A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
The life and ministry of Jesus is our ultimate model for living. One of the principles that resounds in the Gospel accounts in and through His life is that authentic intimacy precedes eternal impact. Because every true believer has a longing for intimacy with God and desire for a life that matters in the lives of others, it is important to study the example of Jesus and choose to walk in His steps.
Jesus’ Pursuit of Intimacy
Prior to starting His public ministry, the Lord Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness in prayer and fasting, enjoying solitary communion with the Father. This incredible model stands in dramatic contrast to our modern rush to public ministry as we tend to speed our way through academic preparation, job placement, and ministry output. The pattern of empowering intimacy can get lost in the fray of productivity.
Prior to selecting the apostles, Jesus spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12), demonstrating the kind of intimacy that produces good leadership choices. Today we tend to rely on nominating committees and popular voting rather than extraordinary alignment with the heart and will of God through prayer.
Mark 3:14 describes His design for the twelve He selected where it records, “Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” Jesus first wanted His followers to “be with Him” in order to learn His ways, experience His heart, and understand His power as essential ingredients to life-changing impact.
Throughout His ministry we find Jesus relentlessly modeling intimacy with the Father as He rose up early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). He retreated to solitary places to pray (Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16), took His disciples with Him for seasons of extraordinary prayer (Luke 9:28, 22:40), and trusted the Father for strength and wisdom to fulfill His mission (Matthew 26:39; John 17).
Learning from Him
The great incentive for our praying is to walk, live, and serve as Jesus did. I often say that there is a sense in which Jesus was the only one to walk this earth who did not need to pray, but did – in order to help those of us who do need to pray, but don’t, learn how to do it. He was fully God and fully man. As divine, He enjoyed constant union with the Father. As man, Jesus' prayer life modeled for us what it meant to consciously rely on the Father.
Early Leaders Learn and Live the Lesson
After Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection the work of the Gospel would be advanced through a small band of 120 disciples. They could not accomplish the mission without the supernatural empowerment of the Spirit. Again, intimacy preceded impact as Jesus commanded them to wait in an upper room where they prayed for 10 days.
The early disciples demonstrated this truth throughout their high-impact advancement of the Gospel. As soon as the church was birthed, they locked in to a pattern of pursuing intimacy (Acts 2:42). After facing persecution they came back to extraordinary worship-based prayer (Acts 4:23-31). When coping with the growing pains of rapidly advancing ministry, the leaders remained resolute on their need for intimacy via collective prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4).
Paul also embraced this model of extraordinary intimacy prior to public ministry when he spent three years in the Arabian desert prior to his public ministry (Galatians 1:17-18). While we do not know the exact details of his time in Arabia, there is no doubt that a pursuit of a great intimacy with Christ was part of his experience. The launch of international missions emerges from a season of intimacy as Paul joined the leaders in Antioch as they fasted and ministered to the Lord (Acts 13:1-2). From the depths of a prison, Paul was beaten, bloody, and bruised – but He worshiped, sang, and prayed. Miraculous impact followed. The prison shook, prisoners were released, the Gospel went forward, and before the end of the night the jailor and his family were converted and baptized (Acts 16:25-34).
In all of these instances, early church leaders were not just praying “about things” but were spending time “with Someone” as the life-source of all they were called to be and do. They had learned from Christ’s model and were resolute to do His work in His power.
In a recent interview with Pastor Alistair Begg, he noted, “We can do more than pray, after we have prayed, but we cannot do more than pray before we have prayed.” He went on to suggest that for every minute of our sermon delivery, we should spend 15 minutes in prayer. This would equate to 10 hours of prayer prior to the Sunday message. What a great goal and illustration of the principle of intimacy preceding impact. (You can see excerpts of this interview at www.64fellowship.com).
As we seek to influence others for Christ in this life, there are many tools and opportunities. Still, we must remember that ministry is not so much a thing that we produce for Jesus. Rather, it is the power of His life, working in and through us. Intimacy precedes and sustains impact. As Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
“Lord, let us seek You passionately, then allow you to live Your life through us to change this world by the power of Your Gospel.”
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.