Prayer and Our Call to Ministry
Part 2 in a series on Prayer by Tim Bias
Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest wrote, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.” Over the next several weeks I want to focus on the greater work of prayer. It is my hope, my desire, to raise up a new generation of Methodists who will do for our day what John and Charles Wesley did for their day.
If prayer is the greater work, how do we engage in prayer in such a way that our lives are transformed and we become more the people God created us to be?
If prayer is the greater work, let’s make the time to focus upon this greater work. Over the next several weeks we will focus on the following: prayer and our call to ministry, prayer and our focus in ministry, prayer and our colleagues in ministry, and prayer and the sacredness of ministry.
What does prayer have to do with it?
Let’s find out.
It is amazing that the disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to tell a parable, multiply the loaves, or heal the sick; but they did ask him to teach them how to pray. And when asked, Jesus taught them a pattern of prayer, the Lord’s prayer.
The disciples’ request and the response of Jesus is more than a reminder of the importance of prayer for them and for us. To develop a pattern of prayer that becomes as natural as breathing will not only strengthen your life but become the basis of the transformation of the world in which you live.
In Luke’s Gospel, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray (Chapter 11), Jesus has been in prayer from the time of his baptism. It is interesting that Matthew and Mark do not mention prayer at his baptism, but Luke has Jesus praying. Why? What does prayer have to do with it?
Prayer and Our Call To Ministry
21 When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened22 and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” Luke 3:21-22 (CEB)
From Luke’s perspective, this is the first reference to prayer in the life of Jesus. It comes in relationship to his baptism. The image is that Jesus is in line waiting for his turn to be baptized. “When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized.”
An “Also” Event
Unlike Matthew and Mark, who give a description of Jesus’ baptism, Luke does not give us a description. The baptism itself is an “also” event. The focus for Luke is upon Jesus praying. “While he was praying, heaven was opened.”
The baptism is over. The attention is not on the baptism but on Jesus praying. “While he was praying, heaven was opened… “And there was a voice from heaven: You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
The words, “…heaven was opened…” come from Isaiah 64. The splitting of the heavens was a prophetic sign of the beginning of a new age. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove upon Jesus. The words, “voice from heaven: You are my Son…” come from Psalm 2:7. The words are used in relation to the coronation of a king. And the words, “in you I find happiness” or in another translation, “with whom I am pleased,” come from Isaiah 42. The words refer to the suffering servant of God.
While he was praying there was a moment of clarification and affirmation of his identity in relationship to God. It was while he was praying that God laid claim to his life. After he was baptized, while he was praying, Jesus received confirmation of his call and direction for his ministry.
Prayer & Holy Spirit Power
What about “the Holy Spirit?”
In Luke’s gospel, Holy Spirit brings power. For Luke, there is a connection between prayer and power. There is a connection between Jesus praying and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “After he is baptized, while he was praying, heaven opened up and the Holy Spirit came down…” This is the moment Jesus receives clarification of who he is and of his role. He is crowned king, recognized as suffering servant, and anointed for God’s work. This is the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus. This also points ahead to Jesus’ ministry, which will be characterized by prayer at significant junctures in his life and in the life of the church.
So, what does prayer have to do with it?
Confirmation and clarification of who we are come through prayer. Prayer is our identity. We are who we are as ministers of the gospel through prayer. Please notice I have not made a distinction between lay and clergy. The confirmation and power for living out God’s plan and purpose does not come through position or office, the confirmation and power come through prayer.