What is the state of your secret prayer life? Or rather, do you have one at all?
If so, is it alive and well, wholesome and healthy or malnourished and anaemic?
These are hard questions we must ask ourselves if we are to be authentic followers of Christ and the sooner we ask these questions of ourselves the more likely that we will be able to address the anomaly of lacking the basics.
In Matthew chapter 6 Christ classified the disciplines of giving, prayer and fasting as the basics He expected His disciples to regularly practise, routinely engage in. These represented the bread and butter of discipleship, the bricks and mortar, the basics that were expected from every disciple of Christ. They were not the preserve of a few elite or reserved for the most ardent and super-devoted disciples. No, they were for every disciple. Period. And of the three Jesus gave the most detailed attention and exposition to prayer. Not without reason.
We must do the basics right if we are to progress on to greater things and those that God would have us do. If not, all God’s plans and purposes may come to nought in our lives. If the enemy succeeds in getting us to neglect our personal prayer lives, he has pretty much succeeded in thwarting or severely restricting God’s purposes in our lives – be it the abundant life Christ came to give or our unique mission God would have us accomplish here on earth. It is through a sustained personal prayer life that we, quite literally, lock into the abundant, overflowing life of Christ and His purposes for our life here in earth. It is this anchoring one’s life in God through sustained personal prayer that leads to the kind of fruitfulness Christ spoke about in John 15:5 –
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
It is impossible to abide in Christ without a sustained prayer life. This is how key personal prayer is.
Throughout the bible, the medium facilitating divine-human interaction was that of prayer. Prayer is what makes our partnership with God a reality. Prayer is where we interface with God directly, it is where we relate with Him at the deepest and most intimate level – without restriction or inhibition, fear or intimidation.
For Christ, this was the discipline on which the fruitfulness of His life and ministry hinged. Prayer helped Him keep everything, His entire life and mission on earth, in focus and in the right perspective keeping Him in the Father’s will. Luke 5:15 – 16
But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Even when His popularity and fame grew far and beyond, creating a massive following, the verses above clearly demonstrate that Christ prioritised and sought to regularly and purposefully connect with His Father through a time of personal prayer. As He connected with the Father’s heart this enabled Him to maintain the right perspective, keep a sharp focus on His mission, and remain firmly in the Father’s will.
In fact, at one point Jesus’s popularity and fame reached giddying heights that His own family sought to rein Him in thinking He’d gone bonkers. Mark 3:20 — 21
Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When His family heard this, they set out to restrain Him, because they said, “He’s out of His mind.”
Christ did not, however, seek the fame His mission engendered or take advantage of and ride on the wave it generated. He definitely did not allow Himself to get carried away with it. He remained firmly anchored in the will of the Father being careful to maintain His communion with Him through dedicated personal prayer.
It follows then that personal communion with the Father through the medium of disciplined prayer is not something we cut back on or reduce with the advent of success or popularity, but one we firmly hold on to and maintain. In fact, more so as we begin to evidence the fruits of God’s working through us so that we do not get carried away by them. This is, however, a habit or discipline that needs to be cultivated now, in the early stages of our walks with the Lord if it is to serve us well in the latter ones.
The Lord Jesus Christ maintained the right perspective on His life and clear focus on His mission in that place of intimacy with the Father. Whatever was happening around Him Christ was not carried away by it – be it positive or negative – but stood His ground and remained anchored to His mission no matter what because of His uninterrupted communion with the Father via the medium of disciplined prayer.
This was precisely because His entire mission on earth and the reason he came into it was to do none other than the Father’s will. The writer to the Hebrews affirms this truth for us quoting an Old Testament prophecy about Christ in Psalm 40:6 – 7. Hebrews 10:7
Then I said (i.e. Christ), ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
This connection was vital and key to Christ’s success in His mission; it was, in modern jargon, mission critical.
Like Christ, we too, every single one of His disciples, came into the world to do the Father’s will. God has a unique plan and purpose for each one of us. Cue Ephesians 2:10 –
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Like Christ, we too need to lock into God’s purposes for our lives here on earth through a sustained personal prayer life. In addition, as we have seen in the life of our Lord, it requires a plan and a program and the discipline to run it; no question. We have personal responsibility to keep up these basic disciplines of a disciple of Christ by setting time aside to be with The Lord on our own and ensuring that these times are not easily pushed over by the pressures life exerts on all of us. We have to maintain and defend our quiet times and daily devotions with zeal and passion and not allow other areas of our lives to encroach upon them.
It is your call.
Understanding then how vital and important a personal prayer life is for a disciple of Christ, commit and ensure you plan for it in your daily routine determined not to allow it to be compromised. In the next blog, we will have a detailed look at the content of the Master’s actual teaching on this, most vital of topics.