"Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God's infinite grace and power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer." - R. A. Torrey
The more I learn, know and understand about the local church - the more I think I don't know. Have you ever experienced that? For a "church expert" I can feel pretty inadequate at times, but my love and passion for the church keep me in the game...seeking, learning, and growing. Let me share what I'm learning right now.
Here's what my field level experience and the voice of God are saying to me:
+ We have a whole lot less control over what happens in the local church than we think we do. God is in control.
+ Our best wisdom and natural power pales compared to God's wisdom and supernatural power.
+ God is calling us to a greater dependency upon Him to build His church.
Don't get me wrong -- I love church stuff and always will. I love church models, ministry models, ministry strategies, leadership development, evangelism processes, and the list goes on. My life is dedicated to the improvement of these kinds of things. But a big something seems to be missing as I contact churches -- prayer. We (me too) seem to spend so much time on the run and so little on our knees. Is the answer to abandon the strategies and become monks in the desert? Of course not, but something tells me that God would open the gates of Heaven in a big way if the local churches really tapped into prayer.
My visit to Seoul Korea in 1991 was life changing - well at least life impacting (I'm apparently a slow changer). I was overwhelmed with an all-night prayer service in which 25,000 people in beautiful harmony and dignified order prayed for their church and the world. It is no accident that Paul Yongi Cho's church is the largest church in the world. Numbers aren't the issue; why it's large, healthy, and growing, is the issue.
There are many factors that contribute to church health and growth, but the more I see, the more I'm convinced that prayer is the key. The reason for this is simple-prayer lets God in on the process! And the process begins with you.
The following is a sermon/lesson I have written. If it speaks to you, you may teach/preach it to others.
I. Get your personal prayer life in order first.
Prayer isn't easy and it doesn't come naturally to anyone. It's work. Prayer is a joyous privilege; but it's a challenge. The concerns of the world distract us from prayer. The irony is that prayer is what helps us overcome the concerns of the world. Commit yourself to sincere and earnest prayer and God will open the doors of heaven to you. This doesn't mean perfection - progress is the key.
A. Overcoming common prayer hurdles.
1. Lack of consistency. This is by far the most common of the hurdles.
A lack of consistency often stems from a lack of understanding of our relationship with Christ and the actual role of prayer.
* God is not a cosmic slot machine.
* Prayer is not like a daily vitamin.
* More or less prayer doesn't make you more or less saved and loved by God.
Prayer is a relationship of regular and continual communication. Understanding your relationship with Christ moves you to prayer.
a. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1-2)
* God, the Judge in the courtroom, pronounces us "not guilty" because of Jesus.
b. God loves you unconditionally. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
"God doesn't love you because you're valuable, you're valuable because God loves you." - Ian Pitt-Watson
* I love my kids no matter what they do.
c. God's heart is grace-oriented.
Christianity is not a performance-based religion. It's not about earning spiritual brownie points with God. It is a relationship established by grace and received through faith in God through His Son, Jesus. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
* Remember the story of the prodigal son? He left home, wasted his money, lived with bad character, yet his father still took him back with open arms.
* School tests focus on how many answers are wrong! When a math test is returned it says: "-2" or "2 wrong." I believe it should be "+18" or "18 right"!
God focuses on how many you get right. Satan focuses on how many you get wrong. The point is that while God does care about our spiritual shortcomings, He always operates out of His basic nature; love.
Prayer is not a deed or a duty, but a way of life.
"Prayer is the sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word for the good of the church, with submission and faith to the will of God." - John Bunyan
2. Lack of listening.
Most of us talk more than listen when we pray!
The truth is that silence begins to reveal our real self. In silence we slow down enough to see things as they really are. We begin to see ourselves as we really are in comparison to how God sees us, and this makes us uncomfortable.
3. Lack of faith.
We all lack faith. It's the simple truth. If you and I really believed that Jesus could move mountains, heal the sick, and raise the dead, wouldn't we pray for more miracles? Instead - we pray for a good parking spot at the mall!
Your faith may be based more on what you believe than on what God has promised.
To reverse this, and believe more on the promises of God than your own finite beliefs, you must stretch your faith by trusting God completely. The good news is that it's not how much faith you have, but whom your faith is in. Jesus is the person and the power of your faith.
Tap into the power of prayer today.
* Don't wait until you have time.
* Don't wait until you are more spiritual.
* Don't wait until someone asks you to pray.
If you are already faithful in your prayer life, ask God to lead you to a new level of prayer.
If you are sporadic in your prayer life, start small and start today. Don't worry about the length of time; the Holy Spirit will take care of that as prayer becomes a habit in your life.
Pray intentionally and strategically for the life and ministry of your church.
There are six areas in the church that require prayer on a regular basis. If you faithfully and consistently pray for the following, your church will recognize powerful blessings.
A. Pray for the hearts of those who are unchurched.
+ Pre-evangelism - Cultivation
+ Pray that God would speak to the hearts of people in your community who do not attend church.
+ Don't hesitate to pray for specific people.
B. Pray for people to receive Christ as Savior.
+ Decision - Harvest
+ Pray that God would melt the hearts of those who don't know Him as their personal Savior, that they would seek a relationship with Christ, and make a decision.
+ Pray that your church develops a passionate heart for the lost and responds with lifestyle evangelism. By the way, prayer doesn't override action, but it is the priority.
C. The Holy Spirit's power. (Acts 1:8)
The Spirit of God in us, the Holy Spirit, is the power that brings all the lasting fruit or results in your church. What we can accomplish on our own is extremely limited and short-lived.
+ Pray for God's anointing power to energize your church for a truly eternal difference.
"Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks." - Phillips Brooks
D. A spirit of love and unity.
Scripture calls us to both a spirit of love and a spirit of unity. One cannot exist without the other (Ephesians 4:3-5). Pray that your church remains steadfast in its commitment to love one another and actively seeks a unified spirit that pleases the Lord.
Churches fuss over the dumbest things!
* Whether to buy chairs or pews
* What kind of computers to buy
* Whether or not to sell, give away or burn the church bus
Sometimes churches fight over not so dumb things:
* Worship style
* The pastor's leadership
* New building campaign
The point is, don't fuss and fight-stick together! That is the only way God can accomplish His mission through you.
I can just imagine God saying to Jesus: "Son, if they'd just stop arguing long enough, I'd tell them what I want them to do."
E. Maturing of the body of Christ.
Praying for new people and salvation have been stated already, but what's next?
Philippians 1:6 teaches us that God desires to complete the good work He began in us. So what is this completion? What does it look like?
God literally calls for us to "grow up" from being children to becoming mature in our faith.
* Gift-based ministry
* Fruit of the Spirit
* Generous financial giving
* Time in the Scriptures and prayer
* Lifestyle sharing of your faith with the unchurched
F. The leaders in the church.
Pray for the primary leaders in your church, and don't forget to pray for the pastor. Praying for the pastor is so important, and the entire issue of the next "The Pastor's Coach" is dedicated to giving you a simple plan of how to do that.
I hope this personal and yet practical material is helpful to you.
This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.injoy.com.