Discipleship Requires Fervent Prayer
By Dr. Daryll Stanton, NDI Global Resourcing Coordinator | 13 Sep 2023
Prayer is an essential part of being and making Christlike disciples.
One of the five core principles in our new Nazarene Discipleship International (NDI) Bylaws is Fervent Prayer. Our Nazarene Essentials notes: “Prayer, the Word of God, and intentionally helping each other to be more like Jesus characterize dynamic discipleship in the church.” So we encourage everyone to pray every day. And it is equally important to have accountability partners who will pray daily for us.
Prayer as modeled by Jesus
Prayer was explicitly modeled by Jesus, who taught His disciples to pray. Each of the four Gospels record Jesus spending time in prayer. He spent time alone, even at night, praying. Jesus prayed before the critical moments of His ministry, such as when He was choosing His apostles (Luke 6:12-13). In fact, we observe that “all of His life was a prayer because Jesus was in continual communion with His Father” (One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism). In the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus’ prayers show His committed relationship with the Father (John 17). Jesus’ prayers display His devotion to the redemptive intentions of the Father.
What do we mean by “fervent prayer”?
We see prayer as a divine gift from God, who always longs to encounter us. One Lord... describes prayer as “lifting our thinking and believing into the presence of God, as well as asking Him for those good things that align with His will.” Prayer flows from our personal relationship with the Lord. God’s Spirit dwells in our hearts and “intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27), because in and of ourselves “we do not know what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26). As Christ’s disciples, we need to be engaged in fervent — keen, avid, ardent, eager, enthusiastic — prayer!
In its purest form, prayer is communicating with and responding to God. In One Lord..., we are also encouraged to consider the highest desire of the human heart: “Our most ardent desire should be a longing for God alone. As we pilgrims walk in our faith, we realize that true happiness is found only in the One who created us out of love and who continually is inviting us into the joy of the infinite love of the Holy Trinity.” As John Wesley insisted, “Whether we think of, or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for Him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than His love, and the desire of pleasing Him. All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God” (Wesley’s Works, 11:438). Fervent prayer is active prayer.
We must teach others to pray. Jesus’ disciples were instructed to teach each following generation of disciples to pray. Christ followers especially pray for personal needs, the salvation of others, and the consummation of God’s kingdom. A good outline of Christian prayer appears in 1 Timothy 2:1-2:
• Worship, or doxology
• Supplication, or petition
• Intercession, or invocation
• Thanksgiving, or benediction (One Lord...)
The Scriptures reveal that intentional and consistent prayer nurtures and develops our relationships with both God and others, enabling us to see and experience God’s activities through His prevenient, saving, and sanctifying grace.
Prayer is the foundation upon which all other ministry efforts are built. “As the church, we pray for the final coming of the kingdom of God when Christ returns in glory. The church also prays that the kingdom will increase here on earth through our sanctification in the Spirit and our commitment to ‘act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8)” (One Lord...).
What happens when we fervently pray?
Prayer guides us to spiritual success. In the Upward Call leader’s guide, we are reminded of a three-legged triangle: prayer, Bible reading, and discipline. Together they help us find our way along the journey toward spiritual depth. “There is no spiritual life apart from God’s Word, frequent prayer, and disciplined lifestyles.”
Abraham and Moses are models of exemplary prayer. As Abraham walked in the presence of God, he demonstrated ideal prayer both in listening to God and obeying God. However, for Abraham, prayer was a struggle of faith that led him to believe in the faithfulness of God even at the time of testing (Genesis 15). On the other hand, Moses experienced prayer as intimacy with God, “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11). Moses persistently interceded for the Israelites as they journeyed to the promised land. “The prayers of Moses anticipate the role of intercession by the one Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5)” ( One Lord...). As we pray, God inspires us to be actively engaged in the world.
Through prayer, we participate in the Holy Spirit’s transforming power, both for ourselves and for our neighbor. The Holy Spirit prompts our prayers and fills us with God’s presence (Luke 11:13). The Spirit becomes the master intercessor in our praying since “we do not know what we ought to pray for” (Romans 8:26-27). By deepening our relationship with God through prayer, we experience the Holy Spirit’s guidance and find greater measures of spiritual growth and direction for service to others.
Fervent Prayer in the Body of Christ
The will of God is for “all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus came to our world to bring about this purpose. Our prayer is that God will unite our hearts to His purpose so that His redemption will be realized. Prayer helps us to discern “what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2) and gives us the perseverance to do that will (Hebrews 10:36) (see One Lord...). Through intentional, specific, and consistent prayer, the Body of Christ becomes the eyes, hands, and feet of the Savior.
It is our hope that you are already finding ways to engage in fervent prayer as you mature in your personal spiritual life as well as when you contribute to your discipleship group. Please share with us some ways your journey with Jesus is enhanced through fervent prayer. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org