The backbone of anything done for God is prayer. The inner core of any work that will last for eternity comes from prayerful dependence on the LORD. Throughout the centuries, those who systematically, consistently, and dependently intercede for the people of God and ministries of the church make up that backbone.
In most cases, it’s the older, experienced, seasoned saints who understand this the best and and pray the most. A lifetime of walking, stumbling, and clinging to God has taught them the necessity of intercessory prayer.
Those who are younger more often look to external things that make churches thrive, attract people, and build the kingdom of God. Things like the design of the buildings and security of the facilities, the friendliness of the people, the style and the excellence of the music, the communication skills of the preacher, and other aspects of a church are usually seen as determining factors for the effectiveness of a church. Certainly, those are important matters and should be given careful thought and be fully funded, staffed, and led. The biblical and spiritual reality, however, is that virtually all advances of the church for the glory of God are the result of believers in Christ who understand the significance of prayer and faithfully pray.
Early in his military career under the leadership of Moses, Joshua learned that real strength was not in his sword, but in the power of God. The first mention of Joshua in the Bible comes after the Amalekites’ attack upon the stragglers at Israel’s rear following their exodus from Egypt:
“At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Select some men for us and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand.'” Exodus 17:8–9
Moses, now in his eighties, took the staff of God that he used to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16) and ascended a nearby hill overlooking the battlefield. Joshua, in his fighting prime, took charge of the army. In the ensuing battle, when Moses lifted up his hands in intercessory prayer, the army of Israel prevailed and when, due to fatigue, he lowered them, Amalek gained the advantage (Exodus 17:11). Soon Aaron and Hur were called to help and support Moses, seating him on a stone and standing each at one side to hold his hands up toward Heaven. When the sun went down, Joshua and the army of Israel had defeated Amalek and his army (Exodus 17:13).
That was a day Joshua would never forget. He learned that real victory was not in his own strength, military strategy, or leadership skills, but in the power of the LORD that comes through prayer. Forever fixed in his mind was the image of Aaron and Hur coming to Moses’ side and lifting his hands up to God in prayerful dependence. Throughout the rest of his life, Joshua put into practice the lesson he learned at Rephidim: the real power for any work done for God is prayer.
It’s the same today for us as the people of God. Prayer is the work that God uses to transform the world. E.M. Bounds said of leaders who have had effective spiritual impact, “They are not leaders because of brilliancy in thought, because of exhaustless in resources, because of native endowment, but leaders because by the power of prayer, they could command the power of God” (Prayer and Praying, Chapter VIII).
Prayer means much more than just saying prayers and much more than praying by habit or through a list. Prayer is more than believing in the power of prayer. Prayer is calling out to and depending completely upon the the personal, triune, sovereign God of Heaven who wants us to pray, hears us when we pray, and moves because we pray. That’s why prayer is the backbone for the work of the church. Prayer is the essential, inner-core strength that is required for spiritual victory in our lives, in our families, and in our friendships as we lift up our hands toward the LORD’s throne (Exodus 17:15-16, John 15:5-8, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Timothy 2:8, James 5:16).
Prayer is the reliance upon God that enables us to put on and utilize the full, spiritual armor of God, “for our battle is not against the flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, agains the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11-12). If we hope to have strength as the church and victory in this world, we must be the children of God who pray.
I’m praying today for a revival of real prayer to produce a spiritual revolution in our hearts that would empower us to change the world for God’s glory. Let it begin with me, LORD.
Follow me… as I follow Jesus Christ.