Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
By Sing Oldham
Phil Miglioratti opened the winter leadership meeting of PrayerLink asking whether Southern Baptists are more interested in developing prayer guides (booklets and other resources about prayer) or prayer guides (individuals in congregations who help guide church members to be prayer warriors in the house of God).
Drawing his lesson from the purification of Jesus recorded in Luke 2, Miglioratti pointed to two individuals in Scripture who serve as prayer guides for twenty-first century believers—Anna and Simeon.
These two relatively obscure characters in the overall narrative of Scripture were “led by the Spirit to step up at just the right moment to announce God’s redemptive moment,” Miglioratti, prayer consultant for the Illinois Baptist State Association and national coordinator of Loving Our Communities to Christ, said.
Noting that we know nothing about them beyond this single instance, Miglioratti observed that Anna and Simeon both frequented the house of God and were devoted to the Lord in prayer.
“It is interesting to note that Luke 2:40 follows Luke 2:22–39,” he added.
Luke 2:40 states that Jesus grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.
“We cannot underestimate the power of prayer on people’s lives,” Miglioratti noted, urging the PrayerLink leadership team to focus its ministry objectives on creating “Luke 2:40 followers of Jesus”—those who grow strong in the Lord, who are filled with the Spirit, and who reflect the grace of God in how they live their lives.
Interesting thoughts Phil. I have not seen those printed guides--but from my experience, I have been influenced the most by people who have a close relationship with the Lord, and are willing to invest time and effort into others--and that includes praying for others.
Just a thought.
Interesting. I've never thought about the difference between printed materials versus called individuals to guide people to prayer. I've learned way more through people's examples and guidance than I have through any printed guide, but I think having both resources would be beneficial.
I also really like the perspective of having Luke 2:40 ministry perspectives. Not only is that a good perspective for a leadership team, but also for intercessors in the church as they pray for their leadership and congregation.
Good question! We have assumed that because prayer is natural, people automatically know how to do it. But that is not true. We don't make this assumption in any other area of life. We are made to talk; talking is natural. But when our first grandson was born two years ago, my wife and I would say to him, “Pa Pa” and “Mi Mi” over and over until he finally said it too. His parents and we would point out one object after another, encouraging him to repeat the word after we say it. And for the rest of our lives we increase and enrich our vocabulary.
Jesus responded to the disciples’ request, “Teach us to pray as John taught his disciples,” because he knew that just because prayer is natural does not mean we automatically understand it and practice it with confidence. Failure to actually teach people to pray underlies many of the problems and struggles that the church has experienced in sustaining past prayer movements (i.e., the Lighthouse Movement or any other love-your-neighbor collection of training content). If we are not on “speaking terms” with God, how can we know how to receive from God and respond to God? Every attitude and action related to our LOVE2020 movement, including justice, is related to prayer in one way or another.
This request from the disciples seems to come from two places in their lives: (1) they saw the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life, and (2) they knew John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray. Two of Jesus’ apostles had started out with John, so they knew this.
If my assumption is correct, then our desire to pray would appear to ignited when the same two factors come together–when we see the importance of prayer in someone else’s life, and when we remember that we can be “taught” to pray. These things form our heart for prayer, and keep the request alive, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Luke 11:1-13 reveals that teaching prayer includes instruction in both the substance and the spirit of prayer. The Lord’s Prayer (v. 1-4) pertains to the substance and the follow-up comments by Jesus (v. 5-13) deal with the spirit of prayer. Unfortunately, we sometimes separate these two portions, but thankfully, Jesus keeps them together. Therefore, any curriculum for "prayer-care-share” whether in videos or printed material must include the study of prayer’s petitions and its psychology (i.e., how do we create habits). By responding to the apostles as he did, I think Jesus is telling us that praying is an ongoing disposition of the heart -- an act and an attitude---- a holy conversation and utter confidence. Jesus leaves no doubt about it–God can be reached by prayer, and God wants to reach us through prayer. We need to know both things in order to pray well.
The church must assume the posture of Jesus, realize that a large number of "prayer-care-share" lifestylers are saying, “Teach us to pray,” and then, like Jesus, teach them using printed material (or videos) and men and women whose lives are a prayer.
Prayer guides, as in pamphlets, booklets, etc., are helpful but may become a crutch. After we have correctly filled in all the blanks and filed our paper prayer guides, we may begin to feel as though we have a handle on this thing called prayer. These guides are also much easier to prepare than becoming an individual who can help others in prayer. Someone has said, “Prayer is caught more than taught.” In other words, in order to help others in prayer, I need to become an effective pray-er. I need to sit at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to teach me how to pray. This requires humility, submission, and time.
When Moses came out of the Tent of Meeting where God would speak to him “face to face,” his face would glow with the glory of the Lord. When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon came “in the Spirit” (Acts 2:27) and blessed God as he held the baby. Anna “never left the temple” (Acts 2:37). The Ark of the Covenant, representing the Presence of God, was housed in the temple, in the Holy of Holies. If you wanted to be close to God, you had to be near the Ark. Simeon and Anna wanted to be near to God, they yearned for Messiah to come. They served God through praying the deepest desire on His heart into fulfillment.
If I want to be one who will lead others into prayer, I need to be one who never leaves the presence of God. I need to desire the deep desires of His heart. I need to allow the Holy Spirit free access to the deepest, darkest corners of my soul so He can rout out whatever will prevent Him from freely flowing through me. To be an effective prayer guide, I believe, one needs to remain at the feet of Jesus so that they carry the fragrance of heaven with them. This fragrance will draw others to them who will ask to be taught how to pray. Training others in prayer requires that I be trained in prayer for prayer is more than sandwiching a few words between “Dear God” and “Amen” into a microphone on a Sunday morning. To never leave the presence of God and to remain at the feet of Jesus will cost me. To be an effective prayer guide, I need to be willing to “stay behind in Jerusalem” when others are unaware of it.
"Prayer is more than sandwiching a few words between “Dear God” and “Amen”."
I think there is a place for both types of prayer guides today. Undoubtedly most people would grow more from being discipled by someone who knows God intimately through prayer. Sadly, the reality is that most Christians do not know people like that (or if they do know them, they don't know that about them). And in the absence of such personal guidance, different types of prayer guides in the form of good books or printed guides, like Seek God for the City, etc., can be helpful. They'll never fully replace the growth one can experience through being discipled in prayer, but they can augment that growth and sometimes they must replace what's not available for many.
I really appreciate Kimberly's mention of "prayer is caught more than taught". Unfortunately, most Christians do not experience prayer meaningfully in a community context. Most of our churches neither teach nor practice community prayer - the closest we typically get is listening to a pastor pray before or after a sermon. Most small groups - if they attempt to pray together at all - never get much past the surface in prayer. The idea of 'devoting ourselves to prayer' (Acts 2:42) is not an experience most of us have, especially in community the way the Acts 2 church did. We would be stronger believers and stronger churches if we reinstated that pillar of our faith.
We know all this and I'm preaching to the choir here. But I see value also in the printed type of prayer guide, like Seek God for the City or the prayer guide I'm currently using to pray for Muslims during Ramadan. These prayer guides don't produce a life of prayer like being discipled would, but that's not their point. Their point is to provide information to pray effectively and to provide a rallying point around which the church nationally or even internationally can unite in prayer. That's a different focus and purpose than a personal prayer guide would have, and it's a useful one in my opinion.
These guides can help me see segments of society that I wouldn't normally interact with so that I can pray for people I wouldn't necessarily meet personally. They help me understand world situations and other religions in a way that I wouldn't otherwise, and they help me to pray in a more informed way. I see value in that, though not everyone would necessarily pray that way.
Perhaps many of us who have been teaching prayer--may need to learn to incorporate actual times of prayer with our students so they can experience first hand what is being taught.
Discipleship is not just classroom teaching, but giving the opportunity to experience what has been learned and to put it into practice.
--note--I see that as a challenge for the ministry work I have bene involve in.
I believe this with all my heart. When I was a young preacher it was not uncommon for magazines to list the books that most influenced the lives of prominent preachers. So, in preparation of becoming prominent some day, I thought I would come up with my list. I could not come up with a single book that I thought has significantly influenced my life. I could however come up with a long list of people who had great impact upon me. Rather timidly I asked Richard Douglas, a friend who had read a book a day on top of his studies all through college and seminary. (He also made all "A"s in both.) He told me the same was true of him. People over books. I can give a list of books that have changed my life at this geriatric point in my perspective. But people are still more important. Even some books have been more forceful because of the influence of the author in my life.
I may be the only one, but printed prayer guides rarely help deepen my prayer life. In a group setting, they can assist a larger group of people stay on the same page to create a corporate experience. But even in this setting, my experience has been a prayer time that is dry, and sometimes forced.
Prayer . . . life changing, world shaking prayers in the bible most often flowed from the life of a person who spent time with God, and learned to see God personally, not in print. David's prayers are still prayed from the book of psalms (yes, these are printed, I see the irony between my comments and example). David leads us today because he knew God as Father, Shepherd, Helper and Friend, not as chapter, verse, line and responsive reply.
I would rather follow a guide who knows the way into God's throne room than read a guide that gives me words to repeat .