Prayer is a struggle for most men, and yet manliness and prayerfulness go together. So why is it so important for men to pray? Obviously it is necessary for both men and women to pray. But even though prayer is not exclusively manly, I think it is especially manly.
This past summer I taught a message titled “Men at Work” where I identified three things that distinguish a godly, manly servant. Godly, manly servants Take Initiative, they Take Responsibility, and they Make Sacrifices (easily remembered by the abbreviation I.R.S., though some suggest switching the order and using the acronym SIR). Prayer is the difference maker in each one of these assignments that we might be godly men. To be a godly man, prayer is necessary to:
1. Take Initiative for the Right Things
Men don’t wait around for someone else to tell them what to do. That’s part of what it means to be a man and not a child. Men don’t need to have their hand held. They do what needs to be done and look for more things to do. They don’t just react, they pro-act. A godly man-servant is aggressive and decisive. They start the ball rolling.
But how will you know if you are taking initiative in the right direction? That’s why prayer is so important. Scripture is littered with examples of men who did not seek direction from God before making decisions. I recently read this past week about the apostasy of God’s people in Hosea and one example was their self-initiative.
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but I knew it not. (Hosea 8:4)
Just the opposite was true of our ultimate example of manliness, Jesus. Before beginning His public ministry (and also immediately prior to the three temptations of Satan) Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days (see Matthew 4:1-11, especially verse 2). Just as significant, Luke 6:12-16 reveals that before choosing and calling disciples who would represent Him to the ends of the earth Jesus spent the whole night in prayer. He did not take initiative without seeking direction from His Father.
2. Take Responsibility in the Right Way
Godly men don’t make excuses. They do not blame other people for their problems or their mistakes. A godly man-servant doesn’t shirk responsibility, he shoulders it. They work hard for the sake of others.
But how will you have the strength to do that? Where will you get the wisdom to do that?
Over and over again in the gospels, before and after ministering to the crowds and healing sickness and preaching His kingdom message and training the Twelve, Jesus prayed. Even the Son of God depended on the Father as He bore responsibility.
3. Make Sacrifices for the Right Purpose
Men often indulge themselves. Too many times we try to see how much we can get someone to sacrifice for us. Instead our lives are to be spent for the sake of others. Men are called to give up their own lives, to spend themselves for their wives, their children, their disciples, and their friends. Often they must make tough choices, forsaking things that might be otherwise permissible for someone else’s benefit.
But how will you make sacrifices that show off God instead of yourself? The great danger is that we will make the sacrifice and then take the credit. In our pride we will be reluctant to direct the glory to God.
Again Jesus is our perfect example. Before His ultimate sacrifice we find Him praying (Matthew 26:36-46). He knew it was going to be difficult and painful, so much so that He requested three times that the cup might pass from Him. As He considered His coming death His soul was troubled.
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. (John 12:27-28)
Jesus’ concern was that His sacrifice be for the Father’s glory, not His own. Of course the Father glorified the Son as the Son glorified the Father. But prayer played a key part in the Son’s purpose and perspective.
So the timing of our initiative, the manner of our responsibility, and the purpose of our sacrifices depend on prayer. Not just the what that men do is important, but when we do it, how we do it, and why we do it. A man can’t be a godly man without prayer.