How Important Is Prayer?

Just as the skeletal system is important to our physical bodies, so prayer is essential to our spiritual lives and the body of Christ. In fact, the human skeleton illustrates wonderfully the relationship of prayer to our spiritual lives. Let's take a few minutes to study the role bones play in our bodies. You'll readily see that there is perhaps no better metaphor for the importance of prayer.
First, bones support the body and give it structure. You can imagine what we would look like without bones. We'd be a blob on the floor. It is our skeleton that lifts us up and gives our bodies form. So, too, prayer gives form and structure to the body of Christ.
And one can't help but notice that the entire skeleton seems specially designed to lift up the head above the rest of the body. So it is that in and through our prayers, Christ is exalted as head of the Church. (Col. 1:18)
A second function of bones is to protect our vital organs. Notice how the brain is encased within the skull while the heart and lungs are protected within the rib cage. In the same way, Scripture instructs us to pray for our leaders, including the president and all those who govern, that we might live in peace and that the gospel might flourish. (I Timothy 2:1,2)
A third, less visible function of bones involves the production of red blood cells. These cells, produced in bone marrow, nourish and cleanse every living cell inside our bodies. The blood is essential to life, hence Scripture notes that "the life is in the blood." (Lev 17:11) So it is that prayer is essential in the life of the body of Christ. Prayer makes spiritual growth and ministry possible. Without prayer, there can be no real life in the church.
This metaphor readily offers additional lessons for us as well. For example, improper diet and lack of excercise or movement can injure our skeletal systems. Just as a lack of vitamin D causes bones to become soft and deformed, a lack of nourishment from God's Word can stifle and weaken us as members of Christ's body. (See I Peter 2:2)
Here's one additional insight we can gain from bones. When Jesus taught us about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount He said, "do not be like the hypocrites" who pray in public to be seen. (Matt 6:5) Rather, a true life of prayer is a hidden life. This secret spiritual work will receive ample reward in heaven and does not need the notice or praise of men. So it is that even though our bones are important and necessary, if you can see them sticking out through the skin, that's a pretty good indication that something is wrong.
If your prayer life isn't what it ought to be, don't kick yourself. Maybe you haven't grasped how important prayer really is. Now that you know, however, ask for God's help, for in this realm more than any, apart from Him we can do nothing.

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Suggested readings on prayer: Matthew 6:5-15 ; Hebrews 11 ; James 5:13-20 ; Psalm 25 ; Psalm 57 ; Psalm 51

This, my first published article, originally appeared in YOUTH in 1977, a four page quarterly published by the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. Special thanks to Hellen Kulesky, former missionary to Liberia, for her encouragement to write... and dream big dreams.

PERMISSION TO REPRINT GRANTED provided attribution is given. Copyright 1977, Ed Newman


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