Rookie disciple makers are verbs, not nouns. You can count on them for two things.
The first is energy. Made of nerves and big-dream excitement their energy is infectious. They explode like fireworks, some boom with confidence while others screech with insecurity. When they’re appreciated they can reignite a disciple making flame that has begun to flicker.
The second is mistakes. Since they lack experience, mistakes will be made. And that’s okay! A rookie’s mistakes are seldom fatal, but some can be avoided with wisdom handed down by veteran disciple makers. We have already looked at two common mistakes: trying to disciple without invitation and being frozen by fear.
Today’s rookie mistake to avoid is: Lack of Prayer.
A rookie’s boundless energy and eagerness often cause them to overlook how spiritually taxing it is to make disciples. It’s true for all disciple makers, not just rookies. Just look at how frequently Jesus is exasperated by His disciples. “Are you still so dull?” (Matt. 15:16), “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40), and even post-Resurrection “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25). Part of the reason disciple making is draining is because it normally doesn’t go the way you envision. Sometimes the disciple isn’t as available as you expected. Other times, he just doesn’t seem to be open to what you are teaching. Regardless, the struggle isn’t as important as the response.
Most disciple makers respond to discipling difficulty by blaming their own spiritual maturity, methodology, or readiness to disciple others. It’s understandable, without the benefit of experience they assume the responsibility. But many rookie disciple makers forget to pray consistently, intentionally, and specifically for God to transform the disciple.
In other words, the difficulty is a result of a lack of prayer, rather than a lack of ability. The lack of prayer is a symptom of a bigger problem in the disciple making relationship. Most commonly, the problem is one of these three things lack of connection, lack of cooperation, and lack of conviction. Before we look at each, it’s important to note that prayer serves to improve and prevent each one.
1. Lack of Connection
A disciple making relationship works best when a strong heart connection has developed. When a discipler is too intentional the life is squeezed out of the relationship. Since prayer naturally flows from the care we have for another, a prayer problem frequently indicates a connection problem between the discipler and the disciple. Imagine a parent forgetting to pray for their children or a boyfriend not praying for his girlfriend. It surely happens, but when it happens by a mature disciple it’s frequently the result of a connection problem.
Prayer ignites a loop that helps solve that problem.
When you pray for those you disciple, God grows your heart for them.
The more you care about the disciple, the more you will naturally pray for them. And the more you pray the more you care.
2. Lack of Cooperation
When you are making creative disciples, not simply proficient ones, it’s a cooperative endeavor. You and the disciple must work together to determine the pace and the direction of the disciple making relationship. The give and take in the relationship is one thing that distinguishes it from mentoring and accountability. The give and take also produces tension. She may have one vision of what the focus should be while you have another. Some disciple makers handle this tension by just playing defense all the time, while others do damage by insisting they know what’s best.
Prayer helps the disciple maker surrender their vision as they seek out God’s agenda. Ultimately, the agenda is co-created with the discipler, the disciple, and God. Prayer helps the discipler surrender his plans to God’s. As this happens, the discipler can better listen to and respond to the Spirit’s leading. Without real prayer both the disciple and the discipler simply lean on their own understanding. Yet, as E.M. Bounds said, “No learning can make up for the failure to pray.”
3. Lack of Conviction
Finally, a lack of prayer indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of how disciples are made. Scripture makes it clear that we can do nothing on our own (John 15:5) and that God is the one who provides the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). The only way we can fulfill the Great Commission is by partnering with the Spirit under Jesus’ authority. When we don’t pray for those we disciple we are acting as if we can do it alone. We can’t.
Discipling without consistent prayer is a quick way to learn that we are unable to do it on our own. Such prayerless discipling may well result in the appearance of growth without transformation, but not in genuine fruitfulness. For example, the disciple may grow in his understanding of God and Scripture, but doesn’t make applications or disciple others.
Prayer reminds every disciple maker that he cannot do anything without God. A praying disciple maker is a powerful disciple maker. Such a person understands the limits of his example, his experience, and his methods. He knows that only God can mold the disciple into His image.
I hope this post encourages rookies and veterans alike.
Our effectiveness in disciple making is influenced more by our praying than our knowing.
Rookie, don’t let a focus on methods or principles distract you from prayer. Praying connects you to your limits and to God’s power. It’s a tangible expression of a desire to cooperate with God’s vision. And prayer is a consistent reminder that you can’t do anything on your own. If you’re a disciple maker then prayer is as important as anything else you do in your disciple making. Don’t neglect it!
By Justin Gravitt
Used by permission. Originally posted here: