Theology Thursday: Prayer In The Church
Prayer, for me, is as simple as simple as any topic in the Bible, and it is also one of the most complicated. It is easy to understand and think about, it is difficult to do, and it can be even more difficult to do well. Today I want to talk specifically about prayer in the church.
I want to start with a statement that all Southern Baptists will understand and most Christians in general will get: "The 2 least attended church events are business meetings and prayer services." At many churches, this is true.
What role does prayer play in the Bible, in our own lives, and in the church? I do not want to be overly negative because I have not been as involved in church life (due to our time in Haiti) over the past few years as I was before. From a Biblical standpoint, prayer has incredible significance. Think about these times in the Bible:
- John 17 when Jesus goes off to Himself to pray.
- Acts 4:23-31 when the ground was shaken by prayer.
- Paul's letters that tell us to pray continually.
- Acts 2 when the believers gave themselves to the Apostle's teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
There are so many instances when Abraham or Moses talked to GOD, when David poured his heart out to GOD, or when the prophets called on GOD's power.
In short, the power and effectiveness of prayer is one of the most documented and easy to understand things in the entire Bible. My fear is that in our own lives and then in our churches, prayer is not what it was meant to be.
A quick story about how All Things New began:
I was serving on staff at RiverTown Church in Jacksonville when I came to Dan Adams, our senior Pastor, and asked him if I could start a missions ministry at the church. We were still a young church plant, but we both agreed it was time to start this ministry.
I had different ideas of how to start this type of ministry, but the first step was to recruit some families and individuals who had a passion for missions. That was actually very easy. In no time we had 9 people that were ready to meet to get this new ministry started.
At our first meeting, we talked for a few minutes, but we mostly prayed. At our second meeting, later that month, we prayed some more. That was in May of 2011. By November 2011, we were still meeting 2x per month, but we had not done anything in the area of international missions...We were still just meeting and praying.
By December of that year, we had gone to Haiti 1 time. By July Jess and I had been 6 times, and by November of 2012 we knew that our future was in Haiti.
I tell you that story because, it was not my intention to start a missions ministry in a church by praying for 8 months before doing anything else, but that prayer was the fuel that eventually turned into All Things New.
My fear is that prayer in many of our churches is a time filler. A way to get from musical worship to preaching and from preaching to the altar call. My fear is that prayer in the church is an action set aside for the few or what we do when someone has gone through something difficult. I fear that our prayer services are primarily sharing prayer requests (or sometimes gossip) for 45 minutes followed by a 10 minute prayer time. My fear is that the passion and desire for prayer that should overflow in all of our hearts is not overflowing into our churches.
Hopefully those things are exaggerations, hopefully those fears are unfounded, hopefully your church's prayer services are not the least attended gatherings, and hopefully your church has prayer services. But I want to call our attention to the way that prayer is viewed in the Old Testament, by Jesus, and by the church and I want us to ask ourselves:
Does my church view prayer in that same way?
If the answer is "no" then it is your job to do something about it!