This is the second installment on our series of Equipped for Success. The first was an overview and encouragement to not shy away from the making of resolutions, from the decision to do good work, and the Christ-centered endeavor toward excellence in everything. In this part we look at the priority of prayer in the life of our Lord. We are looking at prayer in Jesus’ life because it played a large part in His ministry. And if you and I are going to be successful in new endeavors it will have to be a large part in our ministries as well.
But first, an aside about your notebook.
In our previous post (and associated message) we discussed the habits of people that are both productive and regarded as intelligent. Among their shared characteristics one stands out – a compulsive desire to write things down. Other studies have shown that the act of taking notes raises the quality of our thinking and the work that we do. (As I write this post I think about the sketches of Michelangelo and the quality of the finished products.) I believe this to be true and try to take notes that increase my level of involvement, thinking, and help with my personal productivity. When do I take those notes? All the time.
Figure 1: Consecration Ceremony for Minister Winona Hollis et al
For example, recently Darlene and I attended a consecration ceremony for a friend — Winona Hollis. After rousing worship and the installment of men and women as ministers of the gospel in that local church, we heard a message.
The notes for that message are seen here in Figure 2. I took these notes using a notebook that I take with me almost everywhere. (For my readers with advanced skills in writing, the grammar of my notes are sub par.)
Figure 2: Notes taken during consecration service on 2022.01.07
In the message that was delivered that night I was encouraged, challenged, and given answers to questions I had about how to go forward. There was a spiritual high in that moment; the notes capture my thoughts and action items. It was a type of mountaintop experience.
Later there are sure to be disappointments and setbacks. In those moments it can be very helpful to go back and review my notes; through them I am reminded of things that are true and that need to be borne in mind if I am going to be successful (Philippians 4:8). I say all of this to help you. Take notes; that makes it possible for you to review what was revealed to you or what you were reminded of.
Equipping for Success – The Priority of Prayer (Luke 11:1)
Luke 11:1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
In this passage we see one of the disciples arriving at a conclusion: prayer is an important part of the Master’s ministry. It has taken more than a year but the disciple finally realized that prayer was somehow a primary part of Jesus’ work to reach the lost, teach the truth, and help those who many thought were beyond hope. How did this disciple reach this conclusion? To find out let us consider the record provided by Luke. In His gospel we will look at each instance of Jesus praying prior to the moment of Luke 11:1.
Prayer in the Gospel of Luke in Christ’s Ministry
- The Commencement of Christ’s Ministry (Luke 3:21) — Jesus has come up from the water of John’s baptism; He is still standing in the water. As water falls away from his form He is praying (Luke 3:21). What was he praying for? The Holy Spirit! He asked for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13) and His prayer was answered (Luke 3:22). The Holy Spirit was not a part of the Mosaic Covenant; the decision to follow Yahweh did not guarantee the reception of the Holy Spirit. But, as Jesus was teach later, He could be requested. And, because God is good, he would be given to those who ask (Luke 11:11-13). But notice this: the ministry of Jesus began with prayer. Does this matter? The answer is given by the Father (Luke 3:22). The Father is pleased with the priorities of the Son. Prayer is the first thing He does as he comes up from the water and the Holy Spirit is the first thing He asks for. We can follow Jesus in this. How? First, make prayer the first thing in everything we do. Second, ask for what matters most.
- The Conflict of Christ and Satan (Luke 4:2) — After the baptism is a battle. Jesus is led by the Spirit into conflict with the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13). Although it is not explicit, considering the culture and the precedent (Luke 2:36-38), it should be seen that Jesus was fasting and praying. The fact that the Spirit was driving him into the conflict (Mark 1:12) indicates that He may not have wanted the temptations. After all, He tells us to pray that we will not have to enter temptations (Luke 11:4; Matthew 6:13). What is our takeaway? If you are endeavoring to live like Jesus, you can expect to be opposed like Jesus. Face it like Jesus. Pray that you would not enter temptation. But, in case the ordeal is actually God’s will, make request for the strength to stand and not stumble, to fight and not fall, and to keep your focus on doing the will of the Father. Pray, beloved.
- The Constant of Christ (Luke 5:16) — Jesus was frequently found making requests of God for the ministry. As the ministry grew (Luke 5:12-15), His time in this activity also increased (Luke 5:16). For the resolution that you are making there will need to be prayer. As you begin to experience success… there will need to be more prayer. Be like Jesus; frequently steal away to be before the Father asking for what you need to succeed.
- The Critic’s Contrast and Comparison of Christ’s Companions (Luke 5:33) — From the outside it seemed that there was a big difference between the ministry of John’s men and the ministry of Jesus’ men. The former were often found to be fasting; the disciples of Jesus were not found doing so. The congruence is mentioned as well — prayers. At this point it must be pointed out that some of John’s disciples had become Jesus’ disciples. They, no doubt, carried over some of their conduct.
- The Critical Component of Christ’s Calling Others (Luke 6:12) — Let those of us who would make disciples be student’s of the Master’s methods. It was prayer, persistent and pointed, that was in center of all that Jesus did. And the choosing of people he would work with was not based on temperament or talent. The answer to the question “Who should I mentor?” was given to Jesus because he petitioned the Father.
- The Counsel of Christ (Luke 6:27-28; 10:2) — In the teachings of Jesus prayer is mentioned more than once. We are to pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Our enemies? Yes, our enemies. Christ calls his followers to plead for help for those who are against us and would harm us. Crazy? Absolutely. But it is the nature of God to bless those who are his… and those who are not. We, as children of God, should be like our Father. And we should be like Jesus; he worked in earnest to help those who wanted to hurt him. He even prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34).
- The Custom of Christ (Luke 9:16) — He blessed the food and then broke the components so that they could be given to the disciples. Strictly speaking, this was not a prayer. It was, though, part of his communication with the Father and part of the record of Jesus life.
- The Charge of Christ (Luke 9:27-29) — Jesus again goes away from the crowd to be alone on a mountain. But this time He takes with Himself the inner circle of the twelve: Peter, John, and James. He has something to show them (Luke 9:27). In the time they were up on the mountain with Jesus they watched as He carried on in His customary fashion; He prayed. The disciples have seen Jesus retreat to pray many times (Luke 5:16). But this time is different. While He was praying His countenance and clothing were changed, His company was changed, and His conversation was changed (Luke 9:31, 41; 9:43-44). Everything about Him was charged up for the mission! Let this be one of our takeaways; in our time with God we are also can be charged up for the mission, strengthened to finish the work (Luke 22:43), and given clarity about how to go forward. In the retreat to pray we make our greatest advance toward excellence.
The Action Items
- Prioritize Prayer – Put prayer before your other activities; even Bible study. You cannot come to the Scriptures effectively for study until you have come to God for His help in understanding them (John 5:39-40).
- Protect Prayer – Prayer is the most important meeting of your day. Protect it by (1) retreating from the fray and (2) removing distractions.
- Practice Prayer – If at first you do not succeed in praying do not give up. Look at what went wrong and then try again. Also, consider the following excellent books on prayer.
References and Resources
Bounds, E.M. (1910). Power Through Prayer. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/65115
Bounds, E.M. (1910). Purpose in Prayer. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/66112
Sanders, J. Oswald. (2017). Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer.
Figure 3: Message video from 2023.01.08 First Service