“You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” (S. D. Gordon)
Does it really matter what the order is in spiritual disciplines for the Christian? I believe it does – not because of what some man said, but because Jesus himself emphasized that prayer is of first importance.
A soldier does not go into battle without proper equipment and preparation. Yet we as believers sometimes feel that we can engage the enemy on our own, without prayer. Jesus reminded Peter that self-sufficiency would not result in success. He warned him,
“Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord told his disciples,
“Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)
In Matthew 26:36 and in Mark 14:32, his additional word to them was to sit there while he prayed. Upon taking Peter, James, and John farther, he told them,
“Remain here and stay awake with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
Notice that he did not say that they should get up and take action right then. They were to sit, or remain, until after prayer. Jesus knew the battle that he, and they, were facing, and how desperately they needed to pray and wait. He also knows exactly the trials and temptations that come to us. Yet, how often have we decided that we must act immediately, rather than remain and pray first?
Even the very Son of God realized that his own struggles required prayer and dependence on his Father. He knew that he faced horrible persecution and death. Consequently, he asked His Father to remove his cup of suffering if there could be another way for our forgiveness. Then in submission, he prayed, “
…nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Not only must we pray in times of temptation, but also when facing trials. I recall that once in the wee hours of the night, I realized that morning would bring an event with which I totally disagreed, but over which I had no control. I was in dire need of the strength my heavenly Father would provide as I prayed. It happened just as I had feared, but the Lord gave me strength. Likewise, he provided for all my needs in the days to come, as the trial continued. Then in his perfect timing, he brought about the best solution.
Each of us has encountered many and various trials, just as the Book of James tells us to expect. Times of suffering, disappointment, failure, illness, death, financial problems, family situations, and tough decisions will come. Our assurance is that our Father knows them ahead of time. He will provide wisdom, comfort, peace, and even joy, in the midst of these, when we trust him and take them to him in prayer.
“Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Joseph Scriven – “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
By Pat Browning