Discipline of Prayer

Along with studying and meditating upon God’s Word, prayer is one of the essential disciplines in the life of a disciple.  It can be considered most central because prayer is communion with God.  All other disciplines cannot be practiced without it.  Fasting is only a hunger strike without it; meditation and all other spiritual disciplines are unfruitful without it.  Therefore, prayer is not optional for the growing Christian.

What Is Prayer?

Prayer is communion with God, nothing less and nothing more.  It is nothing less, or it becomes repetition of words, acts of religion, and meaningless chants.  It is nothing more because what could be greater than communing with God.  Effective prayer is more than an occasional outburst of feelings or an outflow of petitions; it is a life positioned before God.  A life that is in union with Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, and committed to participating with God to see His will done on earth.  Prayer then becomes the spoken words, heart felt thoughts, and earnest desires placed in the individual’s life by God Himself and prayed heavenward by the prayer.

Participating In Prayer

There is no greater classroom for learning to pray than a prayer closet.  The best way to learn to pray is to get alone with God.  If prayer is communing with God, then it becomes a natural thing when a person is shut in with Him.  There is no reason to make prayer complicated or for the newest Christian to think he cannot participate.  Prayer develops in the life of a believer as the Christian himself grows.  Prayer and spiritual growth go hand in hand.  You cannot pray without growing, for prayer is being in touch with Him who has all wisdom and knowledge.  The lack of earnestness to pray and the emptiness of spirituality are quickly discovered when one is locked into a time of prayer.  The cry of a prayerless soul and the restlessness of a carnal mind will drive one from the prayer room until discipline turns into delight.  It is while you are before God that He is able to lead you into prayer.  A person of prayer will also find thanksgiving, praise, and worship coming from his heart throughout the day.  Prayer becomes a lifestyle in thought and words, yet nothing can build a prayer life, like spending time alone with God.

The secret to successful prayer is not by the clock or the amount of recorded time that you pray, but the secret is in time with God.  Those who have served exemplary lives in Christ have all been people of prayer, often spending two to three hours a day praying.  Most arose early to spend a couple of hours in prayer before the day began and then another time of prayer before the day had finished.  “Martin Luther said, ‘If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the Devil gets the victory through the day.  I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.’”[1]

“No man can do a great and enduring work for God who is not a man of prayer, and no man can be a man of prayer who does not give much time to praying.”[2] Jesus is our example in prayer.   He often spent the night in prayer or arose for prayer while it was still dark.[3] The Bible tells us that Paul prayed both night and day.[4]

God has chosen prayer as one of His means of grace to accomplish His will.  In the same way He has chosen preaching to bring forth the Gospel that men might be saved, He has selected prayer as one of His instruments.  That is why a true disciple of Christ must be a person of prayer.  To participate in prayer is to submit your life unto God.  Out of that relationship with Him, you become one of His means to work.

Power Of Prayer

Prayer is not intended to alter God’s course; it is a means for us to participate with God’s purposes.  Therefore, prayer is powerful.  When we become His instrument of work in the spiritual exercise of prayer, we join with God’s will to see His mighty power performed.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (I John 5:14-15)

“All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.  But we must use the key.  Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”[5] The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.[6] Power and life spring from the praying church as though it was the womb of God.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the river of life flows through praying people.

We read in the Book of Revelation that when God wanted to bring forth His judgments and work upon the earth, He used the prayers of the saints.  The prayers of the saints are kept as incense before God.  An angel took fire off the altar in heaven and mixed it with the prayers of the saints and threw it to the earth.  Then judgments took place upon those who opposed God and persecuted the saints.[7] This is a picture of how God has chosen to use the prayers of the saints to perform His work.  He takes our prayers and mixes them with His power to bring forth His will.

Persevering In Prayer

Persistence in prayer is a key to a successful prayer life.  This is not only for what it does for you, but the result of answered prayer is a great motivator to pray.  When teaching His disciples about prayer, Jesus uses an illustration of a persistent friend who comes at midnight to make a request.  He declared,

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:8-9)

Paul the apostle tells us to be faithful in prayer, constant in prayer, devoted to prayer, and to pray without ceasing.

George Muller, a 19th century prayer warrior and man of God, was known for his prayer life.  He said that once he was persuaded that a thing was right, he went on praying for it until the end comes.  He once said, “‘The great point is never to give up until the answer comes.  I have been praying for sixty-three years and eight months for one man’s conversion.  He is not saved yet, but he will be.  How can it be otherwise. . . I am praying.’  The day came when Muller’s friend received Christ.  It did not come until Muller’s casket was lowered in the ground.  There, near an open grave, this friend gave his heart to God.  Prayers of perseverance had won another battle.  Muller’s success may be summarized in four powerful words:  He did not quit.”[8]

Taken from Discipleship 201 by Glenn Shaffer (copyrighted)

[1] E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1979) p. 54-55

[2] Ibid., p. 59

[3] Luke 6:12; Mark 1:35

[4] 1 Thessalonians 3:10

[5] R. A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervans Publishing House, 1960) p. 17

[6] Living Bible James 5:16

[7] Revelation 5:8; 8:3-5

[8] Dick Eastman, No Easy Road (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1971), p. 96-97

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