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Devoted to Prayer

Why Godly Men Must Pray

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.

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Devoted to Prayer

Manliness and Prayerfulness

Yesterday I wrote that a man’s most difficult struggle is prayer. While prayer is a weakness for Christian men and women, at least three New Testament passage reveal a gender specific relationship between men and prayer.

Titus 2:6 (connected with 1 Peter 4:7)

When I addressed the ladies at the beginning of our Biblical Manhood/Womanhood series I went immediately to Titus 2. There Paul gives instructions through Titus to the various groups in the Cretan churches. I pointed out to the young women that all their various obligations center around the home.

But the younger men have one objective in verse 6 and it has no limitations or focus on a place. Instead it aims at a young man’s mind.

Urge younger men to be self-controlled.

Young men are to be self-controlled or “sober-minded.” The idea is to use one’s head with a focus on restraint, composure, and a practical kind of seriousness.

Probably more than anything else, young men today lack self-control. Instead they are lighthearted, careless, inattentive, concerned with the trivial, and self-indulgent. The requirement of self-control has benefits across the whole of a young man’s life, but we shouldn’t overlook the connection between self-control and praying. That link is made in 1 Peter 4:7.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Self-control has benefits in all a man’s life, but self-control is especially important when it comes to prayer. Men must be self-controlled so they can pray. Prayer is that important for a man.

Obviously we had to take a logical step from Titus 2:6 to 1 Peter 4:7. But there are at least two more passages that reveal an explicit relationship between godly men and prayer.

1 Peter 3:7

Peter starts chapter 3 with some instructions for married people, for the women and for the men. He devoted the first six verses to the women and wrote just one to the men (perhaps that has something to do with our short attention span). Nevertheless his instruction to the men is short and sweet.

husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

This is amazing. Peter gives instruction to both the women and the men: women are to be submissive to their own husbands and men are to be thoughtful, appreciative, and considerate to their wives. And notice that both responsibilities have a purpose. In verse 1 women are to submit so that (the unbelieving husbands) may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives. That is powerful submission! God may use a woman’s submission to save her husband. So wouldn’t we expect something similar as a purpose for the man’s right treatment of his wife? Shouldn’t we read something like, “live with your wives in an understanding way so that she may be won by your considerate conduct”? But instead the purpose is so that your prayers may not be hindered.

A couple things stand out about this. First, Peter assumes that the men were already praying. He doesn’t say “so that you can start to pray” but that you can keep praying unhindered. Second, Peter implies that disrupted prayer is a tragedy, similar to the tragedy of an unbelieving life. On the other hand, unhindered prayer is (at least loosely) compared to salvation! Whether these unhindered prayers are the husbands personal prayers (which I tend to think) or family prayers the husband leads, prayer for men is a consummate work. Men must not let anything hinder their prayers–even the closest earthly relationship they have. That’s how significant prayer is for a man.

1 Timothy 2:8

One more passage demonstrates that men and prayer and inextricably linked. In 1 Timothy 2 Paul gave instructions for various groups in the church. After urging that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people” and fleshing that out in verses 1-7, he describes special duties for women and men in verse 8-15.

For sake of comparison we see that the women are supposed to adorn themselves with certain character traits and good works. This is no throw-away instruction. It drills to the core of what is important for a woman. Likewise, at the center of importance for men is the charge to pray.

The men were to pray in every place. This was the responsibility of men in each of the churches all across the region. Men must pray lifting up holy hands which is a reference not so much to the position or posture or prayer, but to their character, since “hands” was a way to talk about one’s life, the things one touches. So men are to pray with a holy life. And they are to pray without anger or quarreling. The bottom line is, godly men pray.

Manliness, prayerfulness, and godliness go together. And again, even though prayer is no less fundamental for biblical femininity, tomorrow we’ll consider why praying is especially essential for a man.

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Devoted to Prayer

A Man’s Most Difficult Struggle

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.