When we think about the importance of prayer, a natural question that arises is, “What should I pray for?” In short, pray for the accomplishment of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit.
Remember how Acts begins with Christians sitting in an upper room, scared to death. They knew they couldn’t follow Jesus, glorify him, and make disciples of the nations on their own. And the same is true for us. We can’t do anything that God has called us to do in this world in our own power, and we are foolish to think otherwise.
We Can Do Nothing Apart from God’s Power
It does not matter how large a church is, how talented, gifted, or influential its members may be, how much money is in a church’s or Christian’s bank account, or how many worldly resources we possess. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit of God, a church can do nothing in the world for the glory of God. In fact, a church can be extremely small and filled with the least talented, gifted, and influential people, with little money and few resources, yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, such a church can shake the nations for the glory of God.
We have been fooled into thinking that our greatest asset is our strength. Our greatest asset is our weakness, for it is when we are weak that we are most dependent on the strength of God.
Do you believe this? Do you believe that we can accomplish more in the next month in the power of the Holy Spirit than we can in the next hundred years apart from his power? Do you believe that you can do more in the next week in dependence on God’s Spirit than you can in your entire lifetime in dependence on yourself?
If we’re honest, I think we don’t we don’t believe this. I’m convinced we are (and I am) oblivious to the depth of our inability and the wealth of God’s ability. We have been fooled into thinking that our greatest asset is our strength. But in the kingdom of God, our greatest asset is our weakness, for it is when we are weak that we are most dependent on the strength of God (2 Corinthians 9–10). This reality lies at the heart of prayer.
We Need God to Divinely Intervene in Our Lives
Prayer is the intersection between our inability and God’s ability. We pray because we need God to do something we cannot do on our own. We are desperate for his help. It’s like the desperation we see from football teams when they call a “Hail Mary”—a long pass thrown downfield as time is running out. A Hail Mary is only used when a team is desperate, when they are out of other options. The only hope for victory is “divine intervention.” For the rest of the game, the team relies on its own resources and game plan, but in that moment of desperation, when time is running out and the game plan has failed, with no other options remaining, the team’s only hope is to “throw up a prayer.”
What if we lived with that kind of desperation all day every day? What if we acknowledged that we were constantly and desperately in need of divine intervention? This type of desperation should characterize the lives of every individual Christian and every local church. We cannot do anything without the power of God. And after all, why would we want to do anything without the power of God?
We Should Be Careful Not to Forget the Power of Prayer
If we’re not careful though, prayer will be more supplemental to what we do than fundamental to what we do. We spend hours every day looking at our phones, watching other screens, and running from place to place, but we spend so little time alone with God in prayer. Or when it comes to our relationships, we spend hours doing all kinds of activities with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others, yet we only spend minutes, if not seconds, with them in prayer.
We forget that we are speaking to the all-powerful King of the universe, the God whose majesty, glory, beauty, holiness, and splendor outshine our wildest imaginations.
The same mindset transfers over into the church, where we pray almost as a matter of routine at the beginning or end of a meeting. We even use prayer as a means of transition in a corporate worship gathering. All of this often leads to mindless praying. As soon as someone says, “Let’s pray,” we bow our heads, and in a matter of seconds, our minds begin going in a thousand different directions. We don’t really think about Who we are talking to or Who is listening to us. We forget that we are speaking to the all-powerful King of the universe, the God whose majesty, glory, beauty, holiness, and splendor outshine our wildest imaginations. How did we get so casual with prayer, and why are we so often prayerless people?
Prayerlessness Reveals Our Pride and Self-Sufficiency
We are prayerless people because we are prideful people. When we do not pray, we are essentially saying, “We don’t need your help, God. We can do this without you.” It makes me wonder: what if the greatest hindrance to the spread of the gospel in the world today is not the self-indulgent immorality of our culture, but is the self-sufficient mentality of the church? And could it be that God is waiting to show his power to a people who will take him seriously in prayer?
Let’s heed the words of Samuel Chadwick:
The devil fears nothing from prayerless work, prayerless studies, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our wisdom, he mocks at our toil, but he trembles when we pray.
Let’s pray for the accomplishment of the Word of God in our lives, churches, and the world in the power of the Spirit of God in a way that resounds to the glory of God.
This article is an adapted excerpt from 12 Traits: Embracing God’s Design for the Church.