“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
People call this the Eisenhower principle. You hear it a lot in leadership training, encouraging leaders not to get swept away in the urgent and totally miss the important.
I do that—the getting swept away thing. It’s one of my biggest struggles as a mother and maybe as a human being, too. I’m forever addressing the urgent (snacks I promised for school, car repair, kissing boo boos, solving all the little problems…) and putting off the important (teaching my kids scripture, having meaningful conversations about beauty and love, spending quality time with my husband; talking to a neighbor, organizing my home…).
Because I spend so much time drowning in the urgent, I miss the peace that would come if I’d only devote more time to the important.
It’s no different with me and prayer.
So many times I turn to prayer in crisis. Something’s going wrong and I need rescue RIGHT NOW and I cry out to God, “Help!” waiting (impatiently) for the lifeline to keep me from sinking.
As we’re human, we spend a lot of time in crisis. People are always dying and getting sick and make terrible choices. Cars are always breaking and jobs are always falling through. The money is tight, relationships strained.
When are we not in crisis?
And so our prayers look like triage.
That’s good. Where else can we go for healing and help?
Sometimes all that bleeding and yelling and chaos gets in the way of what’s most important.
Losing your job is bad. Dealing with screaming kids is hard. Trying to make ends meet is exhausting. Cancer is terrible.
But things get worse than cancer. And things get more important than health and stability.
Should we pray for people struggling with cancer? YES. But we shouldn’t let that be the end of our prayer.
In The Lord’s Prayer…
- Jesus says to pray for the ever-increasing reign of the kingdom of God.
- He says to pray that more and more people would accept the will of God, that earth would take Heavenly shape.
- He says to pray for today’s provision.
- He says, pray for forgiveness and promise to offer it.
- He says, pray for protection and deliverance from the evil one.
- He says to praise God—high and holy.
When we’re praying for God’s ultimate will, His glorification in all things, we’re laying track ahead of us, building a foundation upon which to step out in faith. So, when things get crazy and the chaos rolls in, we can trust that God’s will is done and that whatever happens, He’s in it.
If I could give you one piece of advice in all this, I’d say this: Make the most important things a priority in prayer. Pray for God’s will to be done. In you. In your family. In your church. In your neighborhood. In America. And on earth.
Begin looking for scriptures that reveal the work God has planned for you.
Pray the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5, asking God to fill you and grow His virtues in your heart.
Pray Romans chapter 8. Read it and ask God to set you free from the law of sin and death, to govern your mind by His Spirit, to lead you, to help you in your weakness, to conform you into the image of His Son, to make you more than a conqueror.
Pray 2 Corinthians 4, that “His light [might] shine in our hearts.”
And pray The Lord’s Prayer, too.
Pray for the sick, yes. Pray for comfort when you’re sad and help when you don’t know what to do. Pray a blessing on the food. Please, please do that.
But also pray for the world to be transformed through and for the glory of God.