“Prayer is one of the most important aspects of building disciples. If one is to help men grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, he must pray. Indeed, if he does everything else right in terms of building disciples, yet fails to pray, nothing significant will happen.” (Carl Wilson)
As I am preaching through Philippians, once again I am reminded of the importance of prayer. In the very first chapter Paul brings up prayer no less than three times. He starts off by reminding the Philippian believers that he is always praying for them. A couple of verses later he tells them what his prayer is. And then later, he rejoices because he knows they are praying for him. It is because of their prayers that he expects to be delivered. Prayer matters. More than that - it is essential.
Of all those we might think wouldn’t need to pray, it would be Jesus. Yet, all over the gospels, we find Jesus praying. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, healed people with prayers, denounced the corruption of the temple (which, he said, should be a “house of prayer”), and insisted that some demons could be cast out only through prayer. He prayed often and regularly with fervent cries and tears (Heb 5:7), and sometimes all night. The Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him as he was praying (Luke 3:21–22), and he was transfigured with the divine glory as he prayed (Luke 9:29). When he faced his greatest crisis, he did so with prayer. We hear him praying for his disciples and the church on the night before he died (John 17:1–26) and then petitioning God in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he died praying.
It is interesting to me that in two different sections of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings up the topic of prayer. The first is in Matthew 6, when Jesus tells us how not to pray. “Don’t pray like those hypocrites who stand in the synagogues.” Then in contrast he tells us how to pray, and gives us the Lords’ Prayer. In chapter 7, Jesus once again brings up the topic of prayer. This time He is telling us not how to pray, but why to pray. Why should we pray? Because we don’t have the ability in and of ourselves to live out the kingdom beatitudes, nor develop a kingdom heart of righteousness, nor live out the kingdom priorities.
One of our Extraordinary Norms at First Free is that we expect to be a church where people are growing to reflect more and more of the character and priorities of Jesus. One of the priorities of Jesus was prayer. He modeled a prayerful dependence upon His Father that empowered His ministry.
As we move into this school year, let me call each of us to a prayer-dependence on God. Each Monday, I send out a “Knee-Mail” with four church-wide prayer requests (you can sign up to receive these weekly Knee-Mails by emailing the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org). Every Wednesday night from 6:45 - 8 pm, a group meets for prayer in my office. On Wednesday night, October 24th we have the DEEP, a time of corporate prayer and worship.
Would you commit this next year to pray for our church? Would you pray for our neighborhood? Would you pray for our church staff and Council? Would you pray for me?