Prayer and Disciple MakingJoel Owen - Lead Pastor | Grace Fellowship Church | Kingsport, TN
I meet with the men I disciple on Wednesday nights while my kids are involved with our Student Ministry. For several weeks a new group of men had been with me and we had been going through the gospel of Mark together. At the end of our third night together I asked one of the guys to close our time together in prayer and I could immediately sense a change in him. He just looked at me like I had asked him to build a rocket ship that would take us all to the moon. With a timid voice and more than a little hesitation, he said, “I’ve never really prayed in front of other people out loud before.” This act of speaking to God that I took for granted and did with regularity, he found to be a terrifying request. We assured him it was fine, he was among friends and could say the most basic prayer imaginable and it would be great. So, he prayed! He felt awkward and frightened, but he did it. And it was beautiful.
This method of talking to God can be scary and intimidating for someone who has never really learned what prayer is. No wonder Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. The reality is, Jesus’ disciples knew how to pray. But when Jesus prayed it was different: it wasn’t impersonal. He talked to God with intimacy and the disciples wanted to learn how to be in fellowship with God in that intimate way. So Jesus began to model prayer for them by simply saying, “Our Father in heaven…” This wasn’t an impersonal God Jesus was teaching them to pray to, it was their Father. Tyler Staton, in his book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, wrote: “When it comes to prayer, God isn’t grading essays; He’s talking to children.”
I take great joy in helping others learn to communicate with God in a personal and intimate way. But I also love praying in the role of intercessor for those I’m discipling. One of the greatest privileges I have with those I’m in relationship with is to pray with them when we are together and to intercede for them when we are apart. The thing I consistently find means the most to the men I disciple is when I call them or text them and tell them a specific thing I’m praying about for their life. The fact that I am thinking of them when we are not together and pray specifically for them has had a profound impact on deepening the discipleship we have together. Along these lines, I think of Jesus, who in one moment both shocked Peter and blessed him when he told Peter (Simon), “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32a) Jesus knew what Peter would struggle with in a spiritual battle and He prayed for him to stand strong in faith.
Praying for the people I disciple has bonded our hearts closer together. It has deepened our relationship with one another. We have learned to trust each other with deep heart and life issues. Letting those I’m discipling know how to pray for me also causes a level of transparency that models for them that I have life struggles as well and need them to be praying for me. The more intimately acquainted I am with God in prayer, the more I can help those I’m discipling become people of prayer.
My friend I mentioned earlier, who had never prayed out loud in front of other men before, became more accustomed to the practice and more in love with Jesus in the time we spent together. As a result, his nervousness to pray out loud disappeared and his prayers became more and more heartfelt and conversational with his Father. Prayer is one of the most powerful tools a disciple maker has at his/her disposal to help shape people to be like Jesus and walk in intimacy with God. Prayer takes place and then God’s presence comes; prayer takes place and then God’s power falls on us.
Grace Fellowship Church