Pray To God, But Row For Shore


“There exists a Divine partnership between God and man that is wonderfully depicted in the following story. A young minister was driving through the countryside when he spotted a farmer tilling 40 acres of magnificent farmland. The minister pulled over and addressed the farmer, “God has certainly blessed you with a wonderful piece of land.” The farmer replied, “Yes, but you should have seen the mess it was in when God had it to Himself!”

The Combination of faith and works has long been a hallmark principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle James wrote-

“…faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:17-20)

While the farmer recognized that God was the principle hand in his success, he also understood that much work was required on his part. There is an old proverb among Russian sailors, when facing stormy seas, that says, “Pray to God, but row for shore.” This practical way of looking at life will no doubt develop strength of character and build our faith in times of adversity. When faced with life’s stormy challenges, it is not “good enough” to fervently pray in faith to Heavenly Father for deliverance; then sit back and expect for the boat to magically make its way to the shore in safety. We must also do our part!

I know of a woman who held a strong feeling of animosity towards another sister in the church. She confided in me that she struggled in forgiving and accepting this other sister because of past negative experiences. She told me that she prayed often to learn to “like” this other person but that it hadn’t worked. I asked her if she had attempted to do anything on her part, like taking something over to this sister, or offering service of some kind for this woman, or perhaps just taking the time to talk to her as a friend. She said she hadn’t. I suggested she might try. Later she reported that she had put forth a concerted effort to get to know her as we had discussed. In so doing, she learned more about this other woman and could better understand why this sister acted the way she did. And, while she reported that they were still not “good” friends, she informed me that she had learned how to better accept this sister for who she was. Because of her efforts, their relationship had changed from “intolerable” to one of “understanding.”

When Jacob and his family were starving, he didn’t just pray for food. He sent his sons into perilous Egypt to procure it. There they were delivered by the Lord through Joseph, their long lost brother. We must always recognize that God will bless our lives, but he expects us to do our part. By allowing us to assist Him in helping ourselves, He is developing Godly characteristics in us. “Pray to God, but row for shore” is an excellent saying to remember when we are in times of need.


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