Talking points: prayer and generosity
A regular opportunity to hear from IFES General Secretary, Daniel Bourdanné.
In a time of rest, God spoke to me. He spoke to me about generosity and prayer, their significance and how difficult it is to live out such values, especially in cultures that revere material success and individualism. I am moved to the heart as I consider what it means for us to model a ministry of generosity and prayer.
For some people, like me, it truly is easier to give than to receive. I have in me the tendency to pay back every act of generosity from my friends. When I am taken out for a meal, I say, “Next time is my turn to treat you.” I don’t want to be a burden. But I have come to understand how my attitude is motivated by a silent desire not to be seen as needy or dependent on the generosity of others. And this prevents me from celebrating the gift and the love of other people.
We can see generosity as just about those who have plenty giving to the poor. We can give to control and to exercise power. We can give to not feel guilty. I see how hard it is for the rich to accept hospitality from the poor; they give but are not open to receiving from the poor. It could be that some of us — those who are older, wealthier, who come from our more established national movements — think only in terms of giving and do not integrate receiving from those “poorer” than us as a true expression of biblical generosity.
But God has been speaking to me and I am realizing afresh that generosity is deeper than — and goes beyond — the act of giving. Generosity is an act of worship to the Lord and a gift of our self to others (2 Corinthians 8:5). Every believer in Christ — whether poor or rich — is called to be generous. Generosity is not only about unidirectional giving. It is also about receiving, which itself is a test of our spiritual dependence.
It is a privilege for my family and me to live in the UK with well-stocked supermarkets, easy access to health services and the, relative, simplicity of dealing with authorities and bureaucracy. We thank God for the blessings here, but know it challenges our spirituality. In Côte d’Ivoire we knew our vulnerability. Here there is no malaria, no military coups. We can fix so many things and society trains us to be self-sufficient. So we become desensitized to our need to depend on God and to celebrate the love of others.
Reflecting on generosity both as we give and as we receive, I started understanding better the connection between generosity and prayer. They have in common the challenging Christian message of our full dependence on God and on others. I understand now more of the value of a life of prayer which models confessing our limitations and dependence on our heavenly Father.
What a wonderful encouragement to me to see through our history how IFES is rooted in prayer. I felt God speaking to me about our need to refresh our commitment. He keeps challenging me and I am still struggling to get to the heart of what this means in practice for the Fellowship. I keep asking myself the following questions: How could we effectively teach, promote and nurture prayer and generosity to one another and to our students? How can we encourage our community to be ready to open our arms before God? How should we talk about dying to ourselves and dying to live with Christ in an attractive way when our surrounding culture is about perfection and success?
God is challenging me and I hope he will challenge you through these questions. I pray we will take time to confess our limitations and express our dependence on God to guide us.