“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – St. Augustine
“Pray, and let God worry” –Martin Luther
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” -James 5:16
If you ask anyone who Ananias is you might get a blank stare or a puzzled look. You would also get a puzzled look of perplexity if you asked someone who Monica is. However, if you ask most people if they have ever heard of The Apostle Paul or St. Augustine, you might get a very different answer, and without the looks of perplexity.
Without the prayers of Ananias or Monica, you do not have a St. Paul or St. Augustine. What you have is a heathen and a womanizing reprobate, and a guy named Saul who likes to kill Christians for fun. The prayers of Ananias and St. Augustine’s mother Monica invited these two men, St. Paul and St. Augustine, into God’s plan and purpose for their lives. Prayer is powerful and influences the people we live around and the world we live in. Prayer is our work.
In this writing we will explore the lives of Ananias and Paul and the lives of St. Monica and St. Augustine. We will look at the role prayer played in their discipleship and formation, and in their life callings. We will then look at how this role of prayer has played out in my family and my personal story of becoming, and being, a disciple of Jesus Christ. We will finish by looking at what the implications are of prayer in making and being disciples ourselves and what the applications are for our own lives.
“There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: ‘Ananias.’ ‘Yes, Master?’ he answered. ‘Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.’ Ananias protested, ‘Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.’ But the Master said, ‘Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.’ So Ananias went . . .’”
Ananias was available to God and was receptive to His vision in prayer and in action. We do not hear a lot about Ananias before or after this story in Acts chapter nine, but he plays a pivotal role in the life of God’s church. The church would not be the same outside of Ananias’s life, prayer, and obedience to Jesus.
Prayer in the Calling of Paul
Ananias influenced the Apostle Paul through prayer in these ways:
- Ananias made himself available to God
- Ananias was receptive to God’s vision
- Ananias said “Yes” to God and answered His call
- Despite the risk and uncertainty, Ananias went
- Paul’s prayer matched up with Ananias’s prayers as they were both available to God in prayer
- Though Ananias questioned God and was afraid, he ultimately listened and obeyed
- Ananias’s obedience, despite his fears and the real risks, helped Saul to be Paul
Paul wrote more books than any other author in the New Testament. Paul’s missionary journeys helped spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world, changing the world as we know it, and “turning it upside down.” The Apostle Paul has shaped theological thought and has influenced thinkers for almost 2000 years. No other figure or theologian since Jesus has shaped Christendom the way that the Apostle Paul and his life and letters have. However, without Ananias, we would not have Paul, we would have Saul, and we would be living a completely different reality as Christians.
Who was St. Monica? St. Monica was St. Augustine’s mother. She is described as being “A woman of prayer and tears (Smither, p. 93).” Her supplications, her petitions to God, were focused on her wayward son, Augustine. Augustine was said to have reported that his mother had visions and dreams that her prayers for her son had come to fruition and were answered. Monica was a woman of prayer, character, faith, trust, and integrity. Monica was also a great listener and peacemaker. She was a mentor and leader of other women in their difficult lives and marriages. While Monica was such a great woman, she was not without fault and struggled with wine, being overbearing, and being controlling, and she had other sins in her life as well. (See Augustine as Mentor, p. 94)
Prayer Influence in Augustine
St. Monica influenced her son Augustine through prayer in these ways:
- Monica was available to God
- Monica was a woman of faith and trust in God
- Monica was a woman of prayer and intercession
- Monica had integrity and character
- Persistence of prayer and the relentless pursuit of God were evident in Monica
- While Monica was not perfect, she was faithful; her prayers were answered in her son Augustine
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.)
St. Augustine has influenced many major thinkers, theologians, and philosophers over the last fifteen centuries. While Augustine had a rough beginning, through his mother Monica’s prayers and relentless pursuits of him for Jesus, Augustine turned out to be a man of faith, character, and mission. Like Monica, Augustine led a life of ministry and mentoring and a life of discipling others. Augustine also shaped the face of Christianity as we know it. St. Augustine also influenced the life and theology of Martin Luther, and thereby he influenced the reformation. Augustine also influenced the life and theology of the Catholic Church. The landscape of our faith would have been very different without Augustine. And without a St. Monica, there would have been no St. Augustine.
If I were to ask you who Sylvia Pruitt, Howard Price, or Tom Craig are, you most likely will not know who these people are. However, if it were not for the prayers and the influence of these people, you would not be reading this right now. Without Sylvia Pruitt there is no Robbie Pruitt, me. Now, I am not presumptuous enough, or arrogant enough, to think that I am on the same playing field as St. Paul or St. Augustine. What I am saying is that prayer changes people. Prayer leads people to Jesus and empowers them to fulfill God’s purpose and mission for their life. I know this from personal experience.
I should not be a believer today. I should probably not even be alive. Like Augustine, I lived a life characterized by sin and the pursuit of my own passions and desires apart from God. I did not want to be in a relationship with God, as much as I wanted relief from life’s struggles and pains. I found temporary and false relief in the bottom of a bottle, in friends, and in my own dreams, desires, and works. My mother Sylvia, my grandfather Howard, and my youth leader Tom Craig influenced my life in their prayers for me and their influence in my life. Without these people’s influence, prayers, and intercessions to God on my behalf, I would not know Jesus today.
My mom is a chain smoking, Coca Cola drinking, back pew sitting, fowl mouthed saint! One of the greatest blessings that I have ever received from my mother, aside from her birthing me into this world, nurturing and caring for me, and not killing me when I had fully deserved it, is her prayers for me. My mom blessed my sister and brother and I with prayer. She tells the story of raising us three kids as a single mom in the 1980’s in a man’s world, and praying that if God did not raise us, that it would not get done. Mom said, “I told God that if He did not raise you kids, then it wouldn’t get done.” Mom said to my brother and sister and me, “Lord, I can’t take care of them. Take them. They are yours!” God answered mom’s prayers. My sister, my brother, and I are all following and serving Jesus today because of St. Sylvia. My mom is a modern day St. Monica. Without my mom Sylvia, there would be no Robbie Pruitt following Jesus.
An interesting side note to this story is my grandfather’s prayers. My mom’s dad Howard, a.k.a. Papa, said this about raising my mother and her brother and sister, “Lord, please let me live long enough to get my kids raised.” My mom jokes of him repeating this prayer when the grandchildren started coming along, that’s me. The joke continued when rumor has it that Granddad prayed this prayer again when the great grandchildren started coming along. As mom puts it, it looks like the concern was shifting to granddad continuing on living, more than the grandchildren making it, my grandfather and his humor! Either way, however it went down; if there was no Papa and his prayers, there would be no Sylvia.
St. Robbie and St. You
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7
“In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
We live in an anxious, lonely, sinful, disconnected, and fallen world. We are in an ongoing battle to know God and to make him known. We cannot push through without the power and presence of the almighty God. We must be a praying people. It has been said by Martin Luther that prayer is our work and that we should, “Pray, and let God worry.” Martin Luther is also attributed as saying, though it is not found in his writings: “I have so much to do that if I didn’t spend at least three hours a day in prayer I would never get it all done.” It is clear that Ananias did the work of prayer and so did St. Monica. My mom Sylvia, my grandfather Howard, and my youth leader Tom did the work of prayer as well. We are also called to do the work of prayer if we are going to make disciples of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we get to live into God’s answered prayers for our lives in Him. God has answered so many prayers on our behalf which beckons our own personal obedience and commitment to His purposes and plans for life in Him. God is inviting us into His life and work. We are invited into a life of prayer. We get to pray and intercede for those we love and care about and we get to influence others through our prayers to God on their behalf. If we are to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to, we must be a praying people, and Jesus promises us that He would be with us to the end as we make disciples of Him (Matthew 28:18-20).
Discipleship and Prayer
In order for us to make disciples of Jesus Christ we must:
- Be faithful to walking with Jesus and following Him
- Be available to God
- Be present, accessible, and prayerful
- Be prayerful and obedient, no matter what the risks are or what the fear is
- Take time to pray, make time to pray
- Say “Yes!” to God and His call on your life to pray
- Allow God to work through you by moving out of God’s way
- Allow God to work in you, through you, and despite of you
- Know prayer is the work
As we seek to follow Jesus and as we seek to be people of prayer, doing the work of prayer, we must think through these questions:
- How are we being obedient to God in our prayer life?
- How can we make ourselves more available to God in prayer and intercession?
- Who are we leading to Jesus through our obedience and prayer?
- How might the world be changed through our prayers?
- Who do we have praying for us?
- How much time are we spending in prayer?
May we be people of prayer,
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jas 5:16, Philip. 4:6-7
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Ac 9:10-17, Ephes. 6:18
Smither, Edward L. Augustine as Mentor. B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN. © 2008