EARLEY: Praying like resurrection disciple
By Al Earley
How long ago was Easter? Have you thought much about Jesus Christ rising from the dead so you have the victory over sin, death, and evil since then? What effect is such an event supposed to have on your life? Is it supposed to have any effect at all?
During Jesus’ life the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The prayer Jesus taught them is a powerful Bible prayer. The opening words ring familiar to most Christians when we hear the words, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). However, the disciples did not learn to pray very well during Jesus’ ministry. We can see this in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asks His disciples to pray for Him while He prays to prepare for what is to come.
Instead of praying, the disciples spent the time sleeping. If they had prayed they may have responded much better to the events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Instead, they did all the terrible things Jesus told them they would do: denied Him, fled from Him, and were consumed by fear. The resurrection changed all that. After the resurrection the disciples prayed regularly, earnestly, and full of faith that their prayers mattered. That is the challenge for you and I if we want Easter to be more than a date on the calendar.
We can learn much about the resurrection disciple’s prayer life from Acts 12. It is a year since Jesus’ death and resurrection, the next Passover. At the beginning of the chapter we read, “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). James was the second person to die for his faith (the first was Stephen, Acts 7), and the first disciple. It rocked the church and emboldened Herod. So, Herod arrested Peter with the intention of killing him too.
The other disciples gathered and prayed for Peter’s release. Why hadn’t they lost faith in prayer? It didn’t seem to help when Stephen and James were killed? They had learned that prayer by resurrection disciples is not always to invite God to heal, save, or rescue. Sometimes prayer is to discern the will of God as the Lord’s prayer states, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
That night God answered their prayer for Peter’s release as an angel escorted Peter out of his prison cell, while being chained to the floor and surrounded by sixteen centurions. It was an easy accomplishment while being escorted by an angel from God, otherwise it would have been nearly impossible (Acts 12:5-19). God wants us to pray prayers of intercession for those who are in times of need. Prayers for others opens the flood gates of God’s mercy, and God often waits to act upon our prayerful invitation.
God also wants us to learn to hear His voice so we can hear His gentle whisper to our soul so we know what His will is. Sometimes God’s will is not what we start praying for, but the resurrection disciple learns to listen for God’s will and adjust his/her prayers. It takes time to learn to listen for the voice of God. It takes a quiet soul to hear the gentle whisper of God. It takes a desire to hear God’s will for our life before we will be motivated to make life changes so we can hear God’s voice and listen for God’s will. This is what the disciples learned was necessary to be a resurrection disciple who would know to pray in good times and bad, in times of freedom and imprisonment, torture, and death.
Have you ever heard God’s gentle whisper during your prayer time? Do you want to know what God’s will is for your life, or do you like living according to your own will? Is it important to know what your creator has planned for you? Do you want to pray like a resurrection disciple? There are a lot of good books about how to hear the voice of God when you pray. I want to recommend a book called Transforming Prayer by Daniel Henderson as a unique look at how to grow closer to God through prayer. I hope you have a happy Easter over the course of this next year.
To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.org.