Dr. Don Moore, retired executive director, serves on the Prayer Task Force of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
In the first century, the church was accused of “turning the world upside down.” In contrast, today the existence and impact of the church is so negligible that it is easily ignored and considered of little value in the overall scheme of human flourishing.
Personal dynamic was so impressive that opponents had to conclude that they had “been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) More time with Jesus in prayer would doubtless result in us having a more powerful influence on the unsaved.
When God’s people have undertaken spiritual tasks in full dependence upon God’s gracious intervention, He has never failed. Wars were won, diseases were cured, prison doors were opened, demoniacs were delivered and the lost were saved. Conversely, when God’s people took Kingdom matters into their own hands, God famously left them to their own devices. Failure, loss and disappointment were experienced.
How serious was the matter of prayer to Jesus?
Jesus did not go far in the sermon on the mount before addressing prayer. His earliest teaching was the simplest. Matthew 7:7 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
His disciples witnessed His prayer life and asked Him to teach them. (Luke 11:1) In response He gave them a pattern for prayer in the Lord’s Prayer and followed it with an example of a most essential characteristic of effective praying. Luke 11:8 (NIV) “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” The characteristic is persistence, insistence or perseverance in praying.
Jesus’s stepbrother, James, spoke to believers’ poverty when He said, “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2b)
Mark 11:17 (NIV) “And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” His severe irritation over the Temple not being a House of Prayer, expressed the most serious disappointment of His ministry to that point.
Jesus assumed that anyone could understand the illustration of an earthly father giving good gifts to His children as a way of helping people understand how willing God was to answer prayer. (Luke 11:13)
Before His miracles He often prayed. Before weighty decisions He prayed. He prayed privately, publicly. He prayed extensively and concisely. He might spend a night in prayer or a real short time before breaking the loaves and fish or raising Lazarus.
Jesus claimed that none of His works and none of His words had their origin within himself. John 5:19 (NIV) “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
Jesus’s most straightforward statement on prayer for His followers is Luke 18:1 (KJV) “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;” The record of the early church was saturated with experiences and events of prayer.
Compared to Jesus, how serious are we about prayer?
What prompted Jesus to be so dedicated to prayer? He gave it away when He said in Luke 12:34 (NIV) “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The Kingdom of God was His treasure, and the will of His Father was His mission, thus, that was where His heart was. In light of our light praying, we might ask, “where is our treasure?”
The darkness of the hour and the hostility of the environment demands nothing less than intensity and desperation in prayer. We dare not settle with ritualistic, routine, rote prayers. “Fervency” may be the missing element in our praying. Jesus was said to offer up fervent cries and prayers (Heb. 5:7). James says “fervent prayer availeth much.” (James 5:16) We are praying for revival and awakening. Can we expect Him to give revival at our present level of concern and praying? Would it please and honor Him if we ratcheted up our praying several notches? We should join in the prayer, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6)
How can this occur when our churches do not have prayer meetings? The people of God must come together and pray. Pastors, can you lead your congregation to accomplish this great task?