In my travels I have found a common characteristic in many churches – the lack of interest in prayer. A church can have a Christian comedian or recording artist perform in the church and the place will be packed out. However, call a prayer meeting and you’ll get a scarce handful. What a tragedy!
While all churches pray, there are very few “praying churches”. We too often relegate prayer as an afterthought to our church activities and in our daily lives. God is not impressed with our hurried shopping lists of “gimmes” and shallow “newscast” prayer meetings. Prayer and Scripture are the avenues that build intimacy with God., and our often hurried prayer times, or neglected prayer altogether, definitely leave us spiritually weak and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. Simply put, without prayer, we are powerless.
When we pray we don’t inform God of our needs – He is omniscient and knows all things. We don’t change God’s mind or coerce Him into doing what we want – He is totally sovereign. Well then, why do we pray? Many ask: “Since God is omniscient and sovereign why do I need to pray?” It is important to remember that prayer isn’t for God, it is really for us. When we pray, we humble ourselves before Him and acknowledge that we need Him, We cast ourselves at his feet in our desperate need and tell Him just how much we need Him.
Another question that is asked is: “Since God id totally sovereign and knows what He is going to do, what good do my prayers do”? While we may not understand all of the theological aspects of prayer, we do know that the Bible tells us to pray, Jesus Himself prayed, and we know that prayer works. I try to explain it by saying that God, in His foreknowledge, weaved His perfect will through the prayers of his people.
Prayer needs to be one of strongest elements in the church. The church started in a prayer meeting at Pentecost, and this is how God continues to respond to His church today. We don’t need more programs, pragmatic activities or promotional efforts. What we need is more fervent, passionate prayer.
We, as individuals and churches, fill our calendars with an endless array of busyness and activity, but forget to pray. We have forgotten that without prayer, all of our endeavors are futile. The effectiveness and fruitfulness of our activities – including preaching, teaching, evangelism, outreach to the poor, etc – are determined in our prayers. Yes, the most important thing we do is pray. Everything hinges on this.
America, and specifically church in America, is in desperate need of revival. While revival is a sovereign work of God, all historic revivals were birthed in prayer, and if we are too a revival in our time, it very well could be the byproduct of our prayer. Where are those followers of Jesus who sense the desperate need of our time and fall on their faces in fervent prayer for God to move in our midst in revival? We need prayer warriors who live with a sense of urgency and who will stand in the gap for revival! Yes it is hard work, but nothing is more important than this. Satan and his mignons will do everything they can to stop us from praying because they know that prayer is the weapon that will bring them to defeat. Satan and his forces fear nothing on this planet except a Christian who is serious about, and saturates their life in, prayer.
There is a war raging around us and the stakes are enormous. As disciples and soldiers of Jesus, we dare not shy away and retreat. We need to take the land for Jesus, and we do this in prayer and then, and only then, do we get busy with activity. Prayer always precedes ministry, not vice versa. Ministry without prayer is like racing in the Indianapolis 500 with a Segway scooter.
Jim Elliott once said: “A saint who advances on his knees never retreats”. Brothers and sisters, let us pray.