Prayer Life vs. Life of Prayer
But we will continually give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
Are you a man who prays, or are you a man of prayer? Is prayer just an activity you perform, or is it an identity you embrace as a man of God? Jesus identified the place of worship as a house of prayer (Luke 19:45-46), and the apostles identified themselves as men of prayer (Acts 6:4). The apostles equated the call to preach with a call to pray. Also, the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the young pastor, Timothy exhorted him:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NKJV).
It is undeniable that the house of prayer must be pastored by a man of prayer. Are you truly a man of prayer?
It appears that the commitment of the apostles in Acts 6:4, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word” was the progressive outgrowth of the request made of Jesus by the apostles in Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray...” The apostles were simply embracing the foundational priorities and practice which Jesus had modeled and mentored for them in His earthly life and ministry. Acts 6:4 was not just a statement about how they would spend their time, but rather it was a statement about how they would invest their lives. For the apostles, prayer was not just an activity. It was their identity. The apostles recognized that they had been divinely set apart for this twofold task: prayer and the ministry of the Word.
By embracing this commitment to prayer, the apostles were also declaring war on prayerless preaching. The apostles refused to divorce their preaching from their praying. Prayer and the ministry of the Word were non-negotiable realities in the life and ministry of the apostles. The two basic responsibilities of the pastor are: (1) intercession/prayer, and (2) instruction/preaching. For the pastor to preach without prayer is for him to fulfill half of his calling. The apostles did not allow conflict, criticism, or confusion to detour them from their call (Acts 6:1-4). They determined that their walk would undergird their work.
It is imperative that pastors follow the example of the apostles. The apostles were whole-heartedly determined to follow Jesus’ lifestyle lessons, and model of ministry. In Acts 6:4, they were acknowledging, and embracing a lifestyle of desperate dependence upon God! What percentage of your ministry has virtually nothing to do with prayer and/or the ministry of the Word? We pray in the context of ministry, but Jesus ministered in the context of prayer! Prayer is not an optional accessory that enhances the ministry of the Word; it is an obligational necessity that empowers the ministry of the Word.
Essentially, the call to preach is consequently a call to pray (Mark 3:14; Acts 6:4; 1 Tim. 2:1-4). The prayer closet and the pulpit are inseparable. Failure in the pulpit can be traced to absence from the closet. Our preaching reflects our praying. Prayerless preaching is powerless preaching, and prayerful preaching is powerful preaching. To pray well is to preach well. Prayer transforms the ministry of the Word from a matter of the head to a matter of the heart; from a mental exercise to a mighty experience!
Consider how Jesus completely depended upon the Father during His earthly life and ministry:
Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19 NKJV).
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me (John 5:30 NKJV).
Jesus openly expressed His unwillingness to do anything apart from the Father. Thus, He intently looked to the Father for His every thought, action and word. Jesus’ dependence upon the Father was deeply rooted and anchored in a moment-by-moment life of prayer. Jesus lived a prayer-based dependence upon the Father, as opposed to a panic-based dependence upon Him. Day by day, Jesus lived His earthly life within the Father’s plans, at the Father’s pace, filled with the Father’s power.
If Jesus could do nothing apart from the Father, why would any of us attempt to do so? There are three possible reasons. The first reason could be ignorance. We simply never knew to do ministry any other way. If you are reading this, that reason no longer applies to you. The second reason we attempt to do ministry apart from utter dependence upon the Father could be arrogance. Many pastors act as if prayer and the Word are simply archaic resources for a ministry of yesteryear. However, there is no evidence that anything, even innovation and church growth methods, have improved upon what God has said in His Word.
The third reason for our lack of dependence upon the Father could be laziness. Dependence demands discipline. A pastor can do ministry on autopilot apart from an intimate relationship with the Father. But, he will never know the fulness of blessing and anointing he could have experienced in his life and ministry. Dependence means a refusal to substitute “good” for God, or “flesh” for the Father. Christlike dependence upon the Father demands a willingness to wait upon the Father, positioned and poised to obey Him. The Father will not limit Himself to human agendas, imposed time-frames or man-centered deadlines.
Our goal is to have a ministry which originated in the heart of God, and is orchestrated by the hand of God. Therefore, prayer must never become a compartment of the preacher’s life. Prayer must become the consuming reality of the preacher’s lifestyle. It must be a consuming passion, rather than just a consistent practice. Prayer should initiate, enlighten and deepen the ministry of the Word. Passionate prayer empowers and eternalizes the impact of our preaching. So, how long has it been since you prayed about your praying? It is my prayer that this manual will encourage you to do so.