Praying for our own Discipleship

So often when we talk about prayer we think material things and don’t get me wrong there’s a place for that. We pray about jobs, financial needs and health matters. It’s a beautiful declaration of our dependence to our heavenly Father. We should pray for material things.

But it’s striking that we would see our need and helplessness in this and not in our need for discipleship. How often do we turn in prayer to ask God’s help to be like his son? When we read his commands do we ask him to help us obey them? As we fight sin do we ask him for help? As we pursue love for neighbor and godliness in our lives do we ask Jesus to create that in us?

Apart from me you can do nothing

Jesus speaking in John 15:5 that passage we love to quote says something striking in light of our own discipleship.

John 15:5-6 NIV
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

That last line of verse 5 is very important because it means whatever Jesus is asking his disciples here before his imminent death at the cross is something they actually can’t do. Yes you heard me right, on their own, whatever he says here they can’t do it.

Let’s see, in the previous chapters he’s asked them to follow his example; to wash each others feet in chapter 13. To love and serve others. By effect this means being willing to die to self to serve others. In chapter 14, they are not to fear but to believe in him who will walk with them and prepare for them a home in heaven. Every fear calls for a faith response. You could say fearing itself is an act of unbelief.

Here in chapter 15 he’s asking for fruit in their lives. He’s saying the branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and burned. Do you know what he’s saying strictly speaking? If you don’t bear fruit be ready for hell fire. Later he will tell them to be ready to be hated by the world like they hated and persecuted Jesus. Friends I hope I don’t need to convince you further that if you try this by your own might you’ll have a stressful time. It cannot be done.

That sentence, apart from me you can do nothing becomes very important. It means if we are to become true disciples who follow Jesus and bear fruit we need his help. If there’s any hope to obey and serve King Jesus we need his helping hand. So many times he echoes that in this section. That we can ask the Father for help and he’ll help us. The problem is we don’t ask.

But that’s the point friends, try approaching discipleship with your might and grit and see how far you go. It can’t be done. You can’t even do it yourself however committed you are leave alone discipling others.

Have you asked for his help?

So I ask again when is the last time you prayed for your own discipleship? Yes you can ask the Lord for all the material things you need. But have you lately asked the Lord for his help to love others? When was the last time you told Jesus, this sexual sin is becoming a serious thing, help me Jesus. Have you told Jesus you’d love to serve him but you find it hard to love and serve other people? Do you see how you’ve been setting yourself up for failure?

What do you think is missing in your own discipleship? What do you admire and perhaps even feel jealous about others? I know I would love to be more prayerful. But do you know what I realised recently? I had not before asked the Lord to do that for me. To come and say, Lord help me to pray more to you.

Perhaps you’d love to be more committed to his Word. To be like those people who read the Bible cover to cover every year. But have you asked Jesus to help you in this. Maybe you’d love to serve the church more, give more to mission work. A question for you, have you asked for the Father’s help?

Until we understand those words, that apart from him we can do nothing we’ll always try do something in vain. Alternatively, we’ll give up and conclude I’m just not a prayerful man. We might even theologise it that it’s for the Charismatics.

We’ll end up saying I’m not disciplined enough to read the Bible consistently. We can even argue and show why it’s actually not that effective. But before we get there we need to remember discipleship wasn’t meant for the disciplined and strong willed. It’s actually for those weak in spirit. It’s for those who tell the Father, I can’t do it Lord. Help me dear Father!

Respond to his commands with a prayer

Friends before you drown yourself with sorrow or harden your heart to the Saviour’s call ask for his help. Add to your prayers this prayer: Lord make me what you want me to be. Lord, bear in me the fruit you desire. Conform this selfish heart to love and serve others. Make your will what I crave for. Teach this heart to delight in your commands. Help me Lord to be like your son. Help me to obey him. Help me to say his will not mine be done. Learn to pray back what the word commands you before you get on with it.

I think it’ll be a good practice to pray every time we read his word or are convicted about a specific area of discipleship. That’s a good practice in all things but we need to make it true for our personal discipleship. To read Jesus commands and tell him honestly, fulfill that in me or it’s not going to happen.

He says love your neighbor. Tell him how selfish you are and ask for his help. He says we should commit to his mission, remind him how self centered we are and how we need his help. If discipleship will work, if change will ever happen it’ll take Jesus to accomplish it in us. Apart from him we can do nothing.

When praying is hard


It is in our weaknesses he’s most sufficient
In our desperation he gives great comfort
And while the world crumbles he’s a sure rock
But it’s not always easy to walk up to him
At times we find it hard to knock his door
Many times we hide from our only helper
To do everything but seek him in prayer


It’s not out of ignorance we remain silent
No, we know we’ve nowhere else to run
Sometimes we’ve tried everything else
But the pride in us says I can handle it
Tomorrow I’ll pick myself up and fix it
I’ll rid myself of this need once and for all
Only it never works and we know it, don’t we?


Sometimes it’s the guilt of our self righteousness
We judge him by our own expectations
How would he receive us back we wonder
But he’s no fellow man and we know it
He knows us and yet chose to love us in Christ
If it was merit that opens his door none would ever enter
No, it’s the needy men like us that he embraces by grace


Lord forgive the trespass of seeing you like fellow men
The sin to think you only accept me when I do well
How low I would bring you to bribe you with my deeds
But you see me in Christ and draw closer in my need
Help me kill this pride that hides in good deeds
Crown me with the humility that prayer requires
Show me how desperate I am without you


Teach me to see you as a father not merely a teacher
To see I don’t need to earn favor to meet you
So often I go back to that old religion of works
But I would have the Gospel of grace bring me to you
Grant me the spirit of a child to run without care to my father
The humility to look to you first in my need
And a heart that sees my desperate need of you


Why praise as you pray?

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Why praise as you pray?

This is a question I should have asked when they taught me the ABC of prayer as a young Christian. But back then I didn’t think it was right to question matters of faith as that would seem like a sign of doubt or unbelief. But now I know God would have wanted me to ask that question because he’s interested not with my blind faith but with my Biblically informed faith and trust in him.

So why then do we praise as or before we pray? Is it that God just loves being praised? Is this how we bribe him so he can act on our behalf? Why did Jesus teach his disciples to start with honoring God’s name in the Lord’s Prayer? David in the Psalms and the apostles all seem to adopt this approach when they write their prayers. Is it merely a tradition?  We’ve actually adopted this in our Sunday service where we start with praise songs, thanksgiving prayer before we make our requests before God. It’s a great tradition but I’m afraid to some this could be just a tradition, something they do without stopping to ask why this is the case.

Why pray at all?

Perhaps the bigger question is why we pray at all? Why pray when God knows our needs and is able to do it without us asking? And my best attempt on that is to say that prayer isn’t actually a transaction between us and God. Though it’s about God and about bringing him our needs, it has a lot more merits for us in building our faith and trust in God. This means prayer will benefit you regardless of the outcome because prayer is our exercise of faith. It means not once does a Christian pray and leave empty-handed even if God didn’t answer that prayer as they wanted. There are times I have gone before God with my needs, desperately wanting him to act on my behalf only for him to do this by strengthening my faith in him. Sometimes I come out of this and my needs are still before me but my confidence in God is reassured.

I believe this is the reason why praise needs to come before or as we pray because prayer has more to do with our confidence in God than simply getting our needs sorted. We need to know we can trust him before we bring him our requests. Praise changes our perspective because it reminds us of who God is and what he has done. By the time we finish praising him, we should have no doubt that he’s a good God who is able to do far more than we think or imagine. We should be soaked in his merits that our needs seem like nothing before him. And by the time we make our requests, our faith in him is already strengthened. As a matter of fact, I would say, our greatest prayer is already answered when we do this. Our trust and confidence in God are re-established when we praise him.

How do we praise him rightly?

But how do we praise God in a Biblical and genuine way without simply buttering him with words as pagans do? As I said, remember this isn’t merely a transaction to get what you want but a gift from God to build your faith. So how do we do this in the right way?

I’ll say we need to know and believe in God’s Word like David, Jesus and the apostles did. Their prayers are full of Bible language because prayer is speaking back to God in response to his Word. God delights when his people take him by his word and in prayer echo what they believe. But I don’t simply mean that you know the Bible so you can quote it back like a lawyer in a courthouse.  I mean what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 :

 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

This will take careful and disciplined meditation of God’s Word in your devotion, through sermons, Bible fellowship and through good Biblical songs. It’s what David teaches us in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Start where you are

I hope and pray that this will lead you to praise and pray more with confidence. You don’t have to wait until you have studied the whole Bible to do this. You just need to start by meditating on what you are reading in your devotion or from a faithful sermon.

Praise God for what he has said in his Word, for what he’s teaching us about himself and what he’s done for us in Jesus. I have been doing my devotion in the book of Psalms and they are a great way to do this but I’m sure you can do the same with any other book of the Bible. I pray that God will give you the requests of your heart as you turn to pray. But above all, I pray that he will grow your faith as you focus on him, his character and his deeds as ultimately reflected in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3.