As Christian women who desire to love God and love others, we lead full lives. There’s always something to do because there’s always someone with a need. How do we stay faithful to God’s call to minister to the needs of others when we have needs of our own? How do we serve others well when we’re weak and needy ourselves?
We find the answer by looking at the example of Jesus. Throughout his earthly ministry, we see him constantly in demand. He was a busy man, doing what God called him to do. His disciples wanted to be with him and wanted him to teach them. Crowds followed him everywhere. Sick people wanted his healing. Hungry people wanted him to feed them. It sounds like our own lives, doesn’t it?
Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully man in a physical human body, meaning he had needs like us. He experienced hunger, tiredness, hurt, and temptation like we do. How did he keep going? How did he handle the constant demands and continue to selflessly serve and love others?
Prayer: Jesus’ Method for Ministry Life
Even though there were always people who needed him, Jesus took time to be alone with God. He intentionally removed himself from the hustle and bustle to pray. All throughout his day—and even sometimes throughout his night—Jesus remained in constant communion with the Father. He prayed:
- Alone (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18; 22:39–41)
- In public (John 11:41–42; 12:27–30)
- Before meals (Matthew 26:26; Mark 8:6; Luke 24:30; John 6:11)
- Before important decisions (Luke 6:12–13)
- Before healing (Mark 7:34–35)
- After healing (Luke 5:16)
- To do the Father’s will (Matthew 26:36–44)
- With loud crying and tears (Hebrews 5:7)
- Short prayers (Luke 23:34, 46; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)
- Long prayers (John 17)
- In the morning (Mark 1:35)
- During the night (Luke 6:12)
- In the wilderness (Luke 5:16)
- On the mountain (Luke 6:12)
Jesus’ ministry came from his intimacy with his Father. Think about this. Jesus was truly man, yet he lived a perfect life and never sinned. He was truly God—all-powerful and all-knowing. Still, he prayed. God’s Son, Jesus, humbly sought communion with the Father because he depended on the Father to live according to God’s will. He needed God’s help.
How much more necessary is it for us imperfect, sinful human beings to cultivate the discipline of prayer?
The Problem of Prayerlessness
Nevertheless, for most Christians, prayerlessness is an ongoing problem. I’ve never met a Christian satisfied with their prayer life. Everyone believes they could pray more or pray better. Why is prayer such a struggle?
Part of the problem is pride. Jackie Hill Perry said, “Prayerlessness is a sign that I believe I only need myself to keep myself throughout the day.” When we don’t pray, we live as though we don’t need God.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT). Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing! Even so, we try, don’t we? This is pride.
We need God’s help to live righteously and to love others well, which means we must pray. Prayer is an act of humility. It’s an admission that we can’t do anything by our own strength, with our own skill, or because of our own intellect. It’s an acknowledgment of our need for Christ.
A common reason for prayerlessness is sin. Sometimes when I feel guilty about a sin in my own life, I unintentionally neglect prayer. Even if I’m compelled to pray, I somehow manage to avoid it as if my subconscious restrains me. Eventually, I realize the hindering power of my guilt, my sense of shame before our holy God.
John offers a simple solution: “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can confess our sins and receive forgiveness because of the perfect love and humility of Jesus Christ. When he gave his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, he took our punishment. By trusting in him for our salvation, confessing our sins, and receiving his forgiveness, we get a clean slate. As it says in Hebrews 4:16, we can come boldly to the throne of our gracious God and find grace to help us when we need it most.
The Blessings of Prayer
The reason God sent his Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins is because he really, truly, actually loves us and desires a relationship with us. It’s not just to save us from eternity in hell. It’s also so we can enjoy knowing him right now, today, during our stay here on earth—and prayer is part of that!
Prayer isn’t a task on our to-do lists. It’s not a box to check on the list of “how to be a good Christian”. When we pray, we commune with God our Father—the wonderful Counselor, the great Physician, our good Shepherd, the Creator of the universe, and the sovereign Lord of all. Prayer is not a “have-to”; it’s a “get-to”. It’s a basic part of our relationship with him.
Even more, God truly listens to our prayers. Psalm 116:1–2 (NLT) says, “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Like a loving adult bending down to eye-level with a child to hear them, God bends down to hear us.
Prayer isn’t for his benefit—though he delights in it. We grow through prayer. Through prayer, we abide in him, lay down our burdens, and receive a peace beyond comprehension—a peace that makes no sense considering our circumstances, a supernatural peace that baffles the world. Philippians 4:6–7 encourage us in this: “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus”.
That peace comes from his presence. No matter what we’re doing, where we are, or what we’re experiencing, he remains with us. We are not alone. Through it all, we can commune with him.
As we abide in him by prayer, he ministers to our own needs so we can minister to the needs of others. He nourishes, strengthens, and guides us to walk according to his will, loving others well, and bringing glory to our Father in heaven.