This is a great question because it helps us keep the main thing the main thing.
Typically we have three substitutes for prayer—
(1) Ignoring the problem. We’re like the board of directors that was facing falling sales and falling profits, but their solution was to just wait for something magical to happen.
(2) Talking about the problem. Christians often call this “a prayer request.” We take 10 minutes to give our friends all the gory, depressing details of our situation and oftentimes say “please pray for me” as we walk away. Solomon said, “Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
(3) Working to solve the problem. This isn’t in the Bible, but many times we act as if it is: God helps those who help themselves. Instead, God wants us to call on Him so He can reveal things to us (see Jeremiah 33:3).
Something that is in the Bible is this: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But there is a condition for this, and it’s the part of the sentence that comes before the asking that makes all the difference—
If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7).
Oswald Chambers said, “We are apt to think of prayer as a common-sense exercise of our higher powers in order to prepare us for work; whereas in the teaching of Jesus, prayer is not to fit us for the ‘greater works,’ prayer is the work. Prayer is…the means whereby we assimilate more and more of His mind, and the means whereby He unveils His purposes to us.”
Prayer IS the work!
We don’t ignore the problem, and we don’t just talk about the problem. But neither do we pray and then work on the problem. Prayer is the work!
It can’t be stated enough: Prayer doesn’t prepare us to work, prayer IS the work.
Even the Apostle Paul identified this in his teaching on spiritual warfare. In language similar to what Jesus said in John 15:7, Paul says, “Be strong IN the Lord and IN His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God SO THAT you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
Paul doesn’t tell us to ignore the devil’s schemes, nor does he tell us to talk about them. But neither does he tell us to put on God’s armor to fight against the devil’s schemes. He tells us to put on the armor of God so that we can pray (see Ephesians 6:18-20).
The armor of God is NOT to fight in, but to shield us while we pray!
PRAYER IS THE BATTLE … PRAYER IS THE WORK
When you are facing a difficulty, don’t ignore it, don’t just talk about it, and don’t go to work fighting it. Listen to the Holy Spirit asking you, “Have you prayed about it,” and then drop to your knees and PRAY!
This principle is illustrated so wonderfully in the life of David. We’ll be looking at David’s prayers over the next few weeks, and I hope you will join me in learning that prayer is the battle!