I’ve talked about prayer often since I started this blog. This is because I believe that prayer is so very important in our lives and times. And I fear prayer has fallen by the wayside in the modern church. Do I think our churches will fail if we don’t pray? No, I believe they will continue exist. But is that enough? Is it enough to continue as a church in our own power? What exactly did Christ expect when he established the church?
Christ tells Peter, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means rock), and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” Matt. 16:18. These words of Christ tell me two things. The church will be built upon people. The church is not the building but the people inside.
But this also tells me that the power of the church comes not from us but from God. It’s possible to start and even continue a church on our own power, but for a church to be powerful enough to defeat the powers of hell, we need Christ. Those first churches developed out of the obedience, faith, and prayers of the original apostles. They grew and quickly spread around the world in Christ’s power through the Holy Spirit.
The first Christians were powerless in their communities; they had no government support and protection, financial resources, buildings, respect, or social status. They were persecuted and ridiculed, and they had no denominational backing.
God won't answer 100 percent of the prayers we don't pray. Mark Batterson
All they had were themselves and the power of the Holy Spirit. Their confidence that their God was alive and working amongst them was enough. It allowed them to turn away from what they could do and turn to God’s power. And with God’s power, “By the year 300 perhaps…10 percent of the people (in the Roman Empire) were Christians, and by the middle of the century, Christians may well have been a majority of the citizens, 33 million Christians in an empire of 60 million people.” (a2schools.org)
In America today, we stopped depending on God’s power and instead have become dependent on programs, fun activities, lessening the requirements for membership, giving away everything from food to clothing and school supplies, hoping people will be impressed with our giving and join the church. We’re careful not to mention Jesus too often or what his requirements are, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15
Mark Batterson, in The Circle Maker, explains the benefits of obedience, “The beauty of obedience is this: it relieves us of responsibility. It takes all the pressure off of us and places it squarely on God’s sovereign shoulders.” We don’t have to depend on our programs or even getting enough volunteers for the work that needs to be done. And no more fundraisers, God multiplies better than the best mathematician.
Our responsibility is handed over to God, and he can do so much more with our resources than we can. God has promised to answer every prayer we send his way. So, we don’t have to be careful that we only ask for what we know we can accomplish; we can ask for anything. Then wait for God to show his glory in his answers. As Batterson points out, “The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered simply because they go unasked.”
When you pray, will you pray for things you can accomplish yourself or things only God can accomplish? God tells us to test him. Are you ready to do so?