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Prayer: the Essential Tool (Part II)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18a
I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  John 16:23  (NIV)

There is much I don’t know about prayer, especially what you learn by experience.  But I know a lot about it.  The problem is that my beliefs and my knowledge don’t always translate into practice.  There is a great disparity between our belief (stated) and our practices.   We give lip-service to the importance of prayer.  We talk about it a lot.  We request prayer—for ourselves, others, for events, ministries.  We do pray (most of us).  We have our prayer list, prayer teams, even occasionally special times of  prayer, gatherings for prayer.

But I believe prayer is the weakest link in my discipleship.  It is the chink in my armor.  And I suspect, no I know, I am not alone in this.  I believe in prayer.  I am convinced it is the bottom line of discipleship.  And as Jim Cymballa says, “We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.”1

Christians have always known that prayer is the essential tool of the Christian life.  Listen to what they say about it:

It changes the pray er.  “To pray is to change.  Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.  If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives.”2  “Prayer is designed more to adjust you to God than to adjust God to you.”3

God’s work is done.  “Most of the people we meet, inside and outside the church, think prayers are harmless but necessary starting pistols that shoot blanks and get “things going.”4  “Anything creative, anything powerful, anything biblical, insofar as we are participants in it, originates in prayer.5

We become recepients of God’s greatest gifts.  St. Augustine said, ” God does not ask us to tell him our needs that he may learn about them, but in order that we may be capable of receiving what he is preparing to give.”Kierkegaard insists, “The true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills.”7

Prayer is for everyone.  Everyone needs to pray.   Everyone can pray.   Steve Harper tells about visiting at Sunday dinner.  His hostess called on the youngest child to pray.  The little girl says, “God is great….”  Then mother turns to Harper and asks, “And now preacher would you ask the blessing for us?”  “All children pray, until we teach them not to.” (Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick)8

Nothing should be more convincing than Jesus’ model for us.  The great example is what Jesus said to his disciples on that last night with them (less than 1/10 of 1% of his ministry).  This is recorded in four chapters in John’s gospel.  One of those four chapts. is the prayer that Jesus prayed.  Can you believe that is not significant?  One fourth of what Jesus said that night is prayer, almost 5% of whole book of John.  Not teaching about prayer but praying.

Don’t let the tool get rusty.  Pray!


1Cymballa, Fresh Wind Fresh Spirit, 50.
2Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline quoted by Maxwell, Partners In Prayer, 74
3Blackaby and King, Experiencing God, 174
4Eugene Peterson, Working The Angles, 32
5Eugene Peterson, Working The Angles, 28
6Bloesch, The Struggle Of Prayer, 29
7Bloesch, The Struggle Of Prayer, 63
8Betty Shannon Cloyd, CIRCUIT RIDER, Nov/Dec ’98, 12

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