A few years ago, a Christian movie called The War Room came out with a great inspiring message about the power of prayer. I’m pretty sure that afterwards, the number of people who made “prayer closets” in their homes skyrocketed! (I heard about quite a few). Prayer—and a quiet place to do it— is powerful and wonderful and much needed in our world and in our lives.
When my five children were young, time and space to pray were rare commodities in our household. Back then, my prayer closet was literally that: the closet—and sometimes it was the bathroom. There were many times I wanted to go there and not come out, not necessarily because I wanted to pray, but because I wanted to escape! (Yes, I know that God is my refuge. But I don’t think hiding in my prayer closet is exactly what He has in mind.)
Although He didn’t use the term, Jesus was, by His example, an advocate of the prayer closet concept. He said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father” (Matt. 6:6). He regularly retreated from the pressures of life and ministry for the purpose of finding refuge in His heavenly Father. There He connected with God, and interceded for the people He loved and the situations He was facing.
I’m sure that, like me, Jesus often wanted to stay in His prayer closet, and commune with His Father. But He didn’t. He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Prayer was not Jesus’ primary ministry. It was the power behind His ministry.
Definitely, we should all spend time in the prayer closet, but we can’t stay there, especially if we use our prayer closet to hide from our circumstances, the world, or even other people. I know there are times when I have been guilty of this. Some times we use the excuse that we are praying as a reason not to act—out of fear, inadequacy, or sheer laziness. Sometimes our retreat is an expression of a hurt or offense: we’ve been burned, so to protect ourselves, we stay in the prayer closet. Other times, we are just plain tired. I get that. My kids are grown and gone so I’m not in that season anymore, but now other pressures have taken their place that threaten to overwhelm me sometimes.
Do I really need to DO something about that need? Can’t I just PRAY about it?
But we have a responsibility to live out the things we pray about. The Apostle James exhorted us, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2: 14, 17). Like Jesus, we must be more than good intercessors. We must be people of faith and action.
Are you praying for someone’s healing? Then lay hands on the sick or injured person. Intercede in person. Are you praying for someone who is depressed or discouraged? Speak audible words of encouragement and blessing into his or her life. Are you praying for financial provision for someone or something? Give sacrificially from your own resources, trusting the Lord to provide for your needs. Are you praying for the success of a church or ministry? Then find ways to be its hands and feet by serving in practical ways.
Jesus frequently went up the mountain by Himself to spend time with God (Matt. 14:23). But He didn’t stay up there praying. He came down from the mountain, walked across the water in the midst of the storm, and climbed into the boat with his frightened disciples. When they reached the other side, He healed the many sick people who were brought to Him from the surrounding area (vv. 29–36). He went from the peaceful presence of God into the panic and pressure of the everyday world. He navigated both environments: the spiritual and the natural. Jesus was a man of prayer and a man of action.
As I write this, the Christmas season is just starting. This time of year invariably holds all kinds of opportunities for us to interact with people in their physical and emotional needs. Let’s seize those opportunities. If we’re inclined to stay in our prayer closets–for whatever reason–let’s come down from the mountain, like Jesus did, and minister in practical ways in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s bust out of the prayer closet—and into the world!
What people and situations are you praying for lately? What are some ways you sense God telling you to put hands and feet and actions to your prayers?
Photo credit: Danilo Rizzuti, freedigitalphotos.net