I believe it’s time for leaders to not become just a jack of all trades but to seek to become the master of one: interaction with heaven.

Teach Us to Pray: The Class We Never Graduate From

by Corey Russell
4/16/17 Prayer

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He had ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

They spent morning, noon, and night with Him for three and a half years. They heard every message, witnessed every miracle, healing, deliverance, and release of power. (Now just stop for a second and read those first two sentences again.) Let’s say that today an outpouring of the Spirit was released, and God anointed a friend of yours to travel all through the nations to release power, healing, and deliverance; and that for three and a half years you got to be in every meeting, hear every message, watch every miracle, and then would get to hang with your friend back at the hotel interviewing him about what he meant by some of the messages, what he felt in the healings, and overall, just to be with him. Now take what I just shared with you, multiply it by a billion, and it still pales in comparison to what those young men experienced with Jesus for three and a half years. They were brought into the inner circle and were given a front row seat in witnessing the day-and-night life and ministry of Jesus Christ. (It doesn’t get any better than that.)

And yet, it wasn’t His messages, healings, and deliverances that they wanted to be taught in. They undoubtedly learned so many things from witnessing all of these glorious realities. Yet still, we don’t see one recorded time where they asked Jesus to teach them in these. They wanted His prayer life. They watched this Man live in complete surrender and dependence on the Father. And it looked like something—it looked like a life of prayer.

E. M. Bounds once said “that it was worth a trip from heaven to earth to teach men to pray.” And if there was one lasting impression Jesus made on those who were around Him the most, it was His praying. His communing praying, His agonizing praying, His joyful praying, His grieving and sorrowing praying, His faith-filled praying, His confident praying, His weeping praying, His silent praying, and His loud praying. Jesus could go from preaching a message to prayer without skipping a beat. Prayer wasn’t a “religious activity” to a successful ministry, but it was where He lived. Those disciples watched Him rise a long while before dawn and pray. They watched Him pray through the night in agonizing prayer. They watched Him rejoice before God in prayer, and above all, they heard the way He talked to God, and they were undone. God wasn’t a far off, distant, stoic being; but He was Abba, Father.

They connected the dots and knew that Jesus’ public life of ministry was the result of His private life of prayer. From His first public message to His last, He emphasized prayer. Luke states, “He . . . often withdrew . . . and prayed.” It wasn’t a side part of His life but was the very bone, marrow, and DNA of His life. It wasn’t “salt on the meal” but was “the meal itself.” Not only did He teach on prayer—He prayed.

They watched Him pray. They watched God, the Son, talk to God, the Father, through God, the Spirit. They saw the intimacy, the vulnerability, the intensity that came out of Him as He prayed—He emptied Himself of all of His divine privileges, throwing Himself fully on the Father. One of my favorite verses is John 17:1, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: Father.” Jesus went from preaching to prayer effortlessly, and with His eyes opened towards heaven, He spoke.

The disciple’s desire to be taught in prayer was so much more than getting a good prayer life to be effective in ministry, but it was based in the fact that they had watched Him, heard Him, and were provoked. Jesus, as the greatest leader ever, provoked one thing out of those who saw Him the most: a desire for His prayer life.

This, right here, should cause every leader, whether it be leading two or two million, to reassess what exactly our impact is on those who are around us the most, those who see us the most and hear us the most. Do they want our prayer life or our preaching gift? Our prayer life or our intellectual ability? Our networking skills? Our favor? Our wisdom?

When no one is watching, what is your life provoking the most in those that are around you?

Charles Spurgeon said, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” This is a staggering statement coming from, arguably, one of the greatest preachers who has ever lived. One of the most gifted orators in history understood this. Yet so few today, with lesser gifting, understand this. What Charles understood is that all gifting, ability, and grace is born, cultivated, matured, and empowered through a life of prayer. Who cares if you have faith to move the mountains, wisdom to build empires, and gifting to shake nations if you don’t have love? And that love, that presence, that reality is only found in communion with Abba.

I believe we are going to see a generation of parents who are going to lay hold of this vision, and it will release a move of the Spirit among the next generation. I believe our kids will remember our tears, our prayers, and the presence of Jesus on our life far more than anything else. I have a vision that our kids will wake up in the morning, run into the living room, and see mom and/or dad on the couch with bible open, notebook open, worship music on, and tears and prayers flowing. Our kids will never forget those moments as one resounding revelation hits them: Jesus is not a once-a-week meeting but is a real person whom mom and dad are connected to. That will do more to shift the cultures in our homes and in our society than anything we’ve ever seen. I believe this will do more to shift a less-than-four-percent church engagement than any strategy or technique we can come up with.

We are in desperate need for a generation of leaders to arise with deep, consistent lives of prayer. From our homes to our churches, to our pulpits, to our schools, we need leaders to come forth that take their crowns of gifting, wisdom, and ability and cast them continually down before the Lamb by prioritizing time spent in prayer above any other ministry. Where are those who will focus on ministry to God above every other ministry? I believe it’s time for leaders to not become just a jack of all trades but to seek to become the master of one: interaction with heaven. This next generation desperately needs mothers and fathers to take them by the hand and introduce them to the most beautiful and glorious person, Jesus, training them in this glorious school that we never graduate from: the school of prayer.

What will you do to strengthen your prayer life?

If you’re looking to grow in prayer, consider ministry training at International House of Prayer University (IHOPU), where learning takes place in the context of night-and-day prayer. IHOPU equips leaders to pray, preach, and prophesy from the place of intimacy with Jesus. Spring semester applications are now being accepted for music, ministry, and media. Learn more »

Corey Russell


  • Senior Leader, IHOPKC
  • Instructor, IHOPU

Corey Russell served on the leadership team of the International House of Prayer for more than 15 years and as an instructor at International House of Prayer University. With a mission to disciple and train young preachers and leaders, Corey travels nationally and internationally preaching on the knowledge of God, intercession, and the forerunner ministry. He has authored books such as Prayer: Why Our Words to God Matter and The Glory Within: The Interior Life and the Power of Speaking in Tongues. Corey is married to Dana, and they have three daughters, Trinity, Mya, and Hadassah.

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