Sharpening the axe

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. – Proverbs 16:3

“Give me six hours to cut down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

When I was on the board of an emerging Christian school, we had many, many things to discuss: electing officers, articles of incorporation, applying for tax-exempt status, mission statement, by-laws, hiring an administrator, teachers and staff, writing applications for these positions, writing student applications, curriculum, textbooks, ETC. I remember seeing the long agenda filled with things I had never done before and didn’t know if I could even understand what all that was. The first thought that came to mind was, What were we thinking? We can’t do this! The other board members seemed no more experienced or knowledgeable than I was, and yet this was the group the Lord allegedly had raised up to get His school started.

At our first meeting, with the night’s agenda looming over us, we began with prayer.

Correction: We began with silence. Awkward, extended silence. Finally, one of the board members spoke for all of us, and it was more of a groan than a prayer.

“Oh Lord, I feel SO inadequate…”

At that moment I thought, We’re going to make it. We were beginning at the right place, admitting that there was no way we could get this done. It was going to have to be God‘s doing.

At first we met several times a week, and meetings went until about 1:00 A.M. We had much to accomplish – like getting a building! – but we always began with about 30-40 minutes of prayer. Much was accomplished, but summer was passing quickly. After a while, we prayed “briefly” before the meetings, and one night the chairman said, “We have so much to do tonight, let’s just open with a quick word of prayer and get going.” After a “word” of prayer, the meeting continued with what seemed like a million complications, and by the wee hours of the morning, next to nothing had been accomplished.

This did not mean prayer wasn’t happening. I can personally attest to many sleepless nights and “prayer walks,” giving the school to the Lord, and at the end of the summer, we had everything we needed with the minor exception of a building. Then, at the last minute, a little Baptist church in a neighboring town approached us, having heard of our plight, held an emergency meeting, and decided unanimously to let us rent their building.

The school board met with their church board to decide rent, legalities, satisfying the fire marshal and building inspector, moving details, rules for use of the building, utilities, calendar, special events, shared equipment, who got keys to what … another L-O-N-G agenda.

But first, we prayed.

One by one the board members of the church and the school prayed fervently for God’s will to be known, for open, obedient hearts, for every child that would attend the school, for every teacher, administrator, staff member, and volunteer, for the families, for harmony between the school and the church (for the enemy to be prevented from dividing us) …

As the prayer went on … and on … God’s presence filled the room with a feeling of warmth, love, and unity. When we finished praying, I had tears in my eyes. Looking at the clock, I thought, This’ll be another late night. – We had prayed for over an hour and a half!

But after prayer, miraculously, we got everything worked out in about 30 minutes. Apparently, while it takes forever for us to get anything done on our own, God works fast!

A couple of years later my friend Kelly was also on the board, so I was no longer the only female voice. Kelly and I were prayer partners, and we knew that the less we felt we had time to pray, the more we had to pray.

Kelly recalls one night after our principal had resigned unexpectedly and a few other crises had arisen, there was a sense of panic. The men wanted to dive right into the “business” part of the meeting. Kelly and I were saying, “NO, we need to pray!” And as the men went right on talking, I took a stand... I think.

[For the record, I do not remember doing this, but Kelly swears it happened.]

As I got tired of saying “We need to pray!” and the men went right on without us, I got out of my chair, knelt on the floor, and just started praying. (According to Kelly) I think she knelt with me, but since I don’t remember the incident at all, I couldn’t say for sure. And I think the guys finally stopped talking to one another and prayed with us.

That was over thirty years ago. The school has survived and thrived, after some very shaky years, and Kelly and I both eventually got off the board and spent our time walking the perimeter of the school property each morning after dropping off our kids and covering the school with prayer. (We had a few “adventures” related to that, too, but that’s another story for another day.)

Just know this: If you are setting out to so something and want half-baked, flawed results, go ahead and try to do it yourself. But if you want to do God’s will effectively, start with knowing He is the one who grants success. Yield your body, mind, heart, and talents to Him and see what He does with what you offer Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be a tool in God’s hand than an independent worker just making a mess.

Prayer: Father, thank You for allowing us to be a part of Your plan. Thank You for giving us everything we need to do the work You assign us. Forgive us for the times we’ve run ahead of You and taken the wrong path or dragged our feet and missed what You’ve had for us or gone down rabbit trails, wasting time and making messes. Thank You for always drawing us back to You and for keeping us within Your reach. We yield to Your will today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

46 thoughts on “Sharpening the axe

  1. What a great story! I have had similar experiences many times before and I will admit… most of the time it is the women in the group who stop and remind the rest of us about the importance of drenching our undertaking in prayer. (Why is that, do you suppose?) Thanks for that great reminder!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. To answer your question, Russ, maybe men (generally) are more accustomed to “fixing” things themselves. Although in our Sunday school class in Genesis, we’re finding the women in the Bible do at least as much to try to “help God out” as the men do. 😏

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  2. Thank you for this reminder! Sometimes I think I should not ‘bother’ God with our non-spiritual needs. Like the fact that our whole gas house furnace stopped working last night, and my husband and I don’t know how to fix it, and it’s supposed to go down to 32 tonight and in the 20s tomorrow night… and I am trying not to panic.

    By the way, when I tried to post this comment a few minutes ago, it would not post. Our electric is on, but now our internet is inexplicably out. Thankfully, I was able to get on here via my cell phone. What’s going on? I’m praying! Please pray for us, too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Correction, I just double checked the weather forecast on my phone and it’s supposed to get down into the 20s Sunday night, not Saturday night. But 32 tonight. I didn’t want to be lying to you. But yes I am nervous. Lord Jesus, I believe you will keep my husband and our 3 fur babies and me from freezing, and our water pipes from bursting. You are with us every step of the way! Amen!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this today. I needed to be reminded that whenever I am facing something tough, am standing at a crossroads, or need direction then it is so important to pray, and pray, and pray.
    God is the one who has the answers, He is the one who directs our steps, and He is the one who provides, and who grants us success. I don’t want to waste time running down rabbit holes, wasting time and making messes!!! An important post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “At that moment I thought, We’re going to make it. We were beginning at the right place, admitting that there was no way we could get this done. It was going to have to be Godβ€˜s doing.” Amen, and thank you for this recollection!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great story Ann.
    Small or large, God must be in the lead. We follow starting with prayer (my personal belief). I have a nephew who has spent his young life in many countries with missions, seemingly without fundraising but never in need. His motto is “God’s will God’s bill”

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  6. Was so touched by this Annie.
    The more you feel like you don’t have time to pray, the more you actually need to pray- I am going to hold onto that.
    Thank you for sharing such a powerful reminder of the need to yield to God always. Keep Him first in all we set out to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Annie, I loved it. And I love what your friend remembered about you. I have a friend I went to church with and school with in Jr High and senior high. Recently she shared a memory about me that I have no memory of, something from 57 years ago, but a very significant event in my life. I recall the event, just not her part in it. I believe her, though, I just don’t remember. Anyway, I loved your story and the lesson on the importance of prayer. I agree. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. Wonderful testimony Ann, that you for sharing. Truths that pave our walk with God came to life here in your story.
    I so appreciate the reminder of prayer’s essential role in all we do. Thank you sister!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen, Keith. It’s been interesting seeing the kinds of attacks it has withstood. When we were walking around the school and praying daily, someone commented that she was so happy her kids were in Christian school and she didn’t have to worry about things like drugs. I looked her in the eye and asked, “If you were the devil and you could attack one school in this area, which one would you choose?”
      I could see the realization on her face, as she paused and said, “Oh my … We need to pray for this school!”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank yo for sharing. I think God’s hitting me upside the head with this very thing. Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Billy Graham library and the thing that stood out to me the most was how they set the groundwork for every crusade by seeking prayer from the local churches of the areas they were going to. It was like God kept telling me “pray first.” Always pray first.

    Guess I needed to hear it again =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah, don’t we all, Jennifer?
      I remember when one of the evangelists from the Billy Graham ministry came to our town in Michigan. There were prayer meetings held in multiple places the week before to pray specifically for all aspects of the Crusade. I was impressed.

      Liked by 1 person

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