6 November, 2014 Andy Mason
Doing ministry always means that we have to grow in our prayer lives. Whether or not we start in ministry as ‘good prayer warriors’, it’s absolutely vital that we grow – because otherwise we’ll lead our congregations into spiritual disaster.
You may well remember Jesus’s exorcism of the little boy in Mark 9:14-32. The disciples can’t cast the demon out of the boy and are flabbergasted when Jesus comes down the mountain and, without further ado, performs a complete and immediate exorcism. Afterwards the disciples, having eaten a good dose of humble pie, ask Jesus “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”. Jesus’s answer is remarkable and challenging in its simplicity: “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
It’s easy to see the implication of what Jesus was saying: the disciples had been trying to exorcise a demon without prayer! We may never have been involved in an exorcism, but I think we would all agree that it is, by any standard, pretty crazy to try to cast out a demon without prayer. Yet in his thoughtful book on prayer, Deepening your Conversation with God, Ben Patterson points out that this something we do all the time. He points out that we’re constantly engaging in spiritual warfare, such as preaching, pastoring and evangelism, without significant times of prayer. We attempt to destroy the work of the evil one in people’s lives without resting significantly upon the power of Christ in prayer. In fact, we can build and organise whole ministries, church plants and outreach programmes without prayer. Of course, Patterson asks, we might ask ourselves if the particular things we’re doing, then, are really worth doing if we can do them without prayer. Do we really think that unbelief, sin and the devil can be overcome by our skilful preaching, thoughtful evangelism and well-researched teaching – but without prayer? One moment’s thought makes the answer obvious.
Realising that I have done this, and that I do still do this, makes me tremble and gets me on my knees. How foolish is prayerless ministry! Let’s ask the Lord to help us with this. He was patient with the disciples in all their prayerlessness (cf Mark 14:37-38) even as He rebuked and corrected them. Let’s aspire to be growing in prayerfulness and dependence. Let’s become leaders of prayer in our congregations and ministries. Maybe then we’ll see the devil being driven out in the name of Jesus.