Man Does Not Live on Podcasts Alone

Thoughts on the Leader's Prayer Life

by Jim Essian February 22, 2016

Man does not live on podcasts alone. The Christian leader that forsakes disciplined communion with God through the scriptures and prayer is like a man on a fast food diet. Of course he’s not healthy. A genetically modified Gospel of regurgitated good news consumed only through your favorite preacher or author never produces gold, silver, or precious stones, but wood, hay, and straw that won’t last the fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

The healthy leader feasts from the source and communes with his God. When you go for a run or work out, do you want fast food afterward? Of course not, your body craves nutrients, real food, whole food—the healthy leader prays hungry with her bible open.

Tim Keller defines prayer as “a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God."

[Thus], prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him . . . The problem is that if God is not the starting point, then our own perceived emotional needs become the drivers and sole focus of our prayer… prayer brings perspective, shows the big picture, gets you out of the weeds, reorients you to where you really are.[1]

The norm then, should be that the Word drives us to prayer. When we read the bible it’s God’s living and active communication to us; and in prayer, we respond to him. Additionally, without prayer as a response, when we read the bible it just becomes a one-way conversation and we don’t actually commune with God. “Prayer turns theology into experience.” The Puritans viewed Scripture as God speaking to them as a father speaks to his children. “The worst sin is prayerlessness,” wrote Peter T. Forsyth— a child who won’t respond to the Father who loves them.

So with Bible open, the God of the universe leading the conversation (“who is man that you are mindful of him!”), consider these six aspects of your role in the dialogue:

Hope expectantly in prayer: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Jesus’ words are open to you, so pray with great expectation! When we pray according to God’s promises we can be assured our prayers will be answered. For example, James 4:2-3 says that you do not have because you do not ask. Do you need wisdom? Jesus’ little brother has already told us we just need to ask (James 1:5).

If we only pray a little, it’s probably because we don’t really believe that prayer accomplishes much at all.  But with God’s promises before us, we should hope expectantly in prayer.

Labor in prayer: We may have to wait: “We should frequently bring a request to God and then wait silently before Him. In those times of waiting on the Lord (Psalms 27:14; 38:15; 130:5-6), God may change the desires of our heart, give us additional insight into the situation we are praying about, grant us additional insight into His Word, bring a passage of Scripture to mind that would enable us to pray more effectively, impart a sense of assurance of what His will is, or greatly increase our faith so that we are able to pray with much more confidence.”[2]

We have to be disciplined: “First, whoever engages in prayer should apply to it his faculties and efforts, and not, as commonly happens, be distracted by wandering thoughts. For nothing is more contrary to reverence for God than the levity that marks an excess of frivolity utterly devoid of awe. In this matter, the harder we find concentration to be, the more strenuously we ought to labor after it.”[3]

We labor in warfare when we pray: “Put on the whole armor of God…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:11,18).

Prayer will be laborious; communication on the battlefield always is.

Constant in prayer: We should always be talking with God. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…pray without ceasing” (Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Lead in prayer: Do you pray for the people you lead? The people entrusted to your care? Have you noticed that Paul can’t seem to start a letter to his people without telling them he’s been praying for them?

“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you…that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers…”—(Romans 1:8-10)

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”—(1 Corinthians 1:4)

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.”—(1 Thessalonians 1:2)

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”—(Ephesians 1:16)

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”—(Colossians 1:3)

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”—(Philippians 1:3-4)

Repent in prayer: “Since prayer is a relationship with God as a person, anything in our lives that displeases him will be a hindrance to prayer.”[4] 1 Peter 3 says that husbands must live with their wives in an understanding way. If not their “prayers may not be hindered.” Why are their prayers hindered? Because God wants to show husbands that when their earthly marriage is fractured so is their heavenly one.”[5]

"God promises that ‘he will be near to all who call upon him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18), and states that those who seek him with all their heart will find him (Jeremiah 29:13-14). For this reason, they who delight in their own foulness aspire not at all. Lawful prayer, therefore, demands repentance.”[6]

Worship in prayer: 1 Corinthians 14:15 says that we should pray with our mind and our spirit—we should worship in prayer. Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and thanked the Father (Luke 10:21). When we sing in corporate worship we are, essentially, singing prayers to God.

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[1] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 670.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 384.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 854.

[4] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 385.

[5] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 385.

[6] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 856.