September 25 – Our Churches: Emphasis on Prayer

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Is Prayer a Priority in Your Church?

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Several years ago the Christian researchers in the Barna Group sampled 614 senior pastors of Protestant churches. These ministers were asked to identify the top three ministry priorities for their church in the ensuing year. Their responses were so diverse that not one single ministry emphasis was listed by even half of the church leaders.

Overall, the research analysts found that the pastors aligned in three distinct levels of priority. A dozen activities were listed for them to respond to. Most frequently mentioned were discipleship and spiritual development, evangelism and outreach, and preaching. The second level of priorities included congregational care efforts, such as visitation and counseling, ministry to teens and young adults, worship, missions, community service, ministry to children, and congregational fellowship. The two that ranked lowest on the list were ministry to families and prayer. Prayer received a 3 percent response.

What makes the pastoral response interesting is how prayer is the most common faith practice among American adults, again according to Barna several years later.

The late British Pastor Francis Dixon, evangelist and founder of Words of Life Ministries, said, “There is only one real problem in the church of God these days, and that is the prayer life of the church.” He said prayer is the whole life of the church, adding that “all our difficulties would melt away if that prayer life were to become vital, powerful, and, in a word, revived.”

R.A. Torry was an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer at the turn of the 20th century. He wrote, “The devil is perfectly willing that the Church should multiply its organization and its deftly contrived machinery for the conquest of the world for Christ, if it will only give up praying. … Satan laughs softly, as he looks at the Church today, and says under his breath: ‘You can have your Sunday schools, your YMCAs… your grand choirs, and your fine organs, and your brilliant preachers… as long as you do not bring into them the power of Almighty God, sought and obtained by earnest, persistent, believing, mighty prayers.’”.

So why aren’t churches praying?

Daniel Henderson, president of Strategic Resources, an organization committed to prayer-based revitalization for churches, says he has discovered basic reasons why pastors are reluctant to lead the way to a dynamic prayer ministry in the local church. Among the reasons, he noted that “many grew up in a prayerless church environment, most were trained in a prayerless educational process, some are not sure how to lead effective and life-changing prayer experiences.”

Henderson says since society in America values strong leadership, dynamic programming, entertaining services, and impressive technologies, many pastors don’t go “against the grain.” They are aware that some church members consider it a waste of time to spend energy attending a prayer meeting. In addition, every pastor is a target of Satan, who wants the Holy Spirit to have very little impact on them. And there are pastors who struggle with a prayerless personal life.

In Acts 4, the early Christians were gathered along with Peter and John who had just faced interrogation from the high priest, elders, and scribes. When they heard the account of what happened, they determined that they, too, needed the same courage and they gathered together to pray. Verse 31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” 

Marshall Segal, writer and managing editor at Desiring God, writes, “The soul of any Christian rises or falls with secret prayer, but it is not good for man to only pray alone.” The apostle Paul sought out the prayers of fellow believers in the church at Corinth when he wrote, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11). 

Segal says, “While the whole world restlessly runs ahead to the next event, plagued by anxiety about the future, linger uncomfortably long over all the good that God has done for you.” And, he says, do this with others, together. “Let your prayers strengthen someone else’s hope, and let their prayers strengthen yours.”

God receives, hears, and answers prayer. He longs for His people to come and speak with Him. “Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel” (Revelation 8:3-4).

How then should we pray? 

  • For the leaders of churches and congregations nationwide to recognize the need for prayer, personally and as the body of Christ.
  • That the prayer life of your pastors would be vital, strong, and relentless.
  • That pastors and staff members would turn to prayer in both worship and administration.
  • That ministers would seek the Lord and be open to direction from His Holy Spirit regarding the inclusion of more information about prayer—and more praying—in the local church.
  • For a nationwide revival of interest in prayer, corporately and individually.

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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