Dominion in Prayer: Tending the Land God has Given Us
That first two weeks of school are sort of like an endurance test for moms. Not only are we required to have our children at the thing (like, say, school for example) in the appropriate uniform, clothes, costume, leotard, jersey, etc, with the appropriate props (like lunches and lunch boxes, bows with a monogrammed initial for those of us who live in the South, binders that are a specific measurement with tabs that color coordinate, cleats, tap shoes, baseball gloves, or swim goggles) but we are required to stay at the thing those first two weeks to makes sure we meet the teachers, know the coaches, learn the drill, and pay for any missing pieces of the props or costumes we have forgotten to assemble.
Two weeks in to the school year, I always have to remind myself, “It shall not always be this way. One day, I will again sleep. One day, I will again have ten minutes to put my feet up without having to go to another meeting. One day, I will again have the time to make a second cup of coffee. One day, I will again be able to sleep in until 6am and not feel behind. One day.”
It’s easy for moms to start to feel more like a deflated balloon than a rested, relaxed, normal human being these first few weeks of school.
So last week, I started to think about the word “dominion” instead of “deflated.” Strange, I know, because dominion is a word you don’t hear all that often and usually only when someone reads their Bible in the King James Version or comes across a sermon from Jonathon Edwards, the Puritan pastor. But dominion is an important word because it comes right out of Genesis 1: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV).”
Dominion over creation was a gift from God to the man and the woman He created, and it was a gift He gave to all of their descendants as well. But sadly, it is a gift those of us on planet earth do not often use very well. And it is a gift I don’t tend to use very well, especially during the first two weeks of school. Instead of ruling and reigning, I feel more like a kid running behind a school bus, trying to catch up since I was late to pick up.
In its simplest form, dominion means “to rule or to reign,” but the definition I like the most is “to take possession of honey from a hive” (The Complete WordStudy Old Testament, Spiros Zodhiates). God gave us the gift of exercising dominion so that we could walk through life more like bee keepers than authoritative dictators. And as the people of God, when we exercise dominion as we should, we extract all that is sweet and good from the fabric of life and weave it back into the order of the universe, helping all of creation to fulfill the God-glorifying purposes for which it was created.
But rather than extracting the honey and tasting its sweetness, I can sometimes feel like all I’m doing is chasing the bees, trying to shoo them back into their hive and getting stung in the process. Or, another way to say it, is I feel like I live in the defensive position more than the offensive. Rather than ordering my days and bringing sweetness and peace to the people and places where God has me, most of the time I’m just trying to play catch up or create a way not to feel quite so behind.
But I don’t want to live in perpetual defensive, catch up mode. I really don’t. I want to live in offensive, dominion mode, gathering honey from the hives God has given me and serving its sweetness and inherent goodness into every day living.
A few days ago, when I was listening to a talk on prayer on a cassette tape I found in my mom’s study (talk about old school), one point in particular grabbed my attention. It was this: “Intercession (praying for others) is not about making endless lists. It’s about praying the goodness of God’s will into other people’s lives; it’s about praying for people who are in your life. As you go to the Lord in prayer, ask yourself, ‘Who do I spend the most time with?’, and start there. Dominion is our gift in creation” (Mario Bergner, Listening Prayer Praxis).
When I heard that, the overwhelming emotion I felt was relief. Finally, in the craziness of the first two of school, there was a hint, a clue in the puzzle pieces, as to how to bring order and dominion back into my days. And I truly believe this – as long as we live here on planet earth, for the people of God, dominion begins and ends with prayer.
As I look ahead into the fall and the rest of the school year, there is so little I have actual control over. No matter how much I plan and structure and order my days and the days of my children, the bottom line is, I cannot control so much of what happens once my feet hit the floor each morning. But what I can control is the frequency and fervency of my prayers. I can daily, weekly, regularly, exercise dominion by lobbing consistent prayer into the very places and lives where God has given presence and influence and sit back and watch in eager anticipation what God does on a day in and day out basis.
I think most of the time why I don’t exercise dominion in my prayer life is because the sheer enormity of the task overwhelms me. I don’t pray for anything (or very little) because I feel like I have to pray for everything. I take my endless feelings of being tired and behind in life and drag them into my life of prayer. But we are not asked or required to pray for everything; we are asked to pray for the plots of land God has given us to tend. In other words, we are asked to pray for that which God has given us dominion over. And many times, prayer is the first and primary way we are able to be good bee-keepers of the areas where God has given us dominion. Prayer enables us to go into the hives of our schools, our neighborhoods, our churches, the lives of our spouses, children, close friends and family, and extract all of their sweetness and goodness while weaving it back into the fabric of those very same people and places.
So here’s the challenge: this week, I am going to be putting my prayer life in order. Will you consider doing the same thing? And here’s how I’m going to begin: I am going to think about the people and places who are most regularly and consistently in my life and start directing my prayers there. And then I am going to think about my broader sphere of influence and the people and places who God has put in my life or path but I may not see on a regular basis. Like ministries Jason and I are involved with or specific missionaries. The pastor whose teaching on prayer I was listening to made the point that one person cannot pray for more than 1-2 missionaries or ministries responsibly. So don’t add 100 ministries, or even 10 ministries or world problems, to your list. Just add 2. And then pray about those two regularly and responsibly. And guess what? If every single one of us did that, just those who read this blog, that would add up to over 400 ministries and missionaries being prayed for regularly. You, individually, are not the answer to the world’s problems or to single-handedly finishing the Great Commission. But we, collectively, as the Body of Christ, are the answer. And as we work together in prayer, each of us diligently laboring over the dominion and plot of land God has given us, we will begin to see great change take place in our cities, churches, communities, and world, and God begin to move in powerful ways.
Several years ago, to help organize my prayer life, I put together a prayer guide I titled “Persistent Prayer.” I have shared the entire document before in a previous post, but today I just want us to focus on the Intercession or “Ask” section.
Each day of the week has its own separate piece of paper, and on that paper, there is room to decide where God has given you dominion and how you are going to pray effectively in those areas. There is nothing fancy about this prayer guide; it is just a simple way to organize our prayers so that you and I can make sure we are praying. (Click here to download the document: Ask)
Every morning, I read a daily devotion in Tim Keller’s book The Songs of Jesus. At the end of every day, Keller includes a short prayer, and the prayer for September 3rd, the day I wrote this blog, was powerful and convicting:
Lord, prayerlessness is a sin against you. It comes from a self-sufficiency that is wrong and that dishonors you. Prayerlessness is also a sin against those around me. I should be engaging my heart and your power in their needs. Lord, I pray with all my heart that you would give me a heart for prayer. Amen.
In I Samuel 12:23, the prophet Samuel says to the people of Israel, the people God had given him specific dominion over and responsibility for, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Amen and amen. May God deliver us from the sin of prayerlessness and give us all hearts for prayer that seek first to connect with Him and then seek to extract the honey from the hives around us, beautifying God’s good creation with its sweetness and goodness, exercising rightful, beneficial dominion in the land God has given us.