church was bigger. I don’t like the way you define success, I want you to define it my way. Actually, I don’t really want revival for your name, I just want people to know my name.”
God doesn’t answer prayers like that.
Praise God that he has been working on my heart, and recently my prayers sound more like this:
“Lord, thank you for these amazing authors, pastors and churches who do so much for your kingdom! They are impacting their community, country, and even the world for your sake. They make great resources that I could never come up with myself. They answer questions on video and in books far better than I ever could, and I learn from them all the time. They make so many tools that make my life and ministry easier. Thank you for them! In truth, I have no idea what they are going through in their private life, but I’m sure that with that kind of influence comes some incredible spiritual attacks — Lord, protect them. They tell stories of the kind of heartache they get to see on a regular basis — things I have never seen, and don’t even know if I could deal with — Lord, grant them grace and wisdom. Every word they speak seems to come under criticism from somewhere — Lord, encourage them. I’ve watched some of them burn-out because of their passion and crazy schedule–Lord, touch them. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Maybe you’re not a pastor, but I would imagine that you know how it feels to envy someone for their possessions or influence. Ask God to change your prayers from selfish to thankful? I have found that the more I thank God, the less envy I feel.