Very early the next morning, Jesus got up and went to a place where he could be alone and pray. (Mar 1:35 CEV)
Jesus prayed often. Prayer was and is the key to being about our Father’s business. Jesus is an incredible example of communication with His Father. His disciples became men of prayer as well and they focused their prayers on the work of the Father through the Church in the world.
Prayer is one of those things that is hard to categorize. We know that it is communication with God, but is it a spiritual discipline or is it simply conversation with Heaven that flows from our relationship with Jesus? Perhaps it is both of these.
True prayer is communication with God. It cannot be reduced to simple reading or memorizing words said to be a prayer. While reading and memorizing prayers written by others is inspiring, they don’t necessarily constitute meaningful conversation with God unless they are a reflection of our hearts.
Jesus, had a such a strong desire to communicate with His Father, that He actually carved time out early in the day, to pray alone. He found great comfort, strength and direction for ministry and life. I believe you and I will find the same.
Still, there are distractions of life and selfishness of spirit that can derail our prayers. Many times I find that my mind wonders during prayer, or I suddenly awake to what I am telling God and discover that I sound very selfish or petty. Mindless words spoken by the mouth are no more effective than memorized words with no heart. Prayer is the communication of my spirit with the Father through His Son.
One area where I really struggle is how to pray for the people around me in meaningful ways. Praying for those who aren’t sure about Christ is not as much of a struggle. I pray for them to know Christ and to find healing in life. I pray for their hearts to be regenerated so that they can hear God. But how to pray in meaningful ways for God’s sons and daughters in the church can be a bit of a stretch at times. An easy cop out is to simply pray “God bless “so and so” richly. Meet their needs. Give them money, give them food, give them peace, make them healthy, make them wealthy…..” You get the picture.
In reading through the New Testament recently, I came across a couple of prayers from the Apostle Paul for the church. I was blessed by these prayers and prayed them for a number of churches that are very dear to my heart. It is an honor to pray the word of God for His Church.
If you have ever wondered what is appropriate to pray for your church, I invite you to start with the following two prayers as inspiration. I believe you will find yourself engaged in the Father’s business of equipping and guiding His Church. You may even find His Holy Spirit stirring you to pray in other more specific ways as you agree with Him for His Will to be done.
This is my prayer for the Father’s Business to be perfected in your lives today.
“May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus. You are always in my heart! And so it is only right for me to feel as I do about you. For you have all shared with me in this privilege that God has given me, both now that I am in prison and also while I was free to defend the gospel and establish it firmly. God is my witness that I tell the truth when I say that my deep feeling for you all comes from the heart of Christ Jesus himself. I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment, so that you will be able to choose what is best. Then you will be free from all impurity and blame on the Day of Christ. Your lives will be filled with the truly good qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, for the glory and praise of God. (Php 1:2-11 GNB)
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21 ESV)”