There are so many times I have gone into prayer and come out feeling I have not prayed right. I have on occasion even concluded that the Lord God has said “No” to my prayers, perhaps because I did not follow the pattern. You wonder if there is a pattern to prayer….Consider the disciples of the Lord Jesus, how they had prayed for all their lives. Think of them as people who belonged to a culture and a religion that took prayer very seriously. For them, prayer in the home, synagogue, and temple was part of everyday activities. Their hymnal was filled with prayers for almost every possible occasion in life. In short, these disciples thought they knew how to pray….. until they met a man who was wired very differently. This Man also prayed; prayer had a significance in his life that it seemed not to have in theirs (cf. Luke 3:21).
The Pattern of the Prayer of the Lord Jesus
He prayed in secret, practicing it in private – by himself. He would leave them and go off into the hills…alone (cf. Matthew 14:23). He would spend a whole night in prayer (cf. Luke 6:12). He would awake a great while before day and they would find him missing (cf. Mark 1:35). On looking for him, they would catch him praying….in a solitary place (cf. Luke 5:16). Even in Gethsemane, He went off to a quiet corner to pray (cf. Matthew 26:36). In His teachings, His followers were encouraged to pray in secret, in the inner room, with the door closed (cf. Matthew 6:6). The disciples were aware of His practice of prayer. They were puzzled by it, by its frequency and by its effect upon Him (cf. Luke 3:21). He took so long praying. He gained such pleasure from His time spent in prayer. They certainly talked about this. Perhaps they shared with each other what difficulties they had in praying. Finally, one day, when he rejoined them from his solitary time, one of them speaking for the group made the request, “Lord, would you teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples?” (cf. Luke 11:1).
It is clear that God took His only begotten Son and made Him our Example and our Pattern, that we might learn from Him and know how to connect with God. However, it sometimes seems that the power of Christ’s example is absolutely lost to us. We look at Him in whom there is no sin and see Him not to be as human as we are. But this should not be. Thus, the Lord took Saul and made him a pattern man of what the Lord God can do for one who sees himself as the chief of sinners.
Be Awakened in Prayer
Paul stands out as a teacher of prayer, speaking variously to believers about being imitators of him (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, Philippians 4:9 & 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). This is to be done, not in arrogance, but in humble simplicity and knowing that Paul is himself, wholly dedicated to imitating the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1 & 1 Thessalonians 1:6). At the time of Saul’s conversion, the Lord Jesus speaks of him as one who ‘is there, praying’ (cf. Acts 9:11).
An emboldened Ananias goes and ministers to Saul and his exhortation intensifies Paul’s prayerfulness. Paul gets into an earnest three days of prayer and fasting, which grant him pardon of sin and acceptance with the Lord God. For Saul, that heavenly vision which brings him to his knees will ever after rule his life (cf. Acts 9:3-9). Saul, who comes to be known as Paul (cf. Acts 13:9), would go on to become the one man to have set his mark on the Church, as a pattern man.
The Pattern of St. Paul’s Prayer
This he did in his mastery of divine Truth, in his teaching of divine Truth, in his devotion to the Lord Jesus, in his self-consuming zeal in the Lord’s service, and in his deep experience of the power of the indwelling Christ. This he did in the fellowship of His cross, in the sincerity of his humility, in the simplicity and boldness of his faith, and in his missionary enthusiasm and endurance. And the grace of our Lord Jesus was exceedingly abundant in him, in as much as were the faith and love of Christ Jesus (cf. 1 Timothy 1:14).
Paul got to where he did because the Lord Jesus gave it to him. The Church has since accepted him as a pattern of what the Lord Jesus Christ would have done in each one of us. Paul was definitely a leader by appointment, by universal recognition, and by universal acceptance. His ministry was driven by mighty forces. His conversion was conspicuous and extreme. A great force that served as a magazine of aggressive and defensive spiritual warfare. His was a luminous and convincing call to the apostleship. But we must admit that his course was more distinctly shaped, and his career rendered even more powerfully successful, by his prayer life.
Praying for Humanity
St. Paul’s writing and speaking are punctuated with instantaneous, strenuous, persistent, and pathetic urgency for prayer. To St. Timothy, he exhorts that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men before all things (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1). This finds the greatest importance and is of the highest ranking in the truths for the Church. St. Paul is teaching that to the fore of all things, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a praying Church that prays for all men. When the Church prays, all humanity is to be affected by prayer. They’re good, their character, their conduct and their destiny are involved in prayer. We are aware and we agree that things, blessings, placements, matters and things which touch men are all objects of prayer. However, St. Paul sets forth men themselves, as the very objects of prayer. In essence, he broadens and ennobles prayer into a mighty grasp of the whole sweep and range of the conditions of mankind.
Praying About Everything, All the Time
To the Philippians, he charges that the church should have no anxiety at all. That in everything prayer should be made. That there is nothing which is too small to pray about—nothing which is too great for God to overcome (cf. Philippians 4:6). The Church at Thessalonica is to rejoice always and give itself to unceasing prayer, giving thanks to God in everything because this is the will of God concerning His Church on earth (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
He makes prayer to be the true test of character, arguing that fidelity to our conditions and being true to our relations will reveal the form of our prayerfulness. Some of our conditions will germinate and perfect our prayer, and some circumstances will seem very fitting to pray in. However, failing to pray in some conditions will also seem heartless and discordant. There will be moments we are faced with great storms of life, when natural and providential conditions of prayer will present themselves to us. At such times, we will feel helpless and without relief.
Great Solitary Prayer
St. Paul uses the example of living a widowhood as one such situation where a great sorrow comes to saintly persons (cf. 1 Timothy 5:3-10). He speaks of them as those who are to be honoured; for their sorrow is divine, and their piety aromatic and lightened by their bruised hearts. He speaks of the real widow (all alone) who has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. He paints the self-indulgent one as living in pleasure while spiritually dead. The true widow is great in prayer. Her prayers, born of her faith and her desolation, are a mighty force. The widowhood heart mightily appeals to God, for it is found to be in the way of intense, unwearied prayer.
Attributes of Effective Prayer
St. Paul was himself given to prayer. He continually and earnestly urges it in a way that shows how vitally important prayer is. He is insistent and persistent in this urging prayer, saying we must persevere in and keep watch in prayer (cf. Colossians 4:2). He wants us to remain in prayer. To be steadfast and faithful in prayer. To strongly stick to it. To stay at it with strength unto the end. To give prayer attention with vigour, devotion and constancy. To give it unremitting care.
It has to become a life-long business; to be followed with all diligence, fervour and toil. It must be a most engaging, heavenly, and lucrative business. It must be given such high and deserved dignity and importance, as to be followed without ceasing. It is not to let up nor break down. It is to be followed assiduously and without intermission. He presses this important matter upon us that we should pray with all prayer and supplication, and at every opportunity in the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:18). His wish is that men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, and doing it without anger or argument (cf. 1 Timothy 2:8).
St. Paul teaches that prayer should essentially rise up from our inner nature, for it is the Spirit who prays within us. Prayer is to be made without the natural feelings coming to surface, cultivating, being cherished and continued within. This should be a higher, better, and nobler inspiration to lift prayer upward since those natural feelings otherwise depress, hinder and suppress your prayer. St. Paul prayed in this fashion and could afford to ask the same of those to whom he ministered because he practiced what he preached. Since praying was the highest exercise in his personal life, prayer similarly assumed the high place in his teachings. His prayer example added force to his teaching on prayer. His practice of prayer ran in parallel to his teaching on prayer. His praying ensured that he was fitted to teach others what prayer was and what prayer could do. He could thus urge others not to neglect prayer since a lot depended on it. His being centred on prayer earned him first place in the apostleship, as well as the highest crown in the royalty of heaven (the crown of martyrdom).
Practice What You Preach
Therefore, if you would teach people to pray, surely you must yourself first be given to prayer. If you should urge prayer on others, you must surely first tread the path of prayer yourself. If you be a preacher who does but little preaching on prayer, you sure are not a praying preacher. If personal force, a strong will, a profound conviction, personal culture and talents, a divine call complete with divine empowerment could direct the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ without prayer, then logically speaking prayer would be absolutely unnecessary.
If impassioned loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ together with profound piety and an unwavering consecration to a high purpose could exist without devotion to prayer and exempt one from the necessity of prayer, then St. Paul would have been way up there with it. Yet the great, gifted, favoured and devoted St. Paul felt the necessity of unceasing prayer. He realized its urgent and pressing claim to its very necessity and felt the clamorous and insistent need for the unceasing prayer of the Church.
Prayer is the Backbone of the Church
The absolute necessity of prayer remains as a great moral force in the world today. It is an indispensable and inalienable factor in the progress and spread of the Gospel, and in the development of personal piety. There can be neither church success nor piety if there is no such prayer. The divine use and the nature of prayer is that the Church must pray everywhere and in everything. That the Church should continue instant in prayer and do it without ceasing.
Paul’s closeness to Timothy fitted him as the spiritual successor to Paul. He in time became the depository and the leader of the great spiritual principles and forces essential to the establishment and prosperity of the Church. St. Paul enforced this on him and made it radical in Timothy so that it was to him that the fundamental and vital truths were committed. Timothy was tasked to preserve these truths completely intact, to commit them inviolate to the future and to defend them from all injury.
These were divinely inspired words, written directly under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. This word of God, inspired, authentic and of divine Authority, is instructive about prayer. The words speak about how men ought to pray. They are so forceful about the reasons why men ought to pray. They should inspire you and me to pray effectively for everyone (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1).
Adapted from “Standing in the Gap – An Invite to Minister as Intercessor” by Dr. Pamela M. Idenya