Effective ministry starts with sincere prayer. This is our number one recommendation when it comes to starting or revamping a men’s ministry. The enemy doesn’t want churches to effectively reach and disciple men in the Gospel of Jesus, thus making prayer a vital part of overcoming the schemes of the devil. It sounds so simple, but God uses prayer to stretch and shape us more into the image of Christ. Jim Haddix discusses how critical prayer should look in our lives.
What does it mean to have your identity defined by a practice? Crying out to God regarding the oppression of his enemies, the Psalmist said, “In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer” (Psalm 109:4, ESV; emphasis mine). The footnote in my Bible says the phrase means “I am prayer.” I looked it up in the Hebrew, and that’s exactly what it means—I am prayer! In fact, the literal translation would be “I, prayer” suggesting an equation between the personal pronoun “I” and the noun “prayer.” The assertion that he is “prayer” is intended by the Psalmist to say that he takes refuge in God in prayer and commits his cause into His hands. The Psalter is evidence that the Psalmist was prayer. So what does it mean to be prayer?
What Does It Mean To Be Prayer?
To be prayer means to be so consumed by prayer that it permeates your very being. It grips you and you can’t get away from it. It enslaves you and you are its servant. Prayer has such a hold on you that you are at its bidding. You don’t use prayer; it uses you. You don’t practice prayer; it practices you. You don’t steal away to pray; prayer steals you away. To be prayer means that prayer controls you and your daily schedule. If and when your DNA is ever tested, the results indicate that you are a match with prayer.
To be prayer means to be so involved in prayer that people associate you with it. When your name is mentioned in a group, people think of prayer. As was the case with Praying Hyde, it becomes your first name. When people need someone to pray seriously and intently about some great cause or burden, they think of you. When people are searching for you, they look in the closet. When they see worn spots on the knees of your jeans, they know it’s not because you paid a lot of money to sport the latest fashion, but that you’ve been alone with the Lord.
To be prayer means to be so given to prayer that other priorities pale in comparison to it. It’s not merely the last thing you do each day; it’s the first. It’s not one among many things you do; it’s the thing you do. If you don’t accomplish anything else on your ‘to do’ list, you accomplish this. With King David you say, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, ESV). For you, everything takes a back seat to prayer.
To be prayer means to be so abandoned to prayer that you lose yourself in it. Like David Brainard, you kneel early to pray only to rise and realize that the day is gone. While others get lost looking for a destination or reading a good book, you get lost in your closet. While others may become disoriented to their surroundings when they get up too fast, you become disoriented to your surroundings by staying on your knees so long. Lost, for you, is not a popular TV show or even an unanticipated state of affairs, but a destination defined by communion with God.
To be prayer means to be so dependent on prayer that it is more important to you than daily food. Your hunger pains are not satisfied with a quick snack, but a quiet place. While others spend their lives looking for three square meals each day, you spend yours with the Psalmist looking for three Gethsemanes: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17, ESV). You never find yourself thinking you’re going to die if you don’t get something to eat, but only if you don’t get someplace to pray.
I want to be prayer.
Jim Shaddix serves as professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.