My mom grew up with a saying that she passed on to us. It goes something like this: "The harder I work, the behinder I get!" While it may not be correct grammar, it's sure correct for many of our lives — or at least the way we feel about them.

Many folks today find themselves behind, and the more they try to do to catch up, the "behinder" they find themselves. We can end up in this situation for many reasons. Some of us are procrastinators. Some of us over-schedule. Some of us are not disciplined with our time. Some of us waste a lot of time getting ready to do what we need to do. Some of us don't work hard. Some of us have a lot of unexpected pressures and problems intruding into our lives. Some of us don't prioritize the things we have to do. I'm sure we could list a bunch of other reasons why many of us find ourselves "behinder" even though we feel like we're working hard on our "to do" lists.

Unfortunately, one reason many of us are behind is very sad: we live like we're too busy to pray. I'm afraid that many of us see prayer as something to work into our busy schedules if we have time. Others of us only see prayer as an emergency cry for help when we are in trouble and want God to bail us out. During the daily routine that burns most of our time and churns up most of our problems, we forget to take time to pray. In the process of neglecting prayer, we find ourselves getting "behinder."

Reuel Lemmons, a great Christian leader now gone to be with the Lord, used to say, "I only get done what I pray about." He made prayer a top priority. Bill Hybels' good little book on prayer has the convicting title, Too Busy Not to Pray. These leaders remind us what Jesus so powerfully demonstrated in his own life and ministry: prayer is the key to accomplishing the work God wants us to do through us.

Early in the Lord's ministry, he demonstrated the importance of prayer for those of us with busy lives. (Mark 1:35-45) After an incredibly hectic schedule on the previous day, Jesus rose early one morning and went off to a lonely place to pray. During his time of prayer, he re-centered his schedule in the mission God had called him to accomplish. Peter came looking for him and told him that many people were in need of his attention and were seeking to find him. Jesus replied that he needed to move on to other places — to the towns and villages — and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom there. Why would Jesus leave behind those wanting to be healed? Why move on to other places? Jesus' answer was clear, "This is why I came." Prayer re-centered Jesus on his mission.

I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded occasionally of several humbling truths I believe we can learn from Jesus' actions:

  • I can't do everything, so I must do the most important things — the things God wants me to do.
  • I can't help everyone, so I must help those whom God leads me to help as I fulfill my mission.
  • Look closely to see if you have left out the most important element.
  • I won't be able to distinguish the most important things that God wants me to do without spending time in God's presence in prayer.
  • The busier I am, the more important it is that I spend time in prayer.
  • Even when I'm busy doing the Lord's work, when he places someone in my path that has needs, I need to be compassionate and serve them.

If you keep finding yourself "behinder" in life, look closely to see if you have left out the most important element of a busy and effective life: prayer!