A man’s most difficult struggle is not dealing with a specific sin (like anger or lust or pride), though sin is a large part of what makes this struggle so hard.
Each and every godly man has this “struggle” in common. We read in Scripture that men like Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jonah, the apostles, as well as Jesus Himself all worked through it, and most of them did it regularly.
Not only did it impact these well known Bible characters, men of every occupation in all kinds of situation did it. Kings, priests, prophets, farmers, and servants all did it. Men did it when they were building or battling, when they were mourning or doing ministry, when they were traveling, when they were tired, when they were tempted, when they were planning, when they needed provision, and when they needed protection. Godly men everywhere prayed!
There is maybe no more important, consistent characteristic of a godly man than prayer. That’s why I spent my one message in our biblical manhood series with the young men in our student ministry on prayer. Regardless of vocation, regardless of culture, regardless of spiritual giftedness, a man who is godly, a man who lives according to the Bible, prays.
Yet prayer is also probably the most difficult struggle a man has. Earlier this morning Joe Thorn posted about the difficulty of, and our weakness in, prayer. And there are at least a few reasons why I call prayer a “struggle.”
The biblical reason I call prayer is a struggle is found in Colossians 4:12. Paul wrote to the Colossian church instructing them about the preeminence of Christ so that they would become complete in Christ, spiritually mature, knowing God’s will and walking in a manner of life fully pleasing to God. Near the end of his letter Paul included greetings from Epaphras–one of Colosse’s own, apparently the one who started the church in Colosse, and the one who came to Paul for help. Paul told the Colossians that Epaphras was always struggling on your behalf in his prayers. That knocks my socks off every time I read it.
The word struggling is a term Paul frequently uses in reference to ministry; it is the Greek word ἀγωνίζομαι. It means “to struggle, to fight, to battle” for something. It is to give all you’ve got for a particular purpose. Prayer requires that kind of effort; it is that kind of fight; it is a struggle.
The theological reason I say prayer is a struggle is because everything about us men shouts pride. But prayer and pride do not fit together. Prayer says we’re needy, pride says we aren’t going to ask anybody for anything. Prayer says we’re weak, pride says me and my kid can beat up you and your honor roll kid. Prayer says I can’t figure it out on my own, pride says I don’t need your input. Prayer says God gets all the glory, pride says I’d like a little of the spotlight for myself. So our own hearts–full of man-pride–make prayer a struggle.
And doesn’t experience itself confirm that prayer is a struggle? We’d often rather sleep than pray. We’d rather play than pray. We’d rather work than pray, even when the work is the right thing, since after all, there’s a lot of important work to do. I love how Piper puts it,
Both our flesh and our culture scream against spending an hour on our knees beside a desk piled with papers. It is un-American (un-manly) to be so impractical as to devote oneself to prayer and meditation two hours a day.—Brothers, We are not Professionals, p.55
But though prayer is a difficult struggle, it also carries tremendous significance for us as men. I want to illustrate from Scripture why I think prayer is an especially manly thing and tomorrow we’ll look at three passages that explicitly connect being a man of God with being a man of prayer. All that to say, prayer is the toughest and best struggle for a man.