If you’re a pastor, you should certainly be striving for greater excellence as a communicator, as a leader, and as an organizer. You need a vision. You need a strategy. You need a solid, biblical theology of ministry and the church. But you can have all of these and remain stuck in mediocrity without God’s power. The greatest work you’ll ever commit to as a pastor is the work of prayer.
Praying churches, those that experience the miraculous power of God, are led by praying pastors. This is why Jesus spent time teaching his disciples how to pray. He knew that once he had ascended back to heaven, his church would need to connect with him, and the way we connect with God and receive his direction and his power is through prayer.
Jesus gave his disciples at least four reasons to keep on growing in the area of prayer.
1. Prayer is an act of dedication.
It is an opportunity to express our devotion to God as well as our dependence on God. Our biggest problem when it comes to the frequency and passion in our praying is that we don’t feel the need to completely depend on God. The reason why a lot of leaders fail to pray is because it costs us something. It requires our openness and transparency with God. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.
In John 15:5-7, Jesus is giving an illustration of a plant and he says, “If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, but apart from Me, you can do nothing. If anyone doesn’t remain in Me, he’s like a branch that’s thrown away and withers. Such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned. But if you remain in Me [if you be dependent upon Me, express your trust in Me] and My words remain in you, you can ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”
That’s an unbelievable promise in prayer! It’s like a branch and vine. The branch is connected to the vine or stem. If you cut the branch off, it loses all its strength and power. When we fail to pray, we wither.
2. Prayer is an act of communication.
You can’t communicate with somebody unless you know your relationship to them. What is our relationship to God? In John 15:15-16, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends for everything I’ve learned from My Father, I’ve made known unto you. You didn’t choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.”
The reason you can ask anything in prayer is because you are friends with God. We seldom pray because we forget what a privilege it is to talk to God. God says, “I am the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and you are My friend and I want to talk to you!” That’s what prayer is. It is dedication but it is also communication.
We often have a hard time believing that God is really interested in us. We can’t seem to conceive that the Creator of the entire universe is interested in car payments and house payments and buying new clothes for the kids for school and the guy at work who irritates you and the fact that you have back problems and everything else. When you fully discover how much God really loves you, prayer will no longer be a problem for you. The problem is not, “I have to pray.” The problem is you don’t really realize how much God cares about and loves you. Why? Because we love to talk to the people who love us the most.
If you find prayer is a duty, a ritual, a routine that you don’t look forward to going through, it means you don’t understand how much God is in love with you and how much he’s interested in everything that is of interest to you. Prayer is the umbilical cord of the Christian life from which we draw our strength.
3. Prayer is an act of supplication.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything but in everything, with your prayers and your supplications, make your requests known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The result of your asking, your requests in prayer, will be peace of mind.
Prayer is God’s chosen method of meeting your needs. The Bible teaches that there are some things that God has promised to do only if we pray. Charles Spurgeon once said, “God never shuts his storehouses until you shut your mouth.” Keep on asking.
4. Prayer is an act of cooperation.
God has sovereignly chosen that we can cooperate in his plan by praying for his will to be done here on earth. Prayer is God’s program. Prayer is God’s modus operandi. When we pray for other people, we are cooperating with God. We are teaming up with God to accomplish God’s work in the world.
Prayer is not limited by time. The prayers of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago are still being answered today. The prayers I pray today can be answered three weeks from today. They’re not limited by time.
Prayer is not limited by space. You can pray and it’s like sending a missile. I can pray all over. I get up tomorrow morning and go into my study and spend fifteen minutes in prayer and I pray for missionaries around the world.
Prayer is limitless in its power. People may reject your appeals, reject your arguments, or reject you as a person, but they’re totally defenseless against your prayers. They have no defense system. They go straight to the heart.
D. L. Moody, a great pastor, once said, “Every great movement of God can be traced to a single praying, kneeling figure.”
A praying church is a holy church, a committed church. When you pray it makes you sensitive to God and to other people. It sensitizes your life. A praying church is an enthusiastic church. Churches that pray see miracles and that gets people excited. A growing, praying church is a church that sees God act. God acts according to prayer. And churches pray when they see their leaders praying.