The Place of a Prayer Life
By Andrew Burns
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”
Is there any grass on your path? Jesus has many paths that we worn to the dirt daily (Luke 6:12). Imagine praying all night. Jesus did. In this set of articles, we want to consider five areas of prayer: the place, the priority, the pattern, the problems and the promises of prayer.
In this first article, we want to consider the place of prayer. Where is prayer in your life in terms of priority? When you have a problem, challenge, joy or dilemma, who do you turn to first, second or third? Does the Lord come in second, or maybe fourth? With Jesus, the Father was number one easily. Where is He with you?
The Place of Prayer – A Priority
In order for prayer to be important in my life it must first be a priority. As Luke states, Jesus prayed often and many times all night. Especially we see this on the eve before He chooses His apostles; those men He would mentor and tutor to do His great commission. He directly addressed the Father about this decision so that the Father could guide Jesus in His thinking. Now imagine, if Jesus (God on earth, John 1:14) needed the Father’s guidance toward a major decision, surely we can vividly see our need.
If find that when prayer is a priority, my life is consciously full of joy and serenity. Luke states a story in chapter eighteen about a woman who prays to a man who has no regard for people or for God. The story begins by Jesus stating, “…that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) Jesus tells this parable so that we would pray to God instead of becoming distraught and weary from our challenges. Prayer must be a priority.
The Psalmist succinctly says that God will save me when I call out to Him in prayer (Psalm 55:16). Here is a promise from God that must keep us courageous and full of praise to Him that He listens, cares and will attend to our needs. The Psalmist also states that he will “…cry to God all day long.” (Psalm 86:3-6) This psalmist not only shares his needs, but also his whole soul to God in prayer. He states that God is good, ready to forgive and ready to give mercy toward the prayer. At the end of the prayer, he states with confidence that he calls upon God because God will answer.
From the New Testament writers, prayer is not just a part of our spiritual armor from God (Eph. 6:18), but also an assumed priority in Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 6:5). The Bible clearly teaches how important prayer is for the Christian in decision making, in daily delights of the heart, in dark moments of great challenge and in dire straits with dark forces of evil (Eph. 6:11,12; 2 Cor. 10:4-6). Prayer is needed and a necessity for each of these and many more occasions. John Bunyun stated, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” May we see God in the morning and remain with Him for the duration for day.
The Place of Prayer – A Prerequisite
Oftentimes, when we come to and are overcome by challenges in life, we too often think of parents, best friends or in-laws to call and confer with concerning proper directions. While conferring with these groups is not at all bad or ill-advised, we must recognize as God’s people that God desires to be consulted first and foremost. We must have His perfect Sovereign counsel before we explore any options.
When the early church dealt with a serious issue with Peter and John they immediately consulted with God in prayer about which direction to take. They could have been afraid or angry. Instead, they directed their energy immediately in prayer to God (Acts 4:23f). In fact, their prayer was not for safety or revenge, their prayer was for courage to continue God’s commission to them of preaching Jesus’ Name to the Jews. Prayer for the early church was a prerequisite before any other option was even considered.
On the night of Jesus’ betrayal, denial and death prayer was a major factor from the very beginning. He prayed before, during His agony preceding His arrest. He tells Peter that He has prayed for him that Satan will not prevail in this spiritual battle (Luke 22:32). When He Himself went to pray and His disciples followed Him, He pleaded with them to pray that they would be victorious during the night of great spiritual challenge (Luke 22:40). Then, He goes to battle Satan in prayer with the Father by His side (Luke 22:41, 44). Prayer, then, was not a part of a religious ritual to Jesus that would count Him as a faithful follower of God. Prayer was a powerful, integral instrument of strength and victory that enabled Jesus to be focused on the goal of man’s salvation. Without prayer it is possible that Jesus’ human side becomes stronger than the spiritual side. With prayer Jesus remains inseparably locked to God’s purpose and plan to redeem man to God. To Jesus, prayer was a prerequisite.
The Place of Prayer – A Practice
Finally, for prayer to be a successful priority and prerequisite, it must daily be practiced by Jesus’ followers. We may think highly of prayer and believe in its holy place in terms of Christian actions; but unless it is practiced daily (1 Thess. 5:17) it cannot be helpful to the Christian. Prayer is much like a hammer to a builder. The hammer has great potential and ability. However, if we fail to pick it up with the nail, properly swing it and apply its abilities to the work it is of no use to our needs. As we build our spiritual house of God (Eph. 2:19-22) prayer must be a critical part and have its crucial place in this house; or the house will come crashing down around us (Matt. 7:24, 25). God teaches us to:
1. Pray faithfully at all times. Rom 12:12
2. Pray constantly about all things. 1 Thess 5:17
3. Trust Him and pour our needs out to Him – at all times. Psalm 62:8
4. To the early church, prayer was essential to their daily success. Acts 12:5
E.M. Bounds stated, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use–men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.” Prayer must be practiced daily for its potential to be realized. On a scale of 1 – 10, what is the condition of your prayer life?