Early in his public ministry Jesu as came to the point where had to make a very important decision. He knew he could not carry out his responsibility to proclaim the kingdom of God all by himself. The task called him to selection others who would work with him. So what did he do? He didn’t set up as recruiting center but rather he “went up onto the mountain to spend the night in prayer” (read the account in Jesus, In His Own Words, Mark 3 and Luke 6). Only then could he chose twelve disciples who would (1) be his “closest companions,” (2) “learn from him,” and (3) “go out and proclaim his message” (p. 49). The lesson is obvious: important decisions call for extended time in prayer. Let’s think about this together.
It seems to me that everyone knows what prayer is but no one knows how it works. Whenever there is a national tragedy the news media assures the families of their prayers. And there is probably no person alive today who at some place in their three-score-and-ten haven’t lifted their voice in prayer. But what is it? How does it work?
We acknowledge that God is sovereign. He is in control of all he created. But when we pray and God answers our prayer doesn’t something happen that would not have happened had we not asked? Then who made it happen? The answer is obvious but if we made it happen in what sense was the Sovereign God in control? One suggestion is that of his own free will God decided to limit his sovereignty so that only within a narrow segment did those he created had the freedom to choose. But what if their decision was for evil to win over good? It gets complicated doesn’t it!
I’m quite sure that the power of prayer simply doesn’t depend on our understanding of how it works. Part of living by faith is to follow whatever path it lays out. And this is where we often fall short. Jesus had the task of choosing and preparing twelve men so he turned immediately to prayer. He needed to know the Father’s mind on this and that took an all-night session. This provides for us an important lesson on discerning God’s will in a given situation. If prayer were simply getting information on the right way to do something that would make it easy. But prayer is also the character creating experience of becoming more like Christ. The decision that needs to be made is only a part of the larger benefit. In fact, its major role is to provide the opportunity for our own spiritual growth.
So the next you find yourself at the point of “choosing twelve good men” remember that Gold wants to spend some extended time with you for your growth. The “decision” may be secondary.