CALL TO PRAYER: Learn from Jesus to pray
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world. This particular Call to Prayer is an edited excerpt from an interview between Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. To read or hear the entire interview, visit http://jasonkallen.com/2014/03/conversation-steve-gaines-prayer/.
KANSAS CITY (BP) -- The Lord Jesus is the only expert on prayer. Though He was God in the flesh, He put a high premium on prayer. How do you explain that? I do not know, except He knew that communication with the Father was imperative.
Jesus prayed openly.
Luke recorded that Jesus prayed at His baptism. As He prayed, the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God came down upon Him (Luke 3:21). I love that. One of the ways you open heaven is to pray.
Jesus prayed intentionally.
Immediately after His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days of prayer and fasting. As He prayed He came under temptation, but was victorious through prayer, fasting, and knowing and quoting Scripture -- the only protection any of us have with any type of temptation. Jesus came out of the wilderness with an anointing upon Him. He came out "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14).
Jesus prayed constantly.
In his Gospel account, Mark noted that early in the morning while it was still dark, after a very busy previous day and night, Jesus went out to a place of solitude and prayed (Mark 1:35). The language suggests it was a protracted time of prayer. This was an apparent regular practice, for Luke indicated that Jesus often slipped away into the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16).
When Jesus fed the 5,000, He took the little boy's lunch and blessed it. He prayed over it and there was abundance.
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas knew exactly where to find Him because John recorded that Jesus frequently went to that place to pray.
Jesus prayed fervently.
Luke records that Jesus prayed fervently, and His sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). It was very intense prayer. The writer of Hebrews noted that in the Garden, Jesus prayed with "loud crying and tears," and "was heard because of his piety" (Hebrews 5:7, NASB).
Jesus prayed redemptively.
Jesus prayed on the cross! Several of the sayings from the cross are prayers. Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing."
Then he prayed twice by quoting from the Psalms. He prayed Scripture when he prayed Psalm 22:1, which is a prophetic text about the crucifixion. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" he asked (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).
One of the most vivid descriptions of the cross is Psalm 22. I have often said, "You would never have the Shepherd of Psalm 23, if you had not had the Savior dying for us in Psalm 22." Jesus prayed Psalm 22:1 on the cross. He also prayed from the Psalms when he said, "In your hands I commit my Spirit" (Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5).
Jesus prays everlastingly.
Even in His resurrected state at Emmaus, our Lord would not put a morsel of bread in His resurrected mouth before He prayed over it (Luke 24:30).
In His role as the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Timothy 2:5), we read that "He ever lives to make intercession" for those who "draw near to God through him" (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is praying right now. One of the most encouraging things I know is that Jesus prays for his children.
The question for us.
If the Son of God needed to pray while He was on this earth, how much more do we need to pray? The early church gained its power through prayer!
Some people say the problems with the church today -- lethargy, lack of power, impotence -- are because we do not preach the pure Gospel or we do not sing the right songs. I do not think the problems are found in songs or sermons. Think about it. We all believe that Jesus died an atoning, sacrificial death. We know He was raised bodily from the dead. We call people to repentance and faith in Christ. We sing, as Paul instructed, "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). I think we sing the same songs and preach the same sermons.
The reason we do not see the movement of God is because we do not pray like the early church prayed. Prayer is the secret to it all. I have asked the Lord for years to get me to the point where I would rather pray than preach. We ought not try to talk for the Lord before we talk with the Lord.
I say with and not to because God speaks to us. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). Deuteronomy 13:4 says, "You will hear my voice." Isaiah said, "Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way; walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or the left" (Isaiah 30:21).
God speaks to us through His Word, impressions and His Holy Spirit. The more we talk with the Lord, the more the Lord talks with us.
The ultimate answer is to study what Jesus taught on prayer as summarized in the Lord's Prayer. It downloads a pattern for us to follow. It includes praise at the beginning, surrender of the will, asking for forgiveness, intercession, petition and spiritual warfare. All of that is in there. It is an amazing pattern. I have used that over the years in my prayer life, and it has changed my life.
Steve Gaines is senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).