Friday, 25 April 2008

Success is Prayer - Review of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

They next turn to prayer. Success is praying. Three reasons for prayer are identified – because of what it does to us, what it does to the church, and because Jesus prayed. Prayer aligns us to God’s will, to his desires, his priorities, his purposes. Prayer is used by God in his church – when people pray things happen (examples of Hudson Taylor’s sister, plus other examples are cited). Lastly, the example of Jesus taking time to pray, of retreating to the quiet place for communion with God, is taken as being of paradigmatic for us. From this point, the Hughes’ recognise the difficulty of prayer, and stress the importance of discipline. We need to be disciplined in our prayer – forcing ourselves to pray. Strong language, but I know my heart! Strong words are needed!

However, I’m not sure I know of a Christian who doesn’t think that they should pray more, or that they could be more disciplined in prayer. Prayer is important – it is vital – but not because of the effect it has on us, or the church, or even because Jesus did it (he did other things which we don’t take as mandated for the Christian life).

Prayer is vital because, as Calvin showed us, it is the primary work of faith. And if, as the Hughes’ have stated, success is first and foremost faithfulness (and, as we have already noted, more could have been made of our union with Christ by faith), then that faithfulness will show itself in prayer. That faith(fulness) will recognise that we are but jars of clay, that our words are weak and powerless, that our best efforts are useless. That faith(fulness) will see that Jesus is the only true minister – he ministers his gospel to his people by his Spirit, through us.

And so we will pray. We will pray that God will use us, work through us and by us. We will pray that God will glorify himself (John 17 – there’s a prayer of Jesus’ that we can echo!), that he will achieve his purposes through us, that we might be transformed into the likeness of our great saviour. Success is prayer, because success, like prayer, is always Godward-orientated.

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