Yesterday, I was reading a post about prayer and preaching. I came across this quote by Kent Hughes (author of Liberating Ministry From the Success Syndrome).
"This, and what experience God so far has given me in preaching and
prayer, has brought a conviction. Should I ever write a book on
essentials for preaching, I know now that I would devote at least a
third of it to spiritual preparation in matters such as prayer. This
would be the first third."
(Thanks to Colin Adams, Unashamed Workman, for this quote.)
Is he ever right! Yet, I missed this for a number of years. Oh, I would have said that I understood and believed it. But — I did not. Now, I can think of nothing that is more critical in ministry (I mean that in the sense of anyone who is being used by God to serve him in any way).
There is nothing that can take the place of prayer in my own life as God prepares me for ministry. There is nothing more important in any sort of preparation for preaching or teaching than prayer.
As Hughes suggests, prayer is not just for the moment of ministry. It is a part of God’s way of preparing you and me for ministry. Prayer is not something that you do just before the moment of ministry. Prayer is a part of abiding in Christ. Prayer is about learning to live in dependence on him, moment by moment. Prayer is a daily reminder of your helplessness before God and desperate need for him.
As I think about this week, I have been in several ministry settings in which I have prayed for people at very important moments. Sunday, I prayed in our assembly on behalf of the family of one of our members whose brother was murdered this year. At the same time, I also prayed on behalf of a man who was in a local hospital in ICU after a motorcycle accident just a day earlier. There were several other settings in which I prayed with people during the week. I led prayer in the hospital with one family and then in a home with another family. At times during the week, several people asked me, "Will you pray for me?"
All of these are ministry situations that call for prayer. Yet, not only do these situations call for me to pray, they require that I be a person of prayer. This needs to take place long before I get these requests and have these opportunities. Does that make sense? Long before I pray for someone else in settings such as I just described, I need to first be a person of prayer in my daily life before God. Such prayer may come in a variety of forms. Perhaps I am praying as I read Scripture. Maybe I am praying here and there as I go throughout my day. Maybe I am using a prayer book such as The Little Book of Hours (which I have found quite helpful).
The point: Prayer doesn’t begin at the moment of ministry. Prayer needs to begin in the normal course of my life as I live with God. Then, prayer in moments of ministry will simply be a continuation of what is already happening in my life.
Yet, it is also important to know that people are praying for me. In the past few days, I have asked a number of people to pray for me. Why? I recognize more and more that there is great power in having another intercede before God on my behalf. There are seasons of life when the most important thing in my life may be knowing that there are people who are praying on my behalf.
Prayer in ministry is not just important for someone in my role. It is not just important for someone who is in a preaching/teaching role. Prayer is vital for anyone who seeks to be used by God to make a difference in someone’s life.
Does this connect with you today? Do you feel as if you have grown in your prayer life? In what way?