If I could encourage the Southern Baptist Convention in one area, it would be to pray. I want us to be the greatest army of prayer warriors in the world.
Jesus is the only "expert" in prayer. When we read the Gospels, we see how important prayer was to Him.
There is only one thing recorded in the Gospels that Jesus' disciples specifically wanted Him to teach them. They said, "Lord, teach us to pray."
As we read in Luke 11:1, "It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples'" (NAU).
How did Jesus pray?
Jesus prayed early in the morning.
The Bible says in Mark 1:35, "In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there."
Jesus had just completed a busy day teaching in a synagogue, casting out demons, healing people and having dinner with friends. Yet, in spite of His demanding schedule, He rose early the next morning and prayed.
Every Christian should start his day in prayer (Psalm 5:1-3; 143:8; Matthew 6:11). Before you communicate with others, talk with God.
Jesus took prayer retreats.
Jesus was busy but never stressed. Wherever He went, He walked in peace. That's because He prayed. Luke 5:16 says, "But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray."
You'll never have time to do everything you want to do, or do all that others want you to do. But you will have time to do what God wants you to do, and God wants you to pray. Time spent in prayer is never wasted time.
Jesus prayed before making important decisions.
The Bible says in Luke 6:12, "It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God."
After a night alone with God, Jesus chose His 12 disciples. The Father directed Jesus in that decision because He prayed.
We often make "common-sense" decisions, not prayerful decisions. A night spent in prayer and making the right decision is better than years spent in regret because you didn't pray and made the wrong decision.
Jesus prayed when He was tempted.
Everyone has been tempted to sin, even Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). He overcame temptation through prayer, fasting and quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11).
Jesus warned His disciples, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). Jesus Himself overcame temptation in Gethsemane because He prayed "fervently" (Luke 22:44).
If we pray, we too can overcome temptation.
Jesus prayed while He suffered.
In the darkest hours of His life, Jesus prayed. Of seven utterances that Jesus spoke on the cross, three were prayers. Twice Jesus prayed Scripture (Psalms 22:1; 31:5). He also prayed and forgave those who crucified Him.
You too can overcome the trials you face if, like Jesus, you pray prayers based on the promises of God's Word.
Jesus prayed with thanksgiving.
The Bible says in Luke 10:21, "At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, 'O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way'" (NLT).
Jesus thanked God for His blessings. Even in His resurrected state, our Lord refused to put a morsel of food into His mouth without first thanking the Father for it (cf. Luke 24:30).
Similarly, you and I should thank God for all He has done for us.
Jesus is praying now in heaven.
Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for His followers, pardoning lost people who repent and preparing to come again. He is also praying.
Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."
Christians should never get discouraged. Jesus is praying for us right now.
If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray while He was on earth, don't we? A great place to start is to pray, "Lord, teach us to pray."
My prayer is that the people of the Southern Baptist Convention will become the "prayingest" Christians on earth! May we pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).
Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. For more on the topic of prayer, see Gaines' book "Pray Like It Matters—Intimacy and Power Through Prayer."