“Exclusive” and “invitation only” are words not usually associated with a prayer meeting. A Hollywood premier is exclusive. Dinner with the President is by invitation only. But a prayer meeting? Isn’t its very essence a come-one-come-all inclusiveness? Jesus didn’t think so.
On at least two occasions he organized exclusive, invitation-only prayer meetings.
In the first meeting, he invited Peter, James and John to pray on a mountaintop (Luke 9:28). While there, Jesus’ appearance changed and his divine nature was revealed. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became dazzling white – as bright as a flash of lightening.
Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Him and then disappeared leaving only Jesus, and the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him”. At this place, the divinity of Christ, and his fulfillment of the law and prophets was forever seared into the souls of his three chosen leaders.
In the second prayer meeting, Jesus again invited Peter, James and John to accompany him in prayer (Matthew 26:37). Maybe they expectantly envisioned a repeat performance of the glorious Mount of Transfiguration. It was not to be.
This prayer meeting was marked by agony and bloody sweat. Here, on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James and John witnessed the cost of the cross. They saw God Made Flesh cry out to the Father for deliverance. Through exhausted eyes they saw his tears and his sweat. They heard his repeated cries of agony. They would leave this prayer meeting shaken, with a new understanding of Christ’s humanity.
Here were two mountaintop, invitation-only prayer meetings. One shone with God’s glory. One was drenched with God’s tears.
What do these two invitation-only prayer meetings mean? Are we to conclude that true prayer entails a Gnostic secret knowledge available only for certain super saints? Of course not. Jesus died and rose again so that all of his children could have free and unfettered access to the Holy of Holies.
What are we to make, then, of these two private prayer meetings? A couple of observations….
In both cases, only Jesus’ chosen leaders were invited: Peter, James and John. The Lord evidently wanted the leaders of his church to have a deep understanding of his nature – divine and human.
Of course, every believer is to have a good grasp of the divinity and humanity of Christ. But it is especially incumbent upon church leaders to deeply grasp these truths through prayer.
This is true transformational leadership (for both leader and follower). Peter, James and John were forever changed by Christ’s leadership training. Years later Peter would write, “He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17-18)
Herein lies a great leadership principle. Consider the enormous number of books and innumerable seminars on leadership. Leaders are to be trustworthy, decisive, visionaries, servants, ahead of the curve and intelligent.
These qualities are indeed admirable in a leader. But what did Jesus emphasize, and emphasize again when he convened his leaders? He stressed prayer and a deep understanding of his nature and purpose.
Napoleon is reported to have said, “A leader is a dealer in hope”. Yet, without Christ there is no hope. A Christless leader, regardless of his earthly laurels, is doomed to fail in fulfilling eternal metrics.
For Christ’s chosen leaders, a deeper revelation of his cross, kingdom and glory is required. The Master himself requires it.
Both Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Let us pray with Moses, “Lord, show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). And let us pray with Elijah, “Let it be known today that you are God” (1 Kings 18:36b). Amen.