What do you want to be known for? One of the things I would love to be known for is that I pray and have encouraged, taught, and experienced prayer in my life. Not because I think it’s all about me, but to know that I sought to depend on God in every circumstance and led others to do the same. I’m not there yet, but I can’t think of a better thing to be known for.
We know Jesus prayed. He went off alone to pray (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16 and more). He taught his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). He prayed before meals (Mark 6:41, Luke 22:17-19) and he prays for us (John 17:9). I can just imagine Peter and John watching Jesus as he heads to the small hill behind the home of Mary and Martha. They have seen him do this many times; he is going to talk to his Father. They watch as he paces, gestures with his hands, and speaks with his Dad before lying back on the grassy hill and resting in it. They are having a holy conversation. Prayer.
I believe that part of our job in ministry, and as parents, is to help teach and practice the disciplines that will help those we lead walk with Jesus long after they leave our ministries or homes. I have learned that prayer is a key discipline for my own walk, so therefore it has become one of the key elements to teach and practice in ministry. The best ministry, the best parenting, flows out of what we have learned or are experiencing with Jesus.
Prayer is one of those mysterious elements of faith. We, little-human-us, get to talk with the Almighty Creator God. Think about that. Little me and you, specks in the Universe, can talk with the Lord God Almighty and He actually wants to hear from us! That blows my mind. Another mystery, He answers. I’m not always a great listener, but I aspire to become able to hear his quiet whispers as well as I hear the loud words He speaks.
I wasn’t always this way. I prayed, read my Bible, and served but I can see, looking back, that I didn’t truly value prayer. I hadn’t yet experienced a level of connection in prayer that would change how I prayed. I knew I was talking with God, I knew that Jesus prayed, but I have to say that I didn’t honestly respect the miracle we have by being able to have conversations with God.
What do you believe about prayer?
Prayer is defined as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship (that’s the internet dictionary). If you’re reading this, then you might know Jesus and have some kind of prayer in your life. You might even say you believe prayer is important, because it’s talking to God, and some of you may even say it’s foundational to your life.
I think there can be a lack of understanding about what prayer is and how valuable it is to our walk with Jesus. Prayer is simple, it’s communication with Jesus. It’s speaking and listening to the Lord Most HIgh. It is a discipline, it is a gift, and it can be learned.
When it comes to prayer, I never really doubted God could answer and even do miracles through prayer. But, if I’m honest, I really believed that for other people. It’s one thing to know God will answer someone else’s prayer, it’s another to know he’ll answer yours.
Now, ask yourself, do I do it? I mean, I hope so – especially for your own walk with Jesus but I have found many people that believe in Jesus don’t actually find time to talk with Him. Maybe like me, you’ve noticed that when you’re busier, or life is good, you seem to forget this discipline and when you’re in need you cling to it like a life preserver. We all do, even the disciples did this at times.
When my daughter was born, my son was three years old. He had been experiencing night terrors as so many toddlers do and during that first week with a new baby, he woke us up screaming. My mom was staying with us so she quick went to our daughter as we ran to my son. He was inconsolable and overwhelmed with fear. My husband picked him up as I went to make sure my mom was ok. I found her rocking our sweet baby and praying.
When I got back to my son’s room, I found my husband sitting on the floor with our son in his arms, I could tell he felt helpless. Our little three-year-old’s body writhing in a fear we couldn’t understand. Then, we realized we needed to pray. I know, that should have been our first thought, but at least we came to it. I laid my hands alongside my husband’s on our son as he commanded fear to leave in the name of Jesus. As soon as he said Amen, my son went quiet and was sound asleep. No lie! We learned our lesson. Every night as we tucked our kids into bed, we prayed protection in Jesus’ name. There has never been another night terror in our home. I have read that we are in a battle against principalities and I knew it was true. When that becomes a reality in the bedroom of your child, you pay attention! Jesus also tells us to ask in His name and we will receive. The reality of this moment became a defining point in my life. The power of Jesus and the understanding that he hears is truly amazing.
If you believe in prayer and you do it…do you teach it? Model it?
By that I mean, do you create purposeful practices, experiences, and expectations around this spiritual discipline? Do you incorporate it all the time or is it a one shot moment that helps you check the box and move on?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to make our life a prayer. (TPT). Pray continually. What if we did that? It seems to me that most families only pray together over meals and bedtime. Since many families don’t seem to have time for meals together, this would limit prayer opportunities. Bedtime prayers with parents fall away when either the child or the parent decides it’s time to end that ritual because the child is old enough to do it themselves. Kids know that God listens to their prayers as children, but when they get older, they seem to lose sight of this. Whether it’s because parents stop modeling it or the church hasn’t helped them practice, we have an opportunity to help those around us learn the value and necessity of prayer. I believe it is a completely under-utilized part of many ministries and families.
I’ve had incredible role models in my life. When I was little and got up early, I would find my mom in the living room sitting in her favorite chair spending time the Jesus. We weren’t allowed to interrupt, in fact, if we came into the room she would just pray a bit louder so that we’d know that we needed to wait. If we didn’t get the hint, she would pray louder. Jesus came first. I didn’t value my time with Jesus like she did back then, but she was teaching me an important priority. My dad has always led with prayer. He faithfully modeled this and continues to today. As I got older, I began to understand the value of their time with God. I didn’t necessarily do it but I couldn’t say I didn’t know of it.
In college, I did the whole pray when you need something kind of prayers and I tried to start a habit of prayer many times. It’s so apparent when someone is praying out of a relationship or praying out of duty. There was something different about the way they prayed that I wanted. I knew my parents had it, but I came to desire that kind of connection for myself. I discovered how you get there – practice, belief, and trust.
I wanted the be able to pray with the expectancy and urgency of someone that realizes the incredible power and wonder of God. I wanted to hear him and see his answers. Don’t we all? The more I dove into prayer, the more I realized I had to learn but I did know that if I wanted this, others probably did as well.
Over time, I began to incorporate prayer into ministry in more meaningful ways so that students were learning how to pray as well as experience the precious gift it is to talk with God. Jesus died so that we could have direct access to his Father, a real on-going relationship. When we pray, we are utilizing one of the very things Jesus died for. As we pray, our eyes are more open and we look expectantly for answers. The first tangible answer to a prayer is so powerful for everyone. It’s that moment when we realize that God really did hear us and we need to take note and remember for those times when we feel like God isn’t listening. I wanted students to have those moments like I had – not only like the one in my son’s bedroom but so many more.
One of my underlying goals in student ministry was to help students practice, experience, and prioritize prayer. We get to talk with and listen to the God of the Universe and I wanted students do know how incredible and powerful this is! What isn’t practiced, isn’t kept. If you feel you always have to be the one to pray, then your students will grow to believe that you have to be the leader in order to have a voice in prayer. If you never expect students to pray out loud for each other, they might not discover the incredible blessing of praying over someone else’s needs. If you don’t pray expectantly, then you won’t see the answers. I have found that although I can teach on prayer, it’s more powerful to actually just pray and, through that, we teach.
We have prayed for God to bring people to events with a specific number and watched as he delivered. I’ve also seen prayers for healing that God chose to answer in different ways. I’ve watched as God changed the direction of rain storms and I’ve stood soaking wet in cold rain. We expect students to use their voices to speak into it and we allow quiet. The point, pray. When it begins to be the first line of defense, the first way to help, and the first reaction to a problem – then we’ve made a dent.
People that pray together, stay together. This isn’t a new phrase but it is still true. The more our students and leaders pray together, the more we pray as families, the more connected we are to each other and Christ.
Pray with eyes wide open.
Pray in response.
May you discover the wealth of blessing that comes as you bring everything to the Lord in prayer. Not because he answers like you’ve asked, but because it gives him your trust and control. If you pray, then you get it. If not, I challenge you to begin. My mom is a bit over 80 years old as I write this and she would say that she still wants more through prayer…it’s the example I seek to follow.