Worship and Prayer
Perhaps the highest and loftiest acts a Christian can have toward God are worship and prayer. These two acts are uniquely vertical – they are the only things a believer does that are directly toward God and that directly bring him or her into relationship and communion with God. The one exception is the reading of Scripture, but that is a means to bring us to worship and prayer. All other aspects of the Christian life are horizontal – they are outward toward others. Worship and prayer are uniquely God-centred. They deal with God alone and bring us to him relationally.
Therefore, these ought to be viewed as the most primary acts and responsibilities of the Christian. Nothing is to take precedence over worship and prayer. If neglected, all other aspects of the Christian life will wither. Nothing about the Christian life can survive or thrive without them. Supremely important and the most vital of all is worship and prayer.
If this is true, is it not a wonderful grace that both of these acts – worship and prayer – are not dependent upon anything external? They don’t require a group of people, money, education, or politics. You don’t have to be especially smart, gifted, and outgoing to worship or pray. You don’t have to know someone and get a committee to organize anything.
Prayer and worship can be done anytime, anywhere, and by any Christian, regardless of their abilities, financial status, education, or people skills. All that is needed is one thing – a heart for prayer and worship. The two greatest ministries there are can be done without a newsletter, a ministry staff or an office. They can be done quietly from an apartment or bedroom. Nothing to do except draw near and stay there. Get alone and get with God. He has promised the one who goes to the prayer closet that ‘He is in secret and sees in secret.’
Why are so many people who are wanting to be involved in ‘ministry’ only pursuing outward ministries? Young men want a ministry of preaching, evangelism, music, missions, and service, yet the ministry of private worship and prayer is greatly neglected. Not many at all feel ‘called’ to that ministry. The reason is because worship and prayer are not before men – they are not done publicly, to be seen by men. They are not busy activities, but are done in stillness and in private. Yet these two acts in the Christian life take more discipline, more calling, and more grace than anything else that could be done.
It is much easier to preach, evangelize, take mission trips, and do other ministry than it is to pray. But the highest, loftiest, and most difficult ministry of all is private prayer. And it is probably the most needed today.
I have been a Christian almost 38 years. I have heard many people say, ‘I believe I am called to preach or pastor;’ ‘I know God has called me to be a missionary;’ ‘I am called to lead music in worship.’ But there are few who view prayer as a life’s work and calling, and who give up time with people and public ministry to be away and alone in the secret place to pray.
The priorities of private worship and prayer are greatly neglected today. People would rather be with people and be active than be still before God. But at the end of life, when we enter into old age, there will be many activities we cannot do any more and will have to give up:
- write or use a computer when you always could before
- go to church meetings when you always could before
- preach and teach when you did it for forty years
- travel and do missions when you were so active and healthy
- write books or tracts when your mind was still clear
- do outward acts of service when your body worked correctly
In other words, when all ability to do outward activities has ceased and you must sit all day or lie on a bed with illness, there are only two activities you can do until you die – prayer and worship.
So if these two are 1) the primary acts toward God; 2) the most needed and most neglected; 3) can be done without needing anything except a heart for them; 4) can be done until you die; – if this is true, why not do them more now? Who among us is called to make prayer their priority in 2011? Among all the young people and college students, who say, ‘I want a life of prayer – I will give up outward ministry positions, live at home and rent a cheap room, work part-time, and pray most of my time’?
Who feels called to a ministry of prayer before a calling to missions? Who will give up the spotlight of public ministry to be hidden away with God?
When the Christian life begins, a new convert can worship and pray; when a couple doesn’t have any ‘ministry’, they can have a ministry of prayer; when you are financially broke, you can pray for others; when life is nearing its end, your body is broken, and all you can do is sit or lie on a bed, still you can pray and worship God.
When Leonard Ravenhill had to jump from a burning hotel in 1951 in Chicago, he had seven major breaks in his body – feet, legs, arms, and back; his preaching trip to many countries was cancelled, all outward activity was stopped, busyness was gone and everything ceased. For a year, he could do nothing but lie in bed in pain. Then one night, he read Luke’s gospel about the woman who came to Jesus and never said a word – she just washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She worshipped. Ravenhill then realized he could do something in that bed – his heart could go up to Jesus in prayer and his heart could worship God when he had nothing else to do and no ability to do anything else. These two things he did for a year from his bed. It changed him forever. Worship and prayer became his priorities.
I wonder this coming year if it can become a priority for any of us? Time is passing, life is passing, and many of us may be wasting time on outward things that don’t count for eternity – may we give ourselves now to two things we can do when we are ninety in a nursing home or on a sick bed – worship and prayer.
So here’s a call to all younger people – if you are desiring to serve God and don’t know what he wants you to do, choose a ministry of prayer. You already know he has told you to pray and develop your prayer life. You are thinking about whether God wants you in ministry full time and what ministry he want you to do – preaching, teaching, mission? Give yourself to prayer. Ask Christ, ‘Lord, teach me to pray.’ Just give yourself to a ministry of prayer. Don’t tell others; don’t talk about it, or write and blog about it, and don’t have motives for others to know it. Just do it. Make prayer your priority and your ministry.
Secondly, here’s an invitation. For any brother or couple who want to have a time of prayer together any day of the week, I invite you to pray with me. I will pray with you. It’s easy to have a prayer meeting by phone or on Skype.
Worship and prayer shape everything we are and everything we do. 2011 is a good year for these to become more than they have ever been in our lives.
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