Discipleship & Prayer
Continuing with our theme of being disciples:
‘’Prayer is simply talking with God; it’s a two way process: speaking and listening. He speaks to us: we listen. We speak to him: he listens.’ (Mother Teresa)
What has talking to God got to do with being a disciple?
Martin Luther once wrote ‘To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing’. Prayer is quite simply the life blood of discipleship. For many people prayer is a last resort, for use in emergencies only! But according to Jesus, prayer is key to our lives. Prayer not only establishes a relationship with God, it is vital to maintaining our relationship with him. Prayer is a means of communicating with our loving Heavenly Father, and building the relationship for which we were created. Prayer is designed to allow us as disciples to have profound intimacy with God.
Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus modelling how prayer should work in the life of his disciples: Mornings, evenings, after preaching, before preaching, whenever possible - Jesus prayed. He prayed in gardens, on mountains, and in solitary places. Physically separated from the Father’s presence, Jesus united spiritually with the Father through prayer, seeking his will and glorifying his name. He publicly voiced praise and thanksgiving to the Father, as well as praying petitions on behalf of his disciples. Far from trying to manipulate a distant and whimsical God, Jesus modelled a life of personal relationship and trust, passionately seeking to know the will of his Father, and to be able to surrender to it fully. More than simply accessing God’s provision and power, prayer held Jesus in the very presence of God himself.
Similarly, Jesus calls us to abide in him. Through prayer, we delight in his presence, meditate on his word, and walk in his Spirit. In prayer we ask God to search the inner recesses of our hearts to make us truly clean. We strap on our spiritual armour. We trade in our tangled knots of anxiety for his peace ‘the peace which passes all understanding’. We receive whatever we ask of God when we ask according to his will and in Jesus’ name. When we pray, the results are simply astounding: he transforms us; we begin to absorb his priorities and passions; we start to see the world and people through his eyes; more and more we want to obey him. Over time, we even become more like him. Abiding in Christ through prayer marks us as his disciples: the watching world can tell when we’ve been in the presence of Jesus!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) .
Grace & peace,
Discipleship and Obedience
Continuing with our theme of being disciples:
‘’Discipleship in an instant society requires long obedience in the same direction:’ (Eugene Peterson)
What does this mean? What has obedience got to do with being a disciple?
Simply put - Everything!
Yet, obedience is not a popular topic today; even among believers there are many that recoil at the suggestion that careful daily obedience either matters to God or ought to concern us. Yet according to Jesus himself, discipleship at its core involves listening to him and doing as he instructs (John 8:31). Discipleship begins with the simple command of Jesus: “Follow me”, and the first disciples did just that (Matt. 4:18-20). Like many since, they could have replied: “Yes, sir!” and then done nothing; but had they done that, they would not have been disciples at all (Matt 21:28-32).
Australia today is very much an instant society driven by a customer mindset. As a society we don’t like to work for, or wait for anything anymore; we are comfortable paying others to serve us; we eat instant food and drink instant coffee; we have convenience stores; and get cranky when the internet is slow. We make our own plans, and are masters of our own destiny; we have a generation who seek to be famous for being famous; we seek our own honour and glory in our daily activities; and the ‘selfie’ is the most common form of artistic expression. In our culture today church and faith is ‘slotted in’ between other important activities (or often not at all), and we accept as normal a form of spiritual flabbiness which requires no real dedication on our part from week to week.
The apostle Paul likens the obedience of discipleship to the training of an athlete, calling us to be fit, skilled and ready for service to the Lord (1 Cor 9:24-27); Our training consists of prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship with other believers, worship, serving and so on. As we obediently stick to our spiritual training routines, like a 'spiritual athlete', we strive to become more like Jesus everyday; with ‘long obedience in the same direction’ we become spiritually fit, enabling us to run the race in order to win the ‘prize’.
This is not works-righteousness. It is not salvation by merit. It is a transformed life that we are talking about. It is a changed character. It is genuine commitment. It is obedient discipleship. It is freedom and joy and peace. It is living the Jesus Lifestyle!
Paul writes: ’I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in tip top condition. (1 Cor 9:26-27 Msg version)
Grace & peace,
‘To live a congruent and internally consistent life is difficult. This is integrity!’ (Parker Palmer)
‘When Jesus is Lord of our beliefs, opinions, ambitions, standards, values, and lifestyle, then we are integrated Christians. Then Integrity marks our life. Only when he is Lord do we become whole.” (John Stott)
One of the most important characteristics of Christian discipleship is consistency/integrity; putting into practice what we actually profess to believe; to both talk and walk in the way of Jesus.
Integrity in its simplest form simply means wholeness of person; a person who is undivided. It means that there is no separation between what is going on inside of me, and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life. A person of integrity is unshakeable; they stand by their principles regardless of external pressures or consequences. A person of integrity realises there are moral absolutes, even in a world of relative values.
A person of true integrity possesses a unity of life and character. It is important to recognise however that the Bible underscores the reality that no one (except Jesus Christ) is sinless, so integrity for the disciple does not mean sinlessness or perfection, but sincere striving, and single-hearted devotion to God. Integrity to the disciple means a life marked by love, compassion, mercy, justice, and honouring God's call above everything else. It means that we are the same on Sunday as we are throughout the week; that we practice what we preach!
So how can we live a life of integrity?
We must accept God's call to live in his will and to actively walk in the path of Christ: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”(James 1:22). We must strive to live the kind of life that Jesus lived, even if no one is watching. It is that simple, and it is that difficult.
So who are you when no one is looking?
Grace & peace,
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!