Praying About Money

Although I sometimes still find it difficult to pray about money, it’s much easier than it used to be. For a long time, money was one of those islands of life that almost never entered my prayer. Perhaps I would have prayed more about money if I had ever been poor and hungry, but I think not. If I were hungry, I think I would just pray for food.

There are other reasons why prayer about money was difficult. One is that money isn’t quite real. It’s only a means of exchange, a symbol of what economists call “purchasing power.” You can hold it in your hands, but it’s just coins or paper, or even plastic, and it doesn’t really do anything until you spend it or give it away. You can invest money, but even then it only increases your purchasing power. Aside from the occasional dollar I hand to someone on the street, money seems almost like a concept. And I don’t tend to pray about concepts.

It was at a “money and spirituality” workshop at Shalem years ago that I was first introduced to the idea of praying about money. The leader suggested we could pray about how much money we needed or wanted, and how much to spend, give away, or save. The message, as I heard it, was that if we want our choices to be guided by God, we can pray about money in the same way we pray about vocation, relationships, health, or anything else. But I still found it difficult.

Then I realized my biggest resistance: I didn’t really want to pray about money. To do so is to relinquish my control over money — to put my purchasing power into God’s hands. It’s a familiar paradox for me; I want to do what God wants me to do, but I also want to stay in control. That’s why I keep discovering these prayerless islands in life where I resist opening my choices to God.

But when I move through the resistance, I find I actually enjoy praying about money. It’s like entering an entirely different world. In my usual mind, for example, I never want to part with money, and always want more than I currently have. I don’t know how much money would finally be “enough”–I only know I don’t have that much, and I suspect I never will. But when I enter the mind of prayer, I almost always have the strange and energizing feeling that what I have is sufficient, even abundant. More important, I also sense that God is right at hand, endlessly willing and wanting to replace money as the source of my security.

Without prayer, I usually go from one extreme to another in making financial choices. I either obsess about the decision and try to calculate what’s best, or I make the choice impulsively, almost without a thought. It’s very different when I pray. When I pray, I usually feel an intuitive leading, a gut-sense of rightness or wrongness about a particular choice. I’ve found that if I trust that sense–even when it doesn’t fit my mental judgments–things work out very well. And if I don’t sense any leading, I take that as a sign to wait and just keep watching and praying.

Now I try to pray about money as I pray about other things in my life. As I say, I still sometimes find it difficult. I often have to remind myself to do it. But when I do, it is enjoyable. I can never say for sure whether my choices have been guided by God; I can only want them to be and hope they are.

Praying about money is a very natural way of claiming that desire and hope. It helps me get in touch with what’s truly important, and it helps me trust that I am making my decisions in the best way possible: with reverence and love.

January 01, 1999 by Gerald May
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