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When A Church Prays

I recently read A Praying Church by Paul E. Miller. It's been a long time since a book has inspired me like this one. Miller doesn't share any programs or strategies that guarantee success, except prayer itself. I believe this book has been so important to me because I have been looking for years to find a way to encourage my congregations to be praying churches.

Miller tells us what we should already know. "Prayer fuels prayer." (pg. 6). It makes sense that this happens because prayer works like conversation between people. Regular dialogue with family and friends builds relationships and causes us to desire more time together. In the same way, prayer helps us build a relationship with God. And once God has our hearts, he has our time.

But prayer isn't just for individuals, it is the very pillar on which the church was built, or as Miller points out, "it's the very breath of the church." (pg. 7) This book is made up of 5 parts. Why we should pray together. How Jesus communities work. Exploration of the interface between the Spirit of Jesus and the community of prayer. How to pray in community. And how integral prayer can be to the subcommittees of the church. This is not a deeply theological book, but it has theology. It's not a how-to book but it gives us strategies.

This book illustrates the journey of a man (Miller) who has a deep relationship with God and the church. He focuses primarily on the book of Ephesians and Paul's prayer to the church in Ephesus. In the book, he describes in detail the power train through which Paul prays. It is prayer - Spirit - Jesus - Power - Saints. He points out that "Paul's opus on the church centers not on the church but on Christ." And likewise, "We do church best when we don't look at Church but gaze at Christ."(pg. 70)

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. Ephesians 4:3

Corporate prayer was at the heart of early church worship and should play a bigger part in our worship services today. He believes and I agree, that we do not spend enough time in prayer on Sunday mornings. Our focus is usually on the sermon, which is a necessary part of the service, however, it can keep us focused on ourselves, rather than God. He writes, "The sermon is about God, and singing and prayer are to God. It's a natural progression from building faith to expressing faith. (pg. 194)

In addition to prayer, Miller talks about the importance of fasting. He suggests several ways we can start with fasting and how it can evolve. He writes about an African mission group that fast and prays for the first forty days of the year (they sustain themselves with vegetable juice.) for the conversion of Muslim Imams and have seen 1500 Imams find Christ. (pg. 251)

I believe the Global Methodist Church would benefit if its pastors and lay people put into practice the teachings of A Praying Church. I have every confidence that this will change the very essence of our churches. We will become churches focused on the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. And when we embrace this power promised to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit, literally anything is possible!

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