How true is: "Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you"?


Hello my brother,

I hear the following quote: "Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you," how true is it?

Thanks for your time.


This is one of old sayings that get passed around. I find it attributed to a large number of famous people, mostly in the Catholic church, but you can't find where any of these people actually said it.

In prayer faith plays an essential role. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you" (Matthew 11:24). When you are confident that you've asked according to God's will, then we should assume the prayer has been answered because that is what God promised. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (I John 5:14-15).

Overall, I suspect that the point trying to be emphasized is to be fervent in our prayers and our actions. When we ask God for something, we should not act as if we are no longer involved. To ask and do nothing is the way of a lazy man. Yet the other extreme of acting without asking God for help is also wrong. "You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2).

Nehemiah would illustrate the point being made. He fervently prayed after hearing the walls of Jerusalem had remained ruined (Nehemiah 1:3-11). Yet, he didn't ask God to rebuild the walls. He asked God to forgive the people and to help them return. He prayed after the king had asked him what he desired. We don't know what he asked God, but what he told the king was, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it" (Nehemiah 2:5). He prayed for help from their enemies. "Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders" (Nehemiah 4:4-5). Yet, they focused on their work. "So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work" (Nehemiah 4:6). When further threats came, "Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night" (Nehemiah 4:9).

Fervent prayers are necessary. "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12). But so is fervent effort. "Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

What we see in Nehemiah are people who don't expect God to do what they were capable of doing. They asked for God's blessing and aid, and then set about doing what they could fervently. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

I read several objections to this statement and they seem to focus around rejecting the idea that man can do anything regarding what he prays for. But God has always expected men to work, while remembering that ultimately the answer is from God. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8). Notice that it is more than asking, seeking and knocking is also involved.

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12).

Even in matters of salvation. No man can save himself, but God desires men to work out their salvation because God works in us to desire and do.

Where this statement can be taken wrong is if either half is isolated. If in our prayers we expect God to do everything, then our prayers are wrong. It would be the prayer of a lazy man. If we worked as if we wanted no help from God, then we will fail from our arrogance.

For example, I've seen people pray for a spouse, and then wonder why no one shows up at their door. I've seen others who focus on what they want and often grabbing the first person they notice, never giving a thought to whether this person would be pleasing to the Lord. Better would to pray for help in finding a good spouse and then going out and searching diligently for someone who matches God's description of a good marriage partner.