A Life of Continual Prayer
by Rich Murphy
Of all the things we can do for the Lord, I think any pastor, minister, or mature believer would say prayer is the most powerful. Yet, even knowing this, eighty percent of the pastors pray only 15 minutes, or less per day.
Why is it that prayer is the hardest work of the ministry to motivate people to do? It makes little sense that the most powerful weapon in the believer's arsenal is the least used. Yet, it is quite clear that this is the case.
Many pastors and leaders desire a greater prayer life, but really don't know how to go about having one. Or, they have so many other things going on in their life and ministry that they can't find the time to set aside for regular prayer. Everything in our lives seems to work to make the goal of a good prayer life hard, if not impossible, to accomplish.
Too often, we are expecting the "programs" and "activities" that we have in the church to accomplish the work of the ministry. If that's what it takes to have a great church, then why don't we see those talked about in the book of Acts? If church programs and activities bring about revival, then why didn't Paul write about them in his letters to the churches?
Every move of the Holy Spirit, throughout the history of the church came through prayer. Every revival that has every existed came about through prayer. A small group of people would become desperate enough for the presence of God that they would put aside everything else to pray. Not just a quick prayer during the church service for God to move, nor a five minute every morning prayer either; but a continual seeking of God's face and His presence.
Even Jesus came to earth through the prayers of Anna and Simeon (Lk 2:25-38). According to the gospel of Luke, the two of them were daily in the temple, praying for the Messiah to come. When He did come, they instantly recognized Him and glorified God.
Why does God need our prayers in order to accomplish His will here upon the earth? It all boils down to authority. When God created Adam in Genesis chapter 1 & 2, He gave authority over all the earth to Adam. Therefore, to have authority here upon the earth, requires a human body. This is a spiritual law that God created. God has chosen to limit himself to working within that restriction.
Therefore, every work that God does here upon the earth is through the prayers of the saints. If we ask God, "Why aren't you doing anything about such and such a situation?" God will answer, "Why aren't you doing something about it with your prayers?" Without our prayers, nothing will happen.
The life of Jesus, here upon the earth was one of constant prayer. Many times, he separated Himself apart from even his closest disciples in order to be along with His Father, God, in prayer.
If Jesus, the Son of God understood the need to be in constant prayer, and made a point to do it, what makes us think that we can minister effectively without the same intense focus in prayer? Yes, He was our Savior, but He was also our example. An example that we are to follow each and every waking moment of our lives.
If Jesus couldn't minister without prayer neither can we. If He, who was God incarnate, needed to be reconnected to His Father, how much more do we?
Many times, believers and unbelievers alike ask the question, "Why don't we see God moving in the church, like they did in the Bible?" The answer is simple, it's because we aren't praying enough to have the power of God flowing through our lives.
It is interesting that in every one of the examples I have listed above, Jesus went out to pray after some manifestation of the power of God. In most of those cases, it says that they brought many sick to Him, who He healed and freed from demonic oppression.
Why was Jesus so careful to take those times to pray after He had ministered to people? I believe it was so that He would be ready for the next time that He had need of God's power. As He ministered, the power of God went out from Him, to touch the people that He was ministering to. We know this, because when the woman with the issue of blood touched Him, he stated that He "felt power go out of Him" (Mk 5:30; Lk 8:46).
Jesus saw the need to "recharge His spiritual batteries" after ministering to people and used prayer as the means to do that. He didn't wait until the next time that He expected to be ministering; He kept Himself in a constant state of readiness.
When Jesus came down from the mount of transfiguration, He found His disciples unsuccessfully trying to cast out a demon. Jesus responded to this situation with compassion and drove out the demon. When His disciples asked Him about it, He said, "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Mt 17:21).
Notice that Jesus didn't take time out to pray and fast, He immediately took care of the problem. Even though He told His disciples about the need for prayer and fasting, He didn't stop to pray and fast. Why? Because He lived a life of prayer and fasting. He kept His spiritual batteries charged, and a close relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus' prayer life so impressed His disciples that they asked Him to teach them to pray.
Through the example of His life and ministry, Jesus demonstrated to His disciples the power of continual prayer. Even though they were still looking for Jesus to be a political messiah, they realized their need to learn to pray as Jesus did.
Throughout the history of the church, we find that the most powerful ministers that have every existed followed the example of Jesus. They were all men and women of intense, continual prayer.
Smith Wigglesworth, who is called "the Apostle of Faith," was a great evangelist in England during the early days of the Pentecostal movement. In his ministry, tens of thousands of people were healed, many of them in extremely dramatic ways, and at least 14 were raised from the dead. Countless people were saved through his preaching.
Every morning, Smith would spend two hours in prayer, mostly praying in the Spirit. Then he would go out and do whatever the Holy Spirit directed him to do. When asked about his secret to obtain the power of God, he would always talk about his prayer life and his close relationship with the Holy Spirit. Other ministers, wanting this same power would come at times to join him in prayer. However, they would always leave the room before Smith was finished with his prayer time, saying that it was "too much" for them.
Kathryn Kuhlman ministered for several decades in the United States during the middle of the last century. She was not a great preacher; her messages were simple, and not very profound. But, her ministry was known for the hundreds of healings that took place in every service.
People would line up for hours before the service to get into one of Kathryn's services. She wouldn't even lay hands on the people, just stand on the platform and declare what God was doing in various parts of the auditorium. As the Holy Spirit was touching people, He would tell Kathryn, and she would announce it to the congregation. As far as I know, in every case, those people were healed.
Kathryn would spend eight hours in prayer before each and every service. She would cry out to God, asking that the Holy Spirit would move and touch the lives of the people who were coming. She felt a tremendous burden for the people, and knew that she in herself could do nothing for them. Hence her prayer time.
Paul Youngi Cho, of South Korea, has one of the world's largest churches, with over one million members. When asked about the secret of his success, he says, "I pray, and I obey." His whole ministry is marked with prayer. They have a whole mountain for prayer, not just a room in the church. It is called Prayer Mountain. The mountain is covered with small caves where people from the church will go and hide themselves to pray for days at a time.
Every morning, Cho prays for five hours before starting any other work in the church. Many have asked him how he can find time to pray that much. He answers, "You don't understand. If I don't pray for five hours, I don't have enough time to do everything. But when I do, then God does everything I need."
Benny Hinn probably has the greatest healing ministry in the United States today. His ministry flows in much of the same anointing as Kathryn Kuhlman's did. When Benny travels to his various crusades, he is very particular about his accommodations and who he talks to. Not that he must have a fancy hotel room, but that the people in the rooms around him are his own staff people. He doesn't want anything, even the sound of the person in the next room, to interrupt his communion with the Holy Spirit before he ministers.
Even Benny's staff members must guard their hearts and words. If they are not flowing with the Holy Spirit, full of joy, and speaking in faith, he will not allow them in his room. Why? Because his focus is to be with the Lord and prepare to minister to the people.
These are just a few examples of the many powerful people of prayer that God has used in recent times in the church. The common thread in all of their lives is that they were great prayer warriors before they were anything else.
Each of these great ministers had specific times set aside to pray, but they also had a ongoing prayer life during the day. They would talk with God as they worked, traveled, and ministered.
One true story about Smith Wigglesworth says that once when he left a meeting, he was riding with two other ministers. After fifteen minutes, he told the driver, rather forcefully, to stop the car. Thinking there was about to be an accident, the drive slammed on the brakes and asked, "What's wrong?" Smith answered, "We've been talking for fifteen minutes and haven't even mentioned the Lord. We need to stop and repent." Wow! That showed a great commitment to maintain his relationship with the Lord.
A life of continual prayer isn't necessarily continual formal prayer, it's being in constant communication with God. When we have this type of communication, not only can we speak to God about everything that is going on around us, but He can also speak to us.
If two people are traveling together, they don't establish formal times to get together and talk. No, what they do is talk to each other as they are traveling. As we travel through life's journey, we have the promise of Jesus that He will make the journey with us.
"Behold, I will be with your always, even until the end of the world."
Jesus is with us, but most of the time He may as well be walking on the other side of the street. Instead of recognizing His presence and leaning on Him, most believers totally ignore Him. Instead of talking to Him, we talk to everyone else, and to be honest, most of what we say in His presence He really doesn't want to hear.
There are many types of prayer, but the most common I see in the church today is what I call "shopping list" prayers. This is where we go to God with our list of things and ask Him to meet our heart's every desire. In reality, this type of prayer is just being selfish, and isn't accomplishing much of anything to further the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus' disciples went to Him and asked Him how to pray, He gave them an incredibly detailed outline for the prayer life of a believer:
Although almost every believer knows this prayer, very few ever think about what it really means. We may repeat this in church, but it is only words spoken by rote, not spoken from the heart. Let's take a moment to look at the steps in this prayer outline.
Prayer of Praise - "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" - Any prayer must include times of praise and thanksgiving to our God. Not just after we receive what we've prayed for, but before we see it manifested here upon the earth. The Bible commands us to praise God at all times. That means the good times and the bad as well. When we praise God in the midst of our troubles, that is an incredible weapon to turn around those problem situations.
Prayer of Intercession - "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" - Intercession is praying God's will here upon the earth. Notice that this is the first thing that Jesus told His disciples to pray for after praising God. Not to pray for their own needs, but for God's will to be done here upon the earth. This is the most important part of our prayer life, interceding for God's will. It is this type of prayer that brings about change here in the earth.
Prayer of Petition - "Give us this day our daily bread" - Jesus recognized our needs and told us to ask God to provide them. Not to pray for excess, but to pray for our needs. However, of all the parts of the prayer, this is the shortest. Why? Because God already knows our needs and desires to provide them.
Prayer of Repentance - "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" - A part of every believer's prayer life must be in repenting for our sins. Not just our sins of commission, but the greater sins of omission. Second Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Notice the key terms in this verse. First of all, it talks about God's people, not the people of the world. Then it gives specific instructions, be humble, pray, seek God's face, and repent. Why? So that God can move in our land. Our lack of repentance can block God's operation here upon the earth.
Prayer of Protection - "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" - We need God's protection over our lives. In the first two verses of Psalm 91, King David said, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust." David understood his need to be under God's wings, where he could be protected. We too have that need.
Prayer of Praise (again) - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever" - Jesus finished the outline by saying, "praise God again." Obviously, the prayer of praise is the most important part of a believer's prayer life. It is this continual praise and worship that brings us into God the Father's presence, where all the other prayer needs are fulfilled.
It is only through continued, ongoing prayer that we, the Body of Christ, will accomplish the will of God here upon the earth. It is not enough that we pray for a few minutes, then go on with our day, we must instead be in continual contact with God through prayer.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
So, how are we to have this life of ongoing prayer, and yet do all the other things that are required in the ministry?
First of all we must establish the correct order of priority in our lives and ministries. It is impossible for a pastor to do everything in the church by himself. He needs others who are co-laborers in the work. Each of these will take responsibility for an area of the church and insure that that area of the work is completed. Leadership that is unwilling to serve is useless.
In the early church, just as in our churches, there was work to be done. The apostles, recognizing this need, made a decision to appoint deacons to take some of the load of the practical work, so that they could concentrate on prayer and preaching.
The congregation must come to realize that it is to their advantage to free the pastor's time for prayer, study and ministry.
Once proper leadership is in place, to help the pastor in the work of the ministry, the pastor must prioritize their time, in order to put prayer first. I mentioned earlier that Paul Youngi Cho prays five hours a day. That is how he starts his day. He doesn't himself to do anything else before his prayer time, and rises early in the morning so that he can have that time.
If we don't pray first, it is like we are going out to work naked. We won't have the protection, wisdom, or power of God to accomplish anything in the ministry.
However, this doesn't end the prayer for the day. This just ends the formal time set aside for prayer. Throughout the day, we all have times that are mental "dead times." These are times when our bodies may be active with tasks like driving, mowing the lawn, waiting for someone, or simply walking from one place to another. These "dead times" are perfect times to continue our prayer, while our bodies are involved in those tasks.
Finally, we need to be sure to stop a moment before each and every thing we do for the Lord, and offer up a brief prayer, asking for God's guidance, wisdom, and plan to accomplish that task. Many times, we go about our daily lives without taking these moments to ask for God's help. Because of that, we miss opportunities to minister, and to receive blessings.
For example, when was the last time you asked God where to buy gas for your car? If you ever did, it was probably a long time ago. But, there may be someone in a gas station that needs a word of encouragement. If we take that moment to ask God's direction in that simple an act, God can direct us to that person. But, if don't, and just go about life without constant communication with God, we would miss that person.
More than anything, a life of continual prayer is a change in attitude. It is a realization that Jesus is walking arm in arm with us. It is just carrying on a conversation with Him, as we together go about the tasks of the day.
I have sat and talked with many pastors and ministers in many different places. But, in many cases, talking with those pastors wasn't any different than talking with a man off the street. Their conversation wasn't about the Lord, their mouth wasn't full of the Word of God. No, it was full of talk about sports, problems in the world, and themselves.
If I'm not talking about the Lord, or His Word, I don't have much to say. Oh, I can talk about other things for a little while, but eventually I run out of things to say. Unfortunately, I only know a few pastors and ministers who I can sit down with and our conversation always turns to the Lord. Why? Because most Christians don't have their life centered on Jesus and His Word.
I'm not saying that these people never talk about anything else. Nor am I saying that they are so spiritual that they're no earthly good. What I am saying is that the focus in their lives is on the Lord. Because of that, He comes into every conversation and takes it over.
That's the kind of change in attitude that we need to make. It is easy to pray continually when one is thinking about the Lord all the time. But, when we are thinking about life's tasks, our hobbies, or problems, our prayers are short and sporadic.
Do you want to see more of God's power, anointing, and wisdom in your ministry? Then change your attitude. Develop a life of continual prayer.
This teaching is also available in our book "Wisdom For Christian Leaders"
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Copyright © 2003 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.