How Would Prayer Change Our Churches?
At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I believe the most significant area we American Christians have failed ourselves is not using prayer to meet our needs. We do not allow the power of prayer to change our lives, our ministries, and our families. We talk about prayer, we tell people we will pray for them. But do we always? Or do we forget and go about our lives?
Except when the world falls apart in some way (heaven seems shut). Calls for prayer abounded after 911, Katrina, mass shootings, and the war in Ukraine. But day-to-day things... we seem to believe we can handle that ourselves. I have stressed prayer in every church I served and yet, people didn't seem more committed to prayer when I left than when I came.
I offered prayer in each church and one congregation actually g0t up regularly for prayer from the first day we asked. But after a year and a half of Wednesday night prayer, not even that church participated. Even after sharing the miracles we experienced during that prayer time, people stayed away. Why is prayer not important to the American church?
In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Jim Cymbala writes, "What does it say about our churches today that God birthed a church in a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings today are almost extinct? Cymbala has one of the largest, most successful prayer meetings every Tuesday evening at his church, The Brooklyn Tabernacle. When he started his first prayer meeting there was only a handful of people, now thousands attend and miracles happen! All the time! Why would we not want that for our church?
When the Holy Spirit came upon those gathered on that first Pentecost, they were not singing or preaching they were praying. And they witnessed the "roaring of a mighty windstorm" and "what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on them." (Acts 2:2-3). They experienced the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. Why, because they were praying to God. We can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit when we gather together for prayer. So what keeps us from gathering?
First, I think we pastors and church leaders have not been good examples of powerful prayer warriors. We tell our congregations that prayer is important, but we don't model that in our ministry and lives. To correct that, I made a decision that when someone tells me of a need, I will stop right there and pray with them rather than tell them I will pray for them. I want them to know just how much I believe in the power of prayer. I don't just talk about it I practice it.
Second, not knowing what we were doing, we offered mostly boring and depressing prayer meetings where we just played at prayer. When we received answers to prayers we didn't give them the attention and focus they should have had, we simply moved on to the next need. We need to research effective prayer events and see what components make up those prayer times.
God says to us, “Pray, because I have all kinds of things for you; and when you ask, you will receive.” Jim Cymbala
We don't recognize the prayer warriors in our lives and in history. We have a volunteer recognition moment in worship or the newsletter but when have you heard of the prayer warrior of the month? Has your church ever spent any extended time talking about the great prayer warriors of the past?
I'm thinking of people like George Müller. When Müller decided to open a home for orphans, he resolved to not ask people for money, but to always bring his need to God to fulfill. He started with a rented house and thirty girls and grew into orphanages that held thousands of children. And Through all this, Müller kept his promise to never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost more than £100,000 to build. This meant that sometimes they didn't receive what they needed until the last minute. He ofte4n received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. Müller was in constant prayer that God touched the hearts of donors to make provisions for the orphans. For example, on one well-documented occasion, thanks were given for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. (See Wikipedia for this and more information.)
Can you imagine what would happen in our churches if we prayed and believed like Muller in our churches today? I think we would have more than we need and we would see unbelievers coming to Christ, churches growing, people healed, marriages redeemed, and relationships restored. God has the power to do so much more in our lives if we would just "humble ourselves, pray and seek his face."