We pray because we are in a spiritual struggle—that we must take personally. We must pray for another reason: the work of the Church is God’s work, not ours. Jesus made that fact clear from the very inception of the Church. He asked his disciples who people were saying he was. They gave the report: some were saying he was John the Baptist, others were saying he perhaps was Jeremiah or Elijah or another one of the prophets. Then he asked the biggest question God ever asks anyone: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter shot his hand up to answer that one. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Pay close attention to what Jesus said in response to this first confession of faith in him. He first clarified how Peter came upon this momentous discovery. He let him know that it was not a conclusion that Peter arrived at on his own. He didn’t figure it out because he had spent so much time with Jesus, listening to what he said, watching his miracles. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (italics mine).
Merely to have spent a lot of time with Jesus, up close and personal, as great as that must have been, was not sufficient for Peter to apprehend who Jesus was. It required a supernatural event, a divine revelation. God’s work begins with God, not humankind.
And so his work continues, for Jesus added, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:13–18, italics mine). Of course we must pray! If God is the builder and we are his servants in the building of his Church, it is presumptuous to build without prayer.
And completely ineffective. Jesus came down the Mount of Transfiguration to an argument his disciples were having with the teachers of the law. They were unable to heal a demonized boy, a pathetic child who was periodically seized by an evil spirit and thrown to the ground, foaming at the mouth. When Jesus was told what the brouhaha was about, he said something he must often feel when he looks at his prayerless church: “O unbelieving generation . . . how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me” (Mark 9:19). Then he healed the boy.
When the excitement died down enough for them to ask the question, his disciples said, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus’ answer is as devastating as it is brief. He said, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29). They had to pray to drive the demon out! What on earth were they doing before Jesus walked up? Whatever it was, clearly they weren’t praying. They were trying to cast out demons without prayer!
So we must pray, because the work of the Church is God’s work, not ours! We must also pray because prayer actually gets God’s work done.
The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife. The title is the addition of the editor.
By Ben Patterson, adapted from Deepening Your Conversation with God.