When I was a child, a Plaster-of-Paris, wall-plaque was a hallmark of Vacation Bible School (VBS). A standard quotation was: ‘Prayer Changes Things’. I could still see those plaques hanging on the walls of my childhood home. That concept marked my daily life in many ways. It all began with my Dad’s belief in the power of prayer.
He fashioned his family’s prayer life after the Old Testament practice of the morning sacrifice and the evening sacrifice. He would gather his brood of fifteen kids (twelve at home at any given period of my life until I was a teenager) around the ‘family altar’ which was the living room.
After singing hymns with the appropriate phrases to remind us ‘why’ we were doing this (see this: http://www.hymnary.org/text/o_god_inspire_our_morning_hymn and this : https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/616 ) he would read the Scriptures to us or let us take turns reading (most of us learned to read this way).
The act of prayer followed. He would have us all kneel in humility to the Most High God, and he would listen to each one pray before closing in a very long prayer, committing each child to God from oldest to youngest. Long after his kids left home, he continued the practice, so that visits back home were punctuated in the early morning, by Dad, praying for each child as he was wont to do, on his knees before God.
There are over 100 references in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, of an inferior person ‘bowing down’ to a superior person. Is it any wonder that the 3rd. Commandment in Exodus 20 reads: 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Dad interpreted the term ‘bow down’ to literally mean getting on one’s knees as a demonstration of humility before a holy God. I still prefer to kneel in prayer. That posture helps me focus on God because it is not a normal posture. I am more alert then, than sitting with bowed head. Many of the great prayers of the Bible were done on the ‘pray-ers’ knees. This generation of Christians do not often kneel to pray.
Many Christians read the Bible and pray after the midday and/or evening meal while everyone is still present and accounted for. They often pray sitting down. It seems easier to pray with clasped hands or outstretched hands than to fall on our knees before a Great and Mighty King Who is holy and before Whom ‘every knee shall bow’.
My Dad believed that prayer should be the first thing one did if he/she were sick. Dad would come to our bedside and lay hands on us, anoint us with oil as per James 5:14, and pray for us. He would always remind us that we were going to ‘The Great Physician’. There was also a hymn sung for that too: (https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/990) .
Dad also taught us how to pray AND fast. With such a large family, there were many days of adversity, which warranted a reminder of the words of Psalm 37:25: I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.
This Scripture has been a source of great comfort to me over the years, pointing me to Jehovah Jireh-The One Who Provides. For Dad, prayer changed everything, and for difficult circumstances, prayer AND fasting was necessary. I witnessed many answers to prayers which could only be explained supernaturally.
The work of God cannot be done without prayer and the commensurate humility. Every leader should be a praying leader. Every leader should be expecting God to answer prayers.
I recently spoke to a senior elder from our denomination. I was asking him for direction in crafting a leadership curriculum for the youth whose lives we hope to influence. His advice was:
- That youth should be given basic training in ‘how to walk with God and how to keep one’s life in tune with Christ’ through the daily study of the Scriptures and prayer.
- That if they do not learn this their leadership will fall down.
- That there is a need to understand the dynamics between a holy life and leadership.
- That leaders need to know how to get away from personal sin; leaders need to learn to live like they pray.
Our vision for training and mentoring leaders reflects these basic principles for Godly, generational, leadership. We believe that the prayer: ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven’, should be prayed in the context of a vision of teaching, training and launching successive generations of image bearers of Christ.
We hope to impress upon our young people, that the Scripture is sufficient and relevant for all of life, but only if they develop an intimate knowledge of the Bible through daily study and prayer.
What is your experience or perspective on prayer? Tell us about it at: firstname.lastname@example.org