For the 14 April 2013 bulletin
The importance of prayer for a victorious spiritual life
Jesus is recorded to have spent a lot of time in prayer. In the NIV, the word “prayer” comes out 51 times in the Gospels, where the context is Jesus praying and / or teaching on prayer. Prayer for Jesus was an essential part of his life. He habitually took time off to pray and taught his disciples to do likewise. It was one of his “open secrets” to his victorious life.
When Jesus taught on the challenges related to the end of the world, prayer was stated as crucial: “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
Just before his arrest, Jesus went to the Mt. of Olives to pray because the temptation to walk away from the horror of crucifixion was so heavy. We read that: “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:41-42). And through prayer he found the strength to go to overcome his temptation, and went to the cross securing forgiveness for us. And interestingly, this was the context of Jesus telling his disciples twice: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Verses 40 and 45)
Jesus’ disciples understood this and taught and practiced this same priority as we can see in this description of the early church: “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) And when the church grew in numbers from 120 to 3,000 more in just one day, and the priority of prayer did not change for we read that still …. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”(Acts 2:42) And even when the busyness of legitimate day to day church activities piled up, the apostles reorganized the church so that prayer would be clearly seen as vital to the life of the church: “We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:3b-4)
The apostles knew that without fervent and consistent prayer, they would go astray as would the church. And in the specific context of temptation, when teaching on the Armor of God, Paul reminds us why prayer is so important. It is because “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). And lest we miss the vital importance of prayer in spiritual warfare, notice how prayer is emphasized.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (6:18-20)
If we want to see victory in our spiritual lives and our church, let us not neglect prayer and coming together for prayer.