We give it lip service in our churches. We talk about it often and even push people to be more mindful of it during our sermons. But rarely do we treat it for what it is—BATTLE!
I’m talking about prayer. That’s right, prayer is a battle. Prayer is one of the greatest benefits of the Christian life and also one of the most neglected. We have relegated prayer to perhaps a moment’s pause before we enjoy our meals. We’ve used it as a transition point during our worship services to move us from one element to another. We’ve even given prayer nice, nonthreatening names such as invocation or benediction to make it a more formal matter. But in God’s plan, and in His Word, prayer is a battle.
Prayer is a battle to be fought by believers during every moment of this journey called life. It is where our victories are won, our enemies are defeated and our hope is refreshed. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Our battles in life are against powers we are unable to conquer outside of the power and presence of prayer.
I’m afraid that in a culture of selfishness and pride, evidenced by the extensive use and abuse of social media, we have pushed prayer to the sidelines of our faith, and our churches are suffering as a result. We often find ourselves discouraged over published studies that indicate a move toward irrelevance or a lack of power within the church. We lament that many have stopped regularly attending our churches in favor of other activities. Yet prayer, our greatest opportunity for a course correction, is sitting in the fringes of our schedules.
What if we really believed in the power of prayer? What if we believed in the promise found in John 14:13 that tells us, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” If we truly believed that anything is possible through the power of prayer, I believe it would radically change the condition of our churches and the culture. If we truly believed in the power of prayer, it would no longer be an afterthought—it would be the main event.
Often, the church bemoans the condition of our culture and its radical departure from Biblical truth. We rail against a society that has cast aside the Biblical admonition to live in the constant pursuit of holiness. Yet the greatest possibility we have of turning our culture back to God is not found in words of attack and condemnation but rather in cries from our heart to a holy God in desperate times of prayer. It is high time we take prayer seriously and cry out to God for revival.
A.W. Tozer said, “To desire revival … and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.” We must recognize the connection between a disciplined prayer life and the great move of God that we long to see. Churches must move beyond the cursory nod to prayer and return to the days of powerful, yet arduous, prayer meetings. Prayer, the way God intends, is hard work.
Unfortunately, we look to the Lord’s Prayer as the model for not only what we should pray, but how long we should pray. The Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13, begins with this statement, “In this manner therefore pray …” While Jesus certainly taught us the elements of prayer through this passage, He certainly didn’t intend for our prayers to only be as long as it takes to recite these few short verses.
In fact, in Luke 6:12, we are told, “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Jesus went out to pray, not for a moment, not for a meal, He continued all night in prayer to God. Why? Because Jesus knew the pressing nature of what lay ahead and He knew that prayer was key in effecting change.
We should learn how to pray through Christ’s model prayer, but we should also learn how to pray from the manner in which He prayed. Our prayer times should not consist of routine recitations. The prayer life of Jesus was not marked by offering brief words at the beginning of a gathering or sermon. He pursued regular times of serious, passionate prayer in the presence and power of God. Luke 5:16 says, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” This was His modus operandi. He was known for a regular and disciplined prayer life during His time on earth. Here’s a sobering question: Is this what the church is known for today?
When the church, and its members, believe in the real power of prayer, change will be inevitable. We must return to the days of gathering together for no other purpose than to cry out to God for revival. Our churches must focus more on being known as “houses of prayer” than being known for our activities, events or personalities. If we want to change our world, let us gather together in unity, with heavy hearts, praying in Jesus’ Name. Let us change our culture, not through our social media posts, but from getting on our knees before God.
My dad, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, often said, “Nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer.” May we stop striving to change the world by our own feeble efforts and strive to change the world through prayer. ©2018 Jonathan Falwell
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Jonathan Falwell is the senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and the author of numerous books, including “1,000 Days: The Ministry of Christ.”