Intro Note: I have already written about our Plan on a Page, which lays out the four core practices that we consider the marks of discipleship according to the New Testament. In that document, we try to capture the "irreducible minimum standards" of our mission.
Basically, I contend that there are many things you could not do and still be a Christian, or follower of Jesus. For example, you could not "go to church" or participate in a youth group or listen to Christian radio stations or become a missionary in a foreign land or tithe or...okay, you get it...and yet still be an authentic, sincere, passionate follower of Jesus. These examples may all be good things, but they are not the marks of true discipleship that Jesus gives us in the Bible. They are not the "make-or-break", non-negotiables of the Christian faith used to identify people as real believers.
Then, what are the non-negotiables?
The first one is PRAYING.
There are many things you can decide not to do and still be in tight with Jesus, but deciding to avoid talking to Him or listening to Him is a deal breaker. This one falls into the common sense category. Trying to be right with God without ever praying is like marrying someone with the condition that you never communicate after the vows are exchanged. It doesn't work.
Another reason I would consider this essential is that Jesus commanded, taught, and modeled prayer for us. So far, these are the obvious reasons why prayer is important.
There is one more truth, though, that needs to be highlighted in describing the necessity of prayer. It is, quite literally, how disciples are made. There is an illusion that people are persuaded into the kingdom of God, but it is probably more accurate to say that people are prayed into the kingdom. Receiving God's grace in Jesus is not a matter of the wisdom of the world, but is the response when are minds are "set on things above."
One of the interesting ironies of the gospel is that it cannot be shared by human means because it is SPIRIT-ual. The only way to make sense of the gospel or understand wisdom of the Spirit is to have Him reveal it to you. Prayer opens a channel for that to happen. It is how we know His mind, heart, and will.
What is critical to teach children is that prayer is how Jesus taught us to connect with God. We don't water down the message about prayer, but rather keep it simple because children can actually lead us in this area and have powerful relationships with God through prayer.
The final point about prayer is that it is a great example of the freedom we have in Christ. Prayer is not regulated. There is no requirement for a person to pray in a certain posture, at a certain volume, with certain words, at certain times, or in certain places. A conversation with God can be had anywhere. In fact, that is what is so great. I can talk to God or listen to Him at home, at my work, in my car, on the sidewalk, during a meeting, in a class, when I am alone, when I am nervous or happy or sad or confused, or even while I am at my computer typing the words to a blog. Thank you, Lord!
The guiding question for a disciple or church could be, Are we seeing prayers being answered?