The Priority of Prayer
by Kevin Brown, Elder
Our church theme for 2020 is “The Priority of Prayer.” We’re focusing on what it means to live out Ephesians 6:18: “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
The importance of prayer to the Christian life can’t be overstated. One commentator put it this way: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
I think that’s an apt metaphor. Stop breathing and you die. Stop praying and your spiritual life dies.
“Prayer was not an afterthought to the New Testament church,” writes Paul Tautges, author of the book Pray About Everything: Cultivating God-Dependency. “Far from being a leftover offered to God once the primary energies had been dispensed on the ‘more urgent’ activities of church life, prayer was considered by the early believers to be a staple they could not live without.”
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, He didn’t start out by saying “If you pray,” He said “When you pray.” Clearly, prayer was an expectation.
That’s because the Christian life is a life of God-dependence – dependence on the Father to offer salvation, dependence on the Son for justification, dependence on the Holy Spirit for regeneration – and nothing demonstrates our dependence more than our prayer life.
Even after we come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, we remain wholly dependent on Him. John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Prayer, then, does two important things:
First, it displays our dependence on the Lord. Tautges writes this: “The more a believer grows in Christ, the less he or she is governed by a spirit of independence and the more his or her life becomes marked by habitual God-dependency. … A life of prayer is irrefutable proof of God-dependency.”
Second, prayer gives us access to the strength and power available to us in Christ. As A.W. Tozer put it, prayer puts us “in touch with omnipotence.”
Every area of our lives is to be bathed in prayer. Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.”
Too often, writes author and pastor John Onwuchekwa, “we don’t treat prayer like breathing. We treat it like a prescription meant to rid us of an infection. Once the infection is gone, so is the frequency and fervency of our prayers.”
Ultimately, our prayer life – or lack thereof – reflects our view of God. If we see Him as holy and worthy of all honor, we want to praise Him. If we see Him as the source of all blessings, we want to thank Him. If we see Him as good and loving, we want to draw near to Him. If we see Him as all-powerful and all-knowing, we want to rely on Him for strength and guidance.
On other hand, if we have a low view of God, that mindset is reflected in an infrequent or nonexistent prayer life. If we don’t see Him as holy and worthy of all honor, we don’t praise Him. If we don’t see Him as the source of all blessings, we don’t thank Him. If we don’t see Him as good and loving, we don’t seek to draw near to Him. If we don’t see Him as all-powerful and all-knowing, we don’t turn to Him for strength and guidance.
J.C. Ryle put it rather bluntly: “Not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian.”
1) Is your prayer life frequent, infrequent or nonexistent?
2) What does the frequency and content of your prayer life tell you about your view of God?
3) Do you find prayer a difficult thing to do? Why or why not?
4) Memorize Philippians 4:6