War is savage. Cruel weapons kill and disfigure. Atomic bombs decimate whole cities. Bullets and shrapnel shatter bones and rip through flesh. Swords pierce and slash and maim. Yet “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
The written word has done more to shape history than the smiting sword. Just a few short books have had a greater im-pact on humanity than all the battles that have ever been fought. The Koran has brought more people under its in-fluence than have the combined efforts of Muslim military might. Luther’s “95 Theses” nailed to a church door in Ger-many shook Europe more than many armies. Einstein’s little formula, e=mc2, scrawled on a piece of paper was the real detonating force of the hydrogen bomb.
Yet there is something far more powerful than the pen, and that is prayer. In fact, the key to true power is perseverance in private prayer. Prayer prevails. Prayer produces. Prayer is preeminent. God calls us to persistent prayer.
Prayer Produces and Prevails
Prayer opens up the heavens:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit de-scended on Him in bodily form like a dove… (Luke 3:21-22).
[Jesus] took Peter, John and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning (Luke 9:28-29).
Prayer gets resounding results:
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
We Need More Prayer
Could it be that we need more prayer? “Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer.”
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests… (Ephesians 6:18).
Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of His Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times… (Romans 1:9-10).
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you… (1 Samuel 12:23).
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers (2 Timothy 1:3).
Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
We’re No Better Than Jesus, Peter and Paul, Are We?
This is the Word of the Lord!
Jesus needed to pray. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed” (Mark 1:35). Many times, “…crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). The Son of God gave Himself to prayer, not in spite of the crowds, but because of the crowds. Without prayer, even He could do nothing. Prayer was His lifeline to the Father.
Peter needed to pray. This was his pattern before the Spirit fell: “When they arrived [in Jerusalem], they went upstairs to the upper room where they were staying….They all joined together constantly in prayer…” (Acts 1:13-14). After he was Spirit-immersed, his habit didn’t change. When the grieving disciples brought Peter into the room where Tabitha (Dorcas) was laid, “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40). He knew where his true strength was found.
Paul needed to pray. When he was struck down on the road to Damascus, he was blind for three days, eating and drinking nothing. What was he doing? “The Lord told [Ananias], ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying” (Acts 9:11). Throughout his many years of ministry, he never graduated from the school of prayer: “[Publius’] father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him” (Acts 28:8).
We are no better than Jesus, Peter, or Paul. We need to pray. When we concentrate in prayer, things happen. Yet we are so often lax and distracted! Moody Stuart had three rules for prayer. Most of us have not yet mastered the first one: “Pray till you pray.” (The other rules were: “Pray till you are conscious of being heard; pray till you receive the answer.”) Have you ever spent an hour in prayer without even praying ten minutes?
We find it hard to focus our attention on God and keep our thoughts from wandering. That’s why Peter exhorted his flock to “be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Pet. 4:7). But we do not take prayer seriously enough. We often pray out of a sense of obligation, to complete the requirements on our daily spiritual “checklist.” We try to fit prayer in, or we pray so as to not fall away. For many of us, just finding time to pray is the great struggle. But Jesus took for granted that we would pray. (See Matthew 6:6, “When you pray…”) That is not so much where the battle should be. Fervent prayer is the battle.