We continue to walk together through Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney. Today, Billy Glosson shares from chapter 4, "Prayer...for the Purpose of Godliness."
We Have A Problem
On a dreary Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed. The Sun hadn’t even thought about rising yet. I laced up my shoes and drove downtown. I sat alone looking over downtown and began to pray. What inspires men to pray? Luther is quoted as saying, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” This almost seems ludicrous to us. The idea that someone could set aside three hours to simply pray.
But this is the problem, isn’t it? We view prayer as passive. The idea of praying seems inactive to us. Prayer is the header or footnote of ministry. You know exactly what I’m talking about here. We either prayer before we begin some ministry endeavor, or maybe we cap off a meeting by praying it out.
Prayer is something that we often see as nice. Not as something that demands of us.
Becoming A Praying People
As we read together we begin to understand that even our growth in sanctification is a mercy of God. We are in desperate need of him. He has proven his great love for us at Calvary, yet we linger to commune with him.
Donald S. Whitney writes that prayer is second only to the intake of God’s word in importance. Prayer is vital to the life of the Christian. We must communicate with the Father! It’s blatant throughout scripture that this is so.
While I could list dozens of verses on prayer, I will only look at one passage.
“When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God…” Acts 4:23-24a
This passage for me was life altering. This is a perspective shift. We see in Acts 3, Peter and John arrested for healing a lame man and preaching in the temple courts. Here in Acts 4 we see them released. The first thing we see the Church do in response is pray. Now I don’t know about you, but this is not my gut reaction to conflict of this magnitude. For me I would want to strategize how we could preach and remain out of conflict with Jewish leaders. Perhaps that sounds too noble; the reality is I would be afraid. If I were to pray it certainly wouldn't be a prayer like the Apostles prayed!
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:24-30
Yeah…that ain't what I’d be praying. “Hey God, these men threatened to kill us if we didn't shut up, help us to proclaim louder and with more boldness!” Fearless. For me, I would be begging God for protection. Wouldn't you?! Yet they gather and pray for boldness, acknowledging God’s sovereignty.
It’s reflecting on this passage that I realize I often have a pretty crummy prayer life. The reality is that the apostles made many mistakes and were very much human. But what God is doing among them is all together spectacular. The reason, I believe, the apostles prayed in such a way is because they were a praying people.
Prayer has this unique capacity to not only alter circumstances but change our hearts in the process. These are men who, like us, are commissioned by Jesus for mission, yes, but also to communion.
Throughout the New Testament a picture is woven of the intimacy of the trinity enveloping the Church. We are called to be a praying people.
Where to Start
Rather than delve deep into tactics, I will give you two things to ponder. The first is different types of prayer. The second, an opportunity.
1. Types of Prayer:
Adoration - Acknowledging God for who he is and worshiping him. Confession - Acknowledging your sin and blatant disregard to God in prayer for forgiveness. Thanksgiving - Thanking God for the many blessings he has given you. Supplication - Praying for the needs of others.
Often we struggle in prayer because we don’t know where to start. Hopefully by moving through the types mentioned above you can find a simple start to your everyday prayer life.
2. An opportunity: Every week Karis provides multiple opportunities to pray in community like the church we read about in Acts 4. I would encourage you to seek out the opportunity to get involved in one!
Questions to consider
- Have you established times of prayer in your day-to-day life? Have you set up time to pray in community?
- Has prayer seem counterproductive to you? How can you change this mindset towards prayer?
- When has there been sweet times of prayer in your life? What was the context that shaped those moments?
Billy Glosson completed the Karis Church internship program and has also served as a deacon over the Karis Downtown campus, and leader of the Karis at Mizzou Missional Community. Billy and his wife, Hannah, are seeking God's guidance in preparing to plant a church in the future.