Preaching and Prayer

by Dennis Allan
Christianity Magazine March 1989

Considering the role of prayer in the life and work of New Testament preachers will challenge us to greater devotion and closer communion with God. The significance of prayer among early saints can be traced to Jesus, where we will focus our attention in this brief look at personal prayer.

Our Savior’s instruction about prayer is far more comprehensive than an occasional example of what to say. He, above all others, understood the value of communication with His Father. Having accepted a position of dependence upon the Father, He demonstrated the importance of prayer (see Hebrews 5:7). Prayer was a key to the strength of Jesus in making decisions, facing grief, enduring trials, and advancing confidently into the jaws of death. If Jesus needed frequent and fervent prayer to endure His earthly sojourn, how can we expect to survive with less?

Most of what we learn from Jesus about prayer is by observing His habits of private devotion. This article is not about leading public prayer or preparing lessons for others; it considers a more fundamental aspect of preaching. Following the footsteps of Jesus will lead us to devote considerable time and effort to communicating alone with God—addressing Him in prayer and listening as He speaks in the Word.

Solitude in Prayer

As He prayed, Jesus consistently sought solitude in place and time. One wonders how many miles He walked and how many mountains He scaled to be alone with His Father. Jesus seemed to prefer the surroundings of natural beauty when praying, choosing settings that would remind Him of the majesty of God instead of the corruption of men. Many of the Master’s prayers were uttered at times of day which would generally be free from intrusion. He prayed early in the morning, late at night, and even all night. When forced to choose between praying and sleeping, Jesus would pray.

Prayer in Special Circumstances

Jesus met special circumstances with special emphasis on prayer. He prayed when facing major decisions (Luke 6:12–13). He prayed when preparing for tough teaching which had the potential to alienate followers (Luke 9:18–27). He prayed after completing major tasks (John 17:4). He prayed at times of special trials and temptations (Matthew 26:36–44). I am awed at the self-control and determination of Jesus as He emerged from Gethsemane and marched without hesitation up Calvary’s trail of tragedy and triumph. In reflecting on that resolute power of Jesus, we are forced to see the power in prayer.

Prayer At Busy Times

Jesus prayed when He was busiest. When pressed by the eager and needy multitude, Jesus withdrew to pray (Luke 5:15–16). He taught His apostles the need to get away from the demands of their work for rest and prayer (Mark 6:30–32, 46; Luke 9:10,18).temptation and grief (consider Matthew 14:23–25 in context). How often do we fail, not because of unbearable stress or “burnout” or malicious brethren, but because we don’t take time to get away from it all to pray?

Practical Suggestions

Let’s close with a few specific suggestions gleaned from a study of the Scriptures and the helpful advice of others — suggestions that can help all of us grow closer to God and more determined in spreading the gospel.

Make appointments with God — and keep them! Set aside a time free of interruptions for serious prayer and introspective study of God’s word. If necessary, get up an hour earlier to meet with God before facing the tasks of the day.

Pray with your eyes open so you can read from a list of people and things to pray about. Note the needs of others and the reasons you’re thankful for those people. Thumb through a church directory and pray about each member of your local family.

Mix reading with prayer. Take breaks from talking with God to listen to Him. Read — ponder — pray.

Do as you pray. Praying for someone is the most you can do, but don’t forget to look for little ways you can help to meet their needs.

Make a regular investment of time and energy in prayer. Don’t forget the apostles’ example: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

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