In an article I wrote for Joy! in August 2009 I asked why we, as Christians, are generally so passionless and powerless. I suggested that one of the reasons was that so many of us are confused concerning the nature of prayer, the stewardship of spiritual power, and the need to proclaim in word and ministry – Prayer, Power, and Proclamation.
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we have separated these three elements instead of integrating them into one – three yet one. Conversely, we tend to confuse these elements with each other.
A well known adage is, ‘there is power in prayer’. But there is no power in prayer. Prayer precedes power, but in itself, prayer is simply communion with God. Prayer is the communication component of our end of an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. God is certainly powerful, but how can the act of speaking to him have power in itself? Yet preachers often tell us that prayer ‘works’ (another expression which confounds me). Powerful results of prayer are simply evidence of God’s response.
We confuse the response with the request when we say that there is power in prayer. Even more seriously, we confuse the object with the method. God is the one to whom we pray (object), and prayer is the method of communicating with him. Yet prayer is foundational to both power and proclamation.
However, the text also reveals that God went further than just demonstrating His power; He also filled the disciples with spiritual energy so that they could speak His word with boldness. This is the second level connection between prayer and power. God may respond to prayer with direct acts of power, but He may also respond by imparting power to us, His children, so that we can act in His name. This seems to be the Father’s preferred response to our prayer requests. Why? I think it is because He wants us to grow up to be responsible and mature members of his household; children who have learned both dependence on Him and responsible stewardship of His authority and power.
As always, let’s take our queue from Jesus. Matthew chapter seventeen records how Jesus went up a mountain to pray. Whilst He was praying, He had a dynamic spiritual encounter, heard the voice of the Father, and received an illuminating anointing.