One of the most amazing and misunderstood realities of the Christian life to me, is prayer. Having been a part of various prayer ministries over the past twenty plus years, I’ve seen a lot— some good, some not so good.
It is interesting that prayer is the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them about. Not how to do miracles, or how to raise the dead, heal the sick, or cast out demons; they wanted to know how to pray. They observed Jesus often withdrawing from the crowds to be alone with His Father, or getting up before dawn to seek His face. (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35) They witnessed the miracles that flowed from Him effortlessly throughout His short ministry. The times He seemed to know what His opponents were thinking captured their attention. (Luke 5:22; 6:8) They became frustrated when He cast out a demon they were unable to. (Mark 9:17-29) His teachings, full of wisdom and authority, unlike the religious leaders, made them realize He had something they didn’t. (Matt. 7:29) Eventually, they put two and two together and rightly concluded; His secret must be His prayer life.
Jesus demonstrated perfectly what a life of prayer and submission to the Father should look like. Several times He declared, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) He received specific instructions during the times He spent alone with His Father, and then obeyed what He saw or was told. Those intimate times produced a union of heart, mind, and spirit between Father and Son which resulted in Jesus’ perfect obedience and a life of fruitfulness. He later illustrated this spiritual union using an analogy from the natural realm— the grapevine and its branches. (John 15:1-8) Just as He could do nothing apart from His Father, so He said we could do nothing apart from Him. (v. 5) He clearly demonstrated that intimacy through prayer was the key to His success in ministry.
God never changes and neither does His Word. What was true for Jesus 2,000 years ago is true for us today. We too, must spend intimate time with our Father so that we may receive specific instructions, and grace to obey Him. He has chosen us and desires that we bear much fruit for His glory. (John 15:16) But He wants us to do so from the place of intimacy, where fruitfulness flows effortlessly, with no straining or striving. He even warns us about the perils of relying solely on our giftings, rather than intimacy with Him. (Matt. 7:21-23) Our first calling is to know Him intimately, for when we do, everything else will fall into place.