Word and Prayer



So there are always two key elements to Christian ministry: the word and the Spirit. We proclaim the word and the Spirit brings life through the word.

But, of course, we can’t ‘do’ the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is not under our control. He’s not a ‘lever’ we can pull. It’s not an aspect of ministry we can ‘do’. “The wind blows wherever it pleases,” says Jesus, in John 3:8, “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). We can’t predict how the Spirit will work, still less manipulate his activity.

But what we can do is pray.

Early on in the life of the church a dispute arose about the distribution of food among Jewish and Gentile widows. The apostles took steps to address the issue by appointing seven godly men to take responsibility for ensuring a fair distribution. The leaders of the church didn’t want to be distracted from their core activity. This is what they said:

“It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)

What is the core activity of church leaders? The word and prayer. Just as the seven were given special responsibility for the food distribution, so the church leaders had a special responsibility to both pray and minister the word.
At its most basic, prayer is an expression of our dependence upon God.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early
and stay up late, toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1-2)

We pray when we feel that dependence. We fail to pray when we think our work is more significant or more urgent than God’s work. We would probably never declare that we matter more than God but often our actions tell another story.
What this means is that there are always two key components to Christian ministry: the word and prayer.