“What Prayer Is”, by O. Hallesby Ph.D (Hearts to God, See Jesus, Healed)

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What Prayer Is, by O Hallesby,  Ph.D. from the book, “Prayer”

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” —REVELATION 3:20.

I doubt that I know of a passage in the whole Bible which throws greater light upon prayer than this one does. It is, it seems to me, the key which opens the door into the holy and blessed realm of prayer.

To pray is to let Jesus come into our hearts.

This teaches us, in the first place, that it is not our prayer which moves the Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who moves us to pray. He knocks. Thereby He makes known His desire to come in to us. Our prayers are always a result of Jesus’ knocking at our hearts’ doors.

This throws new light upon the old prophetic passages: “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). Yea, verily, before we call, He graciously makes known to us what gift He has decided to impart to us. He knocks in order to move us by prayer to open the door and accept the gift which He has already appointed for us.

From time immemorial prayer has been spoken of as the breath of the soul. And the figure is an excellent one indeed. The air which our body requires envelopes us on every hand. The air of itself seeks to enter our bodies and, for this reason, exerts pressure upon us. It is well known that it is more difficult to hold one’s breath than it is to breathe. We need but exercise our organs of respiration, and air will enter forthwith into our lungs and perform its life-giving function to the entire body.

The air which our souls need also envelopes all of us at all times and on all sides. God is round about us in Christ on every hand, with His many-sided and all-sufficient grace. All we need to do is to open our hearts. Prayer is the breath of the soul, the organ by which we receive Christ into our parched and withered hearts.

He says, “If any man open the door, I will come in to him.” Notice carefully every word here. It is not our prayer which draws Jesus into our hearts. Nor is it our prayer which moves Jesus to come in to us.

All He needs is access.

He enters in of His own accord, because He desires to come in. And He enters in wherever He is not denied admittance. As air enters in quietly when we breathe, and does its normal work in our lungs, so Jesus enters quietly into our hearts and does His blessed work there.

He calls it to “sup with us.” In Biblical language the common meal is symbolical of intimate and joyous fellowship. This affords a new glimpse into the nature of prayer, showing us that God has designed prayer as a means of intimate and joyous fellowship between God and man.

Notice how graciously prayer has been designed. To pray is nothing more involved than to let Jesus into our needs. To pray is to give Jesus permission to employ His powers in the alleviation of our distress. To pray is to let Jesus glorify His name in the midst of our needs. The results of prayer are, therefore, not dependent upon the powers of the one who prays. His intense will, his fervent emotions, or his clear comprehension of what he is praying for are not the reasons why his prayers will be heard and answered. Nay, God be praised, the results of prayer are not dependent upon these things!

To pray is nothing more involved than to open the door, giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them.

He who gave us the privilege of prayer knows us very well. He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. That is why He designed prayer in such a way that the most impotent can make use of it. For to pray is to open the door unto Jesus. And that requires no strength. It is only a question of our wills. Will we give Jesus access to our needs? That is the one great and fundamental question in connection with prayer.

When Israel had sinned against the Lord in the wilderness, He sent among them exceedingly fiery serpents. In their distress the people humbled themselves and cried to God for mercy. And the Lord had mercy upon His rebellious people. But He did not take away the serpents. What He did was to tell Moses to raise up a serpent of brass in the midst of the camp, that all might see it. And He ordained it so in His  mercy that they who had been bitten by the serpents needed but to turn and look unto the serpent of brass, and they would be given the power which would heal them from the death-dealing poison of the serpents’ bites.

This was indeed a gracious ordinance. By this all could be saved if they so willed. If the Lord had ordained that those who had been bitten by the serpents must drag themselves over to the serpent of brass and touch it, most of them would never have been saved, because the poison took effect almost immediately, and those who had been poisoned were unable to walk more than a few steps. All that was required of them was to turn their heads, look unto the serpent of brass, and they would be healed!

Just so has the Lord in mercy ordained help also for the serpent-bitten Israel of the New Covenant: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

No matter in what distress we may be, distress of body or of soul, we need but look unto Him who is always near with that healing power which can immediately overcome the death-dealing poison of sin and its terrible consequences both to body and soul.

To pray is nothing more involved than to lift the eye -of prayer unto the Savior who stands and knocks, yea knocks through our very need, in order to gain access to our distress, sup with us and glorify His name.

Let us think of patients who are ill with tuberculosis. The physicians put them out in the sunlight and fresh air, both in summer and in winter. There they lie until a cure is gradually effected by the rays of the sun. The recovery of these patients is not dependent upon their thinking, in the sense of understanding the effect of the sun’s rays or how these rays work. Neither does their recovery depend upon the feelings they experience during the rest cure. Nor does it depend upon their wills in the sense of exerting themselves to will to become well.

On the contrary, the treatment is most successful if the patients lie very quietly and are passive, exerting neither their intellects nor their wills. It is the sun which effects the cure. All the patients need to do is to be in the sun.

Prayer is just as simple.

We are all saturated with the pernicious virus of sin; every one of us is a tubercular patient doomed to die! But “the sun of righteousness with healing in its wings has arisen.”

All that is required of us, if we desire to be healed both for time and for eternity, is to let the Son of righteousness reach us, and then to abide in the sunlight of His righteousness. To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of His grace, to expose our distress of body and soul to those healing rays which can in a wonderful way counteract and render ineffective the bacteria of sin. To be a man or woman of prayer is to take this sun-cure, to give Jesus, with His wonder-working power, access to our distress night and day. To be a Christian is in truth to have gained a place in the sun!

Permit me to use still another illustration to show how simple the Lord has made prayer. The man sick of the palsy, mentioned in the second chapter of Mark, had some very good friends. They knew that Jesus could help him. So they carried him to the house where Jesus was. But they could not get in because of the multitude. Undaunted, they lifted the sick man to the roof, made a hole in it and lowered him to the very feet of Jesus.

There these good friends undoubtedly stood and waited for the authoritative word from Jesus by which their sick friend would immediately become well. But, strange enough, no such word was forthcoming from Jesus. Instead they heard these words spoken with authority: “Son, thy sins are forgiven!”

Another prayer had been crying louder to Jesus. It was the sick man’s plea for the forgiveness of sins. And yet he had not spoken one word to Jesus. He was lying quietly on his bed. It is easy for me to think that he lay there looking to Jesus, only looking to Jesus. And Jesus heard the unuttered prayer for the forgiveness of sins which arose from the sick man’s heart. And He answered this prayer first.

Afterward He answered the other prayer also and restored the man to physical health. This helps us to get a little deeper insight into the secret of prayer. Prayer is something deeper than words. It is present in the soul before it has been formulated in words. And it abides in the soul after the last words of prayer have passed over our lips. Prayer is an attitude of our hearts, an attitude of mind. Prayer is a definite attitude of our hearts toward God, an attitude which He in heaven immediately recognizes as prayer, as an appeal to His heart. Whether it takes the form of words or not, does not mean anything to God, only to ourselves.

O. Hallesby Ph.D. from the Book, “Prayer”

“Kingdom-Centered Prayer”, from Tim Keller

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KINGDOM CENTERED PRAYER with DR. TIMOTHY KELLER

Throughout the Old and New Testaments and church history, every spiritual awakening was founded on corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. We cannot create spiritual renewal by ourselves, but we can “prepare the altar” and ask God to send his Holy Spirit to change our hearts, our churches, and our communities. Christians are used to thinking about prayer as a means to get their personal needs met. More mature Christians understand prayer as a means to praise and adore God, to know him, to come into his presence and be changed by him. But the corporate aspect of prayer is not well known. How do we pray, repent, and petition God as a people?

SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AND RENEWAL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God continually fall into periods of spiritual stagnation and then cultural accommodation to the idol worship and practices of surrounding pagan societies. Then there is a turning to God, the raising up of new leaders, and a “covenant renewal”—a restoration of spiritual vision and vitality.

This pattern is especially visible in the book of Judges, but it continues throughout the reign of the kings, the captivity, and the return from exile. Just as Israel was constituted a people with the reading of the law and the taking of the covenant oath at Mount Sinai, so the people must periodically remember who they are, renew the covenant, and return to the Lord.

Sinai-like covenant ceremonies occur again before entering Canaan (Joshua 24), before choosing the first king (1 Samuel 12), and after the return from exile (Nehemiah 8–9). Less formal but crucial renewal movements are continually happening (you can find a string of them in Judges 3:7–11; 3:12–15; 4:1–4; 6:7–10; and 10:6–16). If we look at all of these various revivals, we are first struck by how different they are. Some are formal ceremonies. Some seem to be spontaneous. Some are led by a strong central leader, and some seem to bubble up from the grassroots.

But one thing is stated over and over again: the people “cried out to the Lord.” It is the only factor that is always present in every revival. It is corporate, intense, prevailing prayer—not for personal needs, but for the presence and reality of God among his people.

SPIRITUAL AWAKENING AND RENEWAL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Even in the New Testament under the leadership of the apostles, it is evident that there is still a need for continual renewal. Just as Israel’s election as God’s people was demonstrated at Mt. Sinai, so the church is constituted by the descent and filling of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. But just as Israel is continually called to Sinai-like covenant renewals, so the church, even when it doesn’t seem to be in major decline, receives fresh fillings of the Holy Spirit. “Mini-Pentecosts” happen in Acts 4:31; 7:55; 8:17; 10:44; and 13:9.

What do these have in common? It is very easy to get distracted by the three unusual phenomena of the day of Pentecost: the mighty sound like “a violent wind” (v. 2); the visible “tongues of fire” over each person (v. 3); and speaking “in other tongues” (v. 4), which each member of the multiethnic audience could understand in his or her native language (v. 6). Speaking in tongues happens in some of the other Spirit-filling occasions, but not all, nor even most.

The central, abiding characteristics of Pentecost are that they were together in prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:1), they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4), and therefore they “began to speak” (2:4) “declaring the wonders of God (2:11).” Compare this with two other incidents in Acts after Pentecost.

In Acts 4:31, like Pentecost, there is a period of prevailing prayer (4:24) and then a powerful shaking as everyone senses the presence of God descending. But unlike Pentecost there are no tongues of fire or speaking in tongues. What results again are boldness (an assurance of God’s love and reality) and the ability to speak the word of God (v. 31).

The incident in Acts 7:55–56 is interesting, because it is an individual experience. As Stephen is about to be executed, he raises his eyes to heaven (v. 55), as the believers in 4:24 raised their voices to God. He gets the same assurance and boldness, the sense of God’s reality and presence called “the fullness of the Holy Spirit.” This allows him to face persecution in a completely Christ-like way, with courage and forgiving love toward his executioners.

In summary, what do all of these incidents have in common? We see that there is a continual need to renew the fullness of the Spirit. We see also that the fullness, in general, is connected to prevailing prayer, especially in the face of a challenge.

WHAT IS SPIRITUAL RENEWAL?

Spiritual revival, or renewal, is a work of God in which the church is beautified and empowered because the normal operations of the Holy Spirit are intensified. The normal operations of the Spirit include conviction of sin (John 16:8), enjoyment and assurance of grace and of the Father’s love (Rom. 8:15–16), access to the presence of God (John 14:21–23; 2 Cor. 3:17–18), and creation of deep community and loving relationships (Eph. 4:3–13).

This view differs or opposes three other common views:

1) The popular charismatic notion of revival, which sees revival as essentially the addition of extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit (miracles, healings, prophecy, revelations).
2) The popular fundamentalist view that revivals are simply especially vigorous seasons of evangelistic activity. A “revival” is taken to mean an evangelistic crusade or a city-wide mission, etc.
3) The popular secular view that revivals are primitive, emotionally cathartic events, occurring among uneducated people subject to psychological manipulation by evangelists.

Instead the marks of revival are based upon the following.

  • First, there is an outpouring of the Spirit on and within the congregation, so that the presence of God among his people becomes evident and palpable.

In New York City, the Fulton Street Revival began in 1857, when a layman at the North Dutch Reformed Church on Fulton Street began a noontime prayer meeting for businessmen. These statistics are drawn from collections of sermons preached by New York City pastors during the revival years. When this happens, “sleepy” or stagnant Christians “wake up.” That is, there is a new and deeper conviction of sin and repentance—not just for major “behavioral sins” but for attitudes of the heart.

They experience a far more powerful assurance of the nearness and love of God, with the end result that Christians become both humbler and bolder at the same time. The more deeply one feels his or her debt of sin, the more intensely he or she feels the wonder of the payment on their behalf.

Nominal Christians, or Christians in name only, begin to realize they don’t actually have a living relationship with Christ by grace, and they get converted. When this begins to happen, it electrifies people. Long-time members are getting up and talking about being converted or speaking of Christ in radiant terms or expressing repentance in new ways. The early stages of renewal shake up other nominals and “sleepers” into renewal. Corporately, there is a sense of more passion and freedom and the presence of God in the worship services.

  • Second, as a result of this outpouring of the Spirit, new people are brought into the church, and it begins to grow. On the one hand, the renewed believers create a far more attractive community of sharing and caring and, often, great worship. There is the beautified community of the King. This can attract people from the outside.

On the other hand, Christians who begin to experience God’s beauty, power, and love put their relationship with Christ and the church first in their lives, and they become radiant and attractive witnesses—more willing and confident to talk to others about their faith, more winsome (less judgmental) when they do so, and more confident in their own church and thus more willing to invite people to visit it.

As a result, there are numerous conversions—sound, lasting, and sometimes
dramatic. Significant, even astounding, church growth occurs. Many churches in America grow rapidly, but almost completely through transfer growth. When that is
the case, renewal dynamics are not strong in the church.

Many churches in America do grow rapidly, but there are tell-tale symptoms of lifelessness. Most or all of the growth may be by transfer, not conversion. There is no deep conviction of sin or repentance, and thus few people can attest to dramatically changed lives. Also, the growth of many churches makes no impact on the local social order, because people do not carry their Christian faith out into their use of wealth, their work, or their public lives.

Without deep renewal of the gospel in our hearts, our external lives will be sealed off from what we believe, and our beliefs will never result in concretely changed living.

HOW DOES SPIRITUAL RENEWAL COME?

There is much to say about this, but we will concentrate on what is, biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal: corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. What is that?

  1. It is focused on God’s presence and kingdom.
    Jack Miller talks about the difference between “maintenance” and “frontline” prayer meetings.
  2. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and totally focused on physical, personal needs inside the church.

  3. But frontline prayer has three basic traits: A request for grace to confess sins and
    humble ourselves; a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church; and a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.

It is quite clear when listening to a prayer meeting whether these traits are present. Most interesting. It is to study biblical prayer for revival, such as in Acts 4 or Exodus 33 or Nehemiah 1, where these three elements are evident. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that the disciples, who had been threatened, did not ask for protection for themselves and their families, but only for boldness to keep preaching!

 It is bold and specific.

The history of revivals shows one or a few or many who take the lead in praying fervently for renewal.

Their pattern is Moses (Exodus 33), who pitched a tabernacle outside Israel’s camp, where he and others prayed for God’s presence and to see his glory. Such prayer need not (indeed, usually does not) begin as an organized church program, but rather it is a private field of strong exertion and even agony for the leaders. The characteristics of this kind of prayer include pacesetters in prayer, who spend time in self-examination. Without a strong understanding of grace, this can be morbid and depressing. But in the context of the gospel, it is purifying and strengthening. They “take off their ornaments” (Ex. 33:1–6). They examine themselves for idols and set them aside.
They then begin to make the big request—a sight of the glory of God. That includes asking for a personal experience of the glory and presence of God (“that I may know you,” Ex. 33:13); for the people’s experience of the glory of God (v. 15); and that the world might see the glory of God through his people (v. 16). Moses asks that God’s presence would be obvious to all: “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” This is a prayer that the world would be awed and amazed by a show of God’s power and radiance in the church, that it would truly become the new humanity that is a sign of the future kingdom.

It is prevailing and corporate.

By this we simply mean that prayer should be constant, not sporadic and brief. Why? Are we to think that God wants to see us grovel? Why do we not simply put our request in and wait? But sporadic, brief prayer shows a lack of dependence, a self-sufficiency, and thus we have not built an altar that God can honor with his fire (see 1 Kings 18). We must pray without ceasing, pray long, pray hard, and we will find that the very process is bringing about that which we are asking for—to have our hard hearts melted, to tear down barriers, and to have the glory of God break through. We need sustained, repeated prayer.

BUILDING AN ALTAR

Let’s return to Stephen’s “mini-Pentecost” in Acts 7. When Stephen was dragged before a human court, he was condemned unjustly and was about to be executed. But he was filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 55). How so? We are told, “full of the Holy Spirit, he looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him . . . While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed… ‘Lord, do not hold this sin
against them’” (vv. 55–57, 59–60).

What happened? First, he prayed. He looked up. Second, by the power of the Holy Spirit, something Stephen knew with his mind became real to his heart. He saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. This refers to his work as our Advocate (1 John 2:1 says we have an advocate with the Father, one who speaks in our defense—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the propitiation for our sins). At the very moment that an earthly court was condemning him, he realized that the heavenly court was commending him.

In other words, the “fullness” he experienced was an experience of the gospel. At that moment, he got an extremely vivid, powerful sight of what he already knew intellectually—that in Christ we are beautiful in God’s sight and free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1; Col. 1:22). The Spirit took that intellectual concept and electrified his entire soul and mind and heart and imagination with it. Third, Stephen, although only for a moment, was able to exhibit the new humanity that God is creating. He had courage. He forgave his oppressors. He faced his accusers not just with boldness, but with a calmness and joy. That is spiritual renewal.

It is not simply an emotional experience—it is a heart-changing and therefore life and practice-shaping work of the Holy Spirit. A good image for seeking the fullness of the Spirit is the concept of “building a life altar.” In the Old Testament, an altar was built and a sacrifice placed on it, and then God sent his fire to burn up the sacrifice (e.g., 1 Kings 18). This is a great illustration of the dynamics of personal revival and spiritual
renewal.

Paul uses it when he tells us to make ourselves a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1–2). We cannot create spiritual renewal—we can only prepare the altar and the sacrifice. Only God can send the fire. If we look at Acts 1, we see Jesus helping the disciples build an altar. There are at least four parts to this process.

A renewed church is vision-driven.

In Acts 1:6–8, Jesus repairs their faulty vision of what he is going to do in the world. They were looking for a political campaign, and he tells them about the nature of the kingdom, which will spread through his disciples as they become his witnesses and ambassadors. The vision is that through our words we will bring people under the kingship of Christ, which will heal and repair all things.

A renewed church is gospel-driven.

In Acts 1:9–11, Jesus ascends to heaven, and the angels tell the disciples that now the knowledge of his ascension should empower them. As in the incident with Stephen, it is only as we “preach the gospel to ourselves” about our standing in Christ that the Holy Spirit takes that truth and catches it on fire in our hearts, creating times of amazing assurance that equip us for service.

A renewed church is prayer-driven.

In Acts 1:14, we see the disciples uniting in corporate, prevailing prayer. It is only in prayer and through prayer that the Holy Spirit takes up the vision and the gospel and makes them fiery realities in the centers of our being.

A renewed church is leader-driven.

In Acts 1:15–26, we see the disciples asking for God to raise up leaders. Personal and corporate revivals occur through leaders which God identifies and equips.

How, then, can we as leaders “build an altar,”

…seeking our renewal as a church and a people by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin now.

  • First, pray that your church grasps its own vision in a new way. Take time to thank God for your church, for what it has done in your life, and for what you see it doing in the lives of others and in your community. Ask God to help you better understand and grasp what he is calling you to do to reach your city. Pray that your small group and outreach ministries will give people a deeper appreciation of your church’s vision and an experience of real community.
  • Second, pray that your worship services this season will be particularly anointed, that the truth of the gospel will be unusually vivid and spiritually real to all hearers—believers and non-believers—and that God’s presence would be evident.
  • Third, pray that your seasons and services of prayer would not be just a passing program but would signal a greater emphasis on and practice of corporate prayer within your church.
  • Fourth, accept your leadership role in the church. Even if you are not an officer—even if you think of yourself as a “volunteer”—you, as an active worker and servant, are a model to those less committed.

Take time to pray for yourselves, that you could enter a season of self-examination. Ask that you may be, with full gospel assurance, nonetheless hard on yourself. Ask that God would show you ways in which you don’t represent Christ as you should, in your relationships, in your work life, in your family life, in your habits and attitudes, and in your relationships within the church. Take time to pray for yourselves, that God will make things you know about the gospel in your head real to your heart, and changing the way you live where you need to change.

Copyright © 2005 by Timothy Keller, © 2012 by Redeemer City to City. This article was first used for a leadership training session in 2005.

“The Priority of Prayer”, by Thomas Tarrants III, President Emeritus, C.S. Lewis Institute (God’s Spirit, Joined Together in Prayer)

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The Priority of Prayer

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
President Emeritus, C.S. Lewis Institute

  number of years ago, a well-known hamburger chain aired a TV commercial that ‌focused on a simple question to favorably distinguish its product from all others on the market. The question was “Where’s the beef?” It was an extremely successful commercial, still remembered by many people.

Those of us in the church need to ask a similar question today: Where’s the power? Where is the power we read about in the book of Acts and the early church? Where is the power that has propelled the church forward through the centuries against overwhelming resistance and opposition? Where is the power that distinguishes the followers of Jesus from those of Buddha, Muhammad, or Marx?

If you were to answer, “in the Holy Spirit,” you would of course be right. He is the source of power for all Christian life, witness, and mission. But that doesn’t exhaust the answer. There is more. And that “more” lies in the area of prayer. For as surely as the Spirit lies behind the moving of God’s power, prayer lies behind the moving of the Spirit.

Throughout the Bible, the powerful working of the Holy Spirit is closely related to prayer. When God’s people earnestly pray, the Spirit works with power and God’s kingdom advances. When they don’t, things seem to grind to a halt. Whether it be our personal lives or the ministry and mission of the church, earnest prayer is essential to the Spirit’s working in power.
  Jesus teaches this very clearly in the Gospels. He tells us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10 KJV), and He bids us to “ask the Lord of the harvest … to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:38).1 By this He means for us to understand and take seriously the fact that our prayer is a major factor in advancing God’s kingdom in this world. Jesus elsewhere encourages prayer in the strongest terms imaginable by saying, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). “Have faith in God … whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:22, 24). “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matt. 21:22). The clear implication of these and similar passages is that God commands us to pray and promises to answer in power when we do so.

Jesus demonstrated this in His own life and ministry. We are all familiar with how Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel, fed the hungry, comforted the brokenhearted, healed the sick, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead. But we sometimes overlook that these powerful deeds were the overflow of a life of prayer, lived in daily communion with God. The Gospels tell us that early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus would rise and spend time alone with God in prayer (Mark 1:35). And often, even in busy periods of ministry, He would withdraw to solitary places and pray (Luke 5:16). At times He even spent whole nights in prayer (Luke 6:12). By making prayer such a high priority, Jesus was able to maintain constant communion with His Father and draw upon God’s wisdom, guidance, and power to fulfill His mission (John 5:19–20).

The apostles demonstrate this same reliance on prayer. They were able to lead the church because they let nothing distract them from prayer. They understood what Jesus taught—and we seem to have forgotten—that God’s kingdom is advanced chiefly by prayer. And that leaders must first and foremost take counsel of God in prayer and draw upon His power. Therefore the apostles devoted themselves first to prayer and then to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4), knowing that truth without power is as dead as faith without works.

We see the outworking of this in the life of the early church. When Jesus ascended to heaven and left them on the Mount of Olives, the apostles returned to Jerusalem and with the other believers “joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14) to prepare for a mighty visitation of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit came at Pentecost, three thousand were converted through a single sermon (Acts 2:41). Under their leadership, the new converts “devoted themselves to … prayer” (Acts 2:42), and the church grew rapidly. When persecution threatened to overwhelm them, they led the church to cry out to God in prayer, and they “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). Later, when Peter was arrested by Herod and held for execution, the whole church united in prayer, and God sent an angel to break him out of jail (Acts 12:5–11).

Through prayer God also guided the church in important decisions, such as opening her doors to the Gentiles (Acts 10) and sending out Barnabas and Paul to expand the church throughout the Roman world (Acts 13:1–3). At every significant juncture, it was by means of prayer that the apostles and the church drew upon God’s almighty power. This was a vital key to their survival and success.

What was true of the original apostles and the Jerusalem church was also true of Paul and his churches. Paul, preeminently a man of prayer, interceded constantly for his churches and converts (Rom. 1:10; Eph. 1:16–17; Phil. 1:4; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:3) and urged them to devote themselves to prayer (Col. 4:2), to pray about everything (Phil. 4:6), and to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17 KJV). Often he sought their prayers for open doors and effective preaching in his ministry (Eph. 6:18–20; Col. 4:3–4; 2 Thess. 3:1–2). As a result, he was able to spread the church all over the Roman world.

And as one looks down the corridors of church history since the days of the apostles, the story is the same. The kingdom of God moves forward through prayer. Those who have been most used of God in every generation have been men and women of prayer. And the movements that have had the greatest impact for Christ have been those based in prayer. The consistent pattern is that those who have honored the Lord by earnest, believing prayer have been honored by Him with ministry that advances the kingdom of the One they love and serve.

Today we need to rediscover the power of prayer—earnest, prevailing prayer. In our educated, technological society, we find it natural to depend on our reason, education, abilities, training, and technology to do the work of God. As a result, we venture only as far as our rational headlights will shine and attempt only what our unaided strength can accomplish. It often seems that if we pray at all, it is to ask God to bless plans we have already made. Consequently we have little vision or power, and our efforts bear the mark of the human rather than the divine. Only a rediscovery of the power of prayer and the ministry of the Spirit can restore the fire of God to our lives and congregations and enable us once again to advance the kingdom of God.

For those who would recover this power, the path is clear and the way sure. We enter it by consecrating our lives afresh to the living God and to the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ. And then, with the apostles, we earnestly ask, “Lord, teach us to pray,” then devote ourselves to praying (Acts 2:42; Col. 4:2). To those who walk this path, the possibilities are limited only by the limitations of God. And nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37). 


It may be a mystery why (God) should allow us to cause any real events at all; but it is no odder that He should allow us to cause them by praying than by any other method.

C.S. Lewis


Notes:
1 Quotes from NIV 1984

Tom Tarrants has lived in the Washington, DC area since 1978 and served as President of the C.S. Lewis Institute from 1998 to April 2010. He is currently Vice President for Ministry & Director, Washington Area Fellows Program. Prior to coming to the Institute, he served as co-pastor of Christ Our Shepherd Church and Director of The School for Urban Mission, both based in Washington, DC. Tom holds a Master of Divinity Degree, as well as a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Christian Spirituality. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance.

for more information see The C.S. Lewis Institute, “The Full Power of Prayer” and other links for resources-

Recommended Reading:
JJ.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer (Banner of Truth, 2005)

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) was well known for his warm, plain-spoken candor, the kind which appeals to all souls regardless of rank or title, and this booklet is no different. Bold, encouraging, and affectionate, A Call to Prayer is just as the title says—an earnest invitation for all children of God to come before Him in prayer. Read it, be edified, and have hope: you have access to the Maker of heaven and earth who can do all things.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

Photo: oil on canvas “Grace”