“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. – Colossians 4:2
I have been a pastor for over 40 years in various size churches and localities and there has been one thing that always baffled and challenged me: How to get the majority of the people to turn out for a weekly or even a monthly Prayer Meeting?
Most of us agree that prayer, by far, is the most powerful resource the church has to combat a fallen world, heal broken bodies and relationships, bring the prodigals home, and give purpose and direction when we don’t know what to do, etc. Plus there are more scriptures on the efficacy of prayer in the Bible than on almost any other subject. Yet getting people to show up to pray together is like the proverbial, “pulling teeth.” In fact, many churches have quit trying. My question is why?
David Butts in his wonderful little book on prayer, “Forgotten Power,” gives us some hints that may help in this area. He suggests that when we set out to pray we must understand that we are about to enter into a ferocious spiritual battle because the last thing the deceiver wants us to do is pray! He writes:
“You know of course, that our enemy hates prayer. He will let you do anything rather than pray. Satan will do whatever he can to distract us away from the one thing that can defeat him. The opposition of Satan to prayer comes because prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon given to Christians that unleashes the power of Jesus Christ and can bring defeat to our enemy.”
Theologian and evangelist J. Sidlow Baxter also creatively pictures this struggle:
“I can just imagine Satan gathering all the demons in hell and discussing what they can do to destroy Christians. And Satan says, ‘Keep them from praying. Because no matter what else they do, if they don’t pray, we can beat them every time. But if they learn to pray, they’ll beat us every time. Keep them from praying.'”
How does that happen? Here are a few things David Butts further wants us to consider:
Apathy. If we don’t care about prayer, we will never give ourselves to it with any seriousness. If you don’t believe prayer doesn’t really change anything, then it won’t matter much to you if you pray or don’t pray.
Teaching. Many churches seldom teach on prayer assuming it just naturally comes with the territory or by osmosis.
Lack of Praying Leaders. The church as a whole will never rise about the level of its leaders. If leaders do not see the importance and necessity of becoming a praying people and model that, then it will not happen.
Pride. If we are not in a place of humility before God, prayer will have no attraction for us. Prayer in its essence is a humbling of oneself before the Creator of all things admitting we have few answers and desperately need help.
Tradition. If we are used to prayer as just a nice way of simply thanking God for a meal or hearing the pastor close his sermon, then new ways of praying can become threatening, even boring.
Self-centeredness. Prayer may happen but it can become all about us and not the purposes or plans of God. True prayer focuses on the purposes of Jesus Christ and not simply our own desires.
The great South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor, Andrew Murray said it well, “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.” So come on church, let’s show up next time there’s a call to pray together. We can make a difference. Maranatha!