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Are Heart issues hindering a House of Prayer in our Churches???

Just wondering—Three reasons why many churches are not houses of prayer.

--One is the lack of Seminary Training in prayer and prayer ministry.

--The second is that many preachers are men—unfortunately a majority of men have trouble working through heart matters, which true deep prayer is about.

--A third reason follows the second possible reason. Since many men have a hard time relating to heart issues, they have a hard time following a pastor who does-especially when it comes to prayer.

Would like to hear comments from pastors who have struggled with their church being a house of prayer.

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Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on September 21, 2015 at 10:38pm

Lewis, I really appreciate those thoughts.  I totally agree - we all express our heart for God in different ways.  Compassion, in my opinion, is not best defined by emotion but rather by how we live for God and for others.  I would also add that I think this is more of a journey than a destination - God is always growing us in this and other areas, completing the work he has begun in us.  It's not a matter of whether or not we have compassion or whether or not we have God's heart - it's a matter of continually developing that heart, allowing God to work in us.  It's a matter of humbly admitting that we're not where we want to be (which Vivian has expressed so well), rather than being pridefully content with our level of compassion, etc.  It's the one who is satisfied with where they are who is really in trouble, not the one who recognizes the gaps and continually brings those to God for his work in us.  Just my thoughts. 

Comment by Lewis Turner on September 18, 2015 at 5:38pm

Vivian, Many have found that the closer we draw to God, He draws closer to our heart.  As our relationship with God grows, so will our compassion for the lost. 

That compassion is expressed in many differing ways.  Some around us are sales men and if you are not out witnessing, they think you have no compassion for the lost.  Frankly some of them put you on a guilt trip.  I have been a salesman--years ago--selling Bible books one summer when I was in college.  From my experience, even though I made sales I was not a salesman.  You may not be a sales lady and sales may not be a natural for you, but there are other ways you may find yourself reaching out-->Perhaps in providing dinners for the needy, or making something that could help a lady with a newborn baby, or helping someone get to a critical medical appointment--the list goes on and on.  What I am saying here, not fully knowing your situation, we often encounter people who have their own idea about having compassion for others--particularly the lost.  There are many other ways to show compassion that they have not considered, but others are aware of.  I have mentioned only a few of them. 

The Lord gave us talents to use, and whatever your talent(s) is(are), I encourage you to use it(them) to the best of your ability because you love the Lord.  If you are doing this, then remember the Lord will use that effort to encourage someone else to seek Him.

I hope the above helps.

Comment by Vivian Louise Parks on September 18, 2015 at 10:53am

How do we get a heart for the lost, I seem to comfortable and content, I have no heart for the lost and dying, no fear for them, no tears, I just know I should be concerned, I feel I am putting on a caring face but my heart is cold.

Comment by Lewis Turner on September 17, 2015 at 9:41pm

Gentlemen,

This has been a most interesting discussion.  I also found from posting the openinf of this discussion at another sight where there would be Christian Pastors cold be found that many of us have identified various issues-which are significant in this discussion.  These significant issues are actually heart issues.  Not all have called them heart issues, but they really are heart issues.   Heart issues are very important when it comes to prayer.  For example, if we find ourselves judging others—what does that indicate about our heart?  Or what about pride—IE  the statement ‘I am a Prayer Warrior’.  Does this set you apart from others—which might be perceived as a pride issue?  It is possible that could be perceived—but it may not always be true.  God knows our heart and we should let Him help us avoid issues of judgment or pride. 

When Christ was on earth, he took time to commune with His Father, God.  He also reached out to encourage others.  A God focused relationship is a vertical dimension.  A people focused relationship is horizontal dimension.  Both dimensions are needed when it comes to prayer.  If our heart is focused on a relationship with God, then a result should be that we will find ourselves wanting to reach out to others and encourage them.  Our prayers should reflect that. 

Unfortunately, so many of us—and I speak as one guilty—when we pray—we have not really focused on God, or allowed God’s Holy Spirit to help us pray for others.  This is really a heart issue.   

Can heart issues be taught?—at least to be able to recognize them?  I believe the answer is yes.  Teaching can make one aware—but it is a choice to allow instruction to help us.

This discussion has challenge me to expand what I recognize as heart actions.  It has helped me recognize the need of 2 dimensions in praying.  It has also shown me the need to encourage training in prayer and prayer relationships and about heart issues—in developing a relationship with God, and also in reaching out and encouraging our fellow man.

Some others may have additional thoughts—I for one would like to hear them.

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on September 12, 2015 at 4:40pm

Lewis,

Great call on the dreaded "prayer circle".  I have found this to be the least effective way to lead a group in prayer, for several reasons:

  1. People who are uncomfortable praying in a group are not listening to or agreeing with the others in prayer.  They're dreading when their "turn" comes and sweating out what they're going to pray.  You can't pray in accord with others when you're focused on what you're going to pray.
  2. People who are tracking with others in prayer don't get a chance to participate and agree with them - by the time the circle comes around to them, the topic has changed multiple times.  You're very right - this kind of prayer just encourages everyone to pray what is near and dear to them rather than truly agreeing in prayer with each other.
  3. While I am more of a structured than an unstructured type person, this type of structure limits how the Holy Spirit can lead in the group.

I couldn't agree more about the value of silence.  This allows the group to listen to the Holy Spirit and gives God room to speak.  I think groups benefit from the ability to "be still and know that He is God".  The prayer circle method effectively eliminates this possibility as well.

I also agree about our tendency to pray from our own perspective rather than from the perspective of a person who has shared a need, for example.  A couple of things happen when we do this:

  1. Our prayers can come across as a bit judgmental
  2. If we spend a lot of time in prayer referring to our own circumstances or experiences, then we make prayer about ourselves, not about God; and we demean the other person's experience by assuming that ours is similar and that what "worked" for us will "work" for them - or that God would work in the same way in another person's life as he did in ours.
  3. Prayers tend to be directed more at the other person than toward God.

I totally agree that the way to approach this is to focus our prayers on God - on his character, his sovereignty and his grace.  Praying for another person is not about applying my experience to theirs, but about inviting God's presence and intervention in their lives.

Thanks for starting this discussion!  I really enjoy your thoughts.

Comment by Lewis Turner on September 12, 2015 at 1:34pm

Andrew—this was a comment that I am going to save for future reference.  –I would like to add a few more thoughts.

 

One way used by many groups when they pray—that is to pray around a circle—prayers following from ‘left to right’ or ‘right to left’.  Yes everyone prays - but in my experience, the prayers just do not come together.  Each person is often praying about what is near and dear to him (her) or from a list.  There is a need for that type of praying, but as a group where we have become God focused?   I am a part of a group where we do not get upset when there is actual silence, even 2-3 minutes of silence between prayers.  This allows time for a person to meditate on what was just prayed and to join in the line of thought in the prayers. That joining helps us lift up each other to the Lord.  I should note in the group I am referring to—we start out with simple praise or thanksgiving to God—which focuses us on God—not ourselves.    

 

Some more thoughts—I have found from past experience that many pray from their own perspective rather that “walking in the other person’s moccasins (shoes)” as the Indian expression goes.  God centered praying could help us really come along side of another person, the way God would want us to come.

 

Definitely we need to encourage a ‘God focus’ in our prayers.  The ‘I’ focus is also needed but it is important to put God first.

 

Another point, in praying to consider—do we respect that God is Supreme?  I have personally found that that respect comes as my prayers become more God focused. 

 

You have definitely challenged our thinking—and as a teacher, I will look to ways to help others become more God focused in their prayers—and look for the result of people seeing a move of God in their hearts as they pray.

I trust we will hear from more on this important discussion.

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on September 11, 2015 at 7:53pm

Lewis, to your question about how teaching would help "seasoned prayer warriors" (I always put that in quotes because the phrase always comes across to me as filled with pride)...

I suspect that most of them understand the importance of connecting with God, balance in prayer life, etc.  What most of them need to be taught is how to pray in community.  Closet prayer is one-dimensional - just the vertical relationship with God.  But community prayer is two-dimensional - in addition to the pray-er's relationship with God, there are horizontal relationships with others to be considered. 

For example, God has an infinite attention span, but we do not!  God has no problem listening to a Psalm 119-type prayer; the rest of us need people to pray much shorter and more focused.  How do you agree in prayer with the person who just covered five different prayer points?  You don't - you can't.  If you're even still tuned in (which most people won't be), it's very hard to pray in one accord when prayers are skipping around like that.  So most prayer veterans need to learn that community prayer is all about praying together - our prayers should invite the participation of others rather than discourage it.  When I pray long, winding prayers, that communicates to others in the group that I'm not really interested in their contributions.  And they get it - they might not think of it in those terms - but they get the message. 

The reason that prayer meetings move at such a ponderous pace is that people pray too long.  Brief prayers encourage others to participate and keep the prayer meeting moving.

Similarly, the reason most prayer meetings don't inspire is that they are focused on very surface needs - health problems of relatives and friends being the primary culprit. Kingdom-focused prayer is relatively rare in prayer meetings, so the level of excitement never gets very high.

Finally, most folks that I've prayed with tend to pray very horizontally.  If you listen to the words, they're more directed at people than they are at God.  They're focused on the circumstances rather than on God's character and sovereignty.  How many times have you heard someone describe (in vivid detail) all the problems they're having and then had someone pray back basically all the same words?  Rather than focusing on God's intervention, we focus horizontally on all the problems and describe them in detail, which makes our prayers longer and less kingdom-focused. 

At the same time, we approach God with the answers - we have decided how he should act, so we ask him to do that very thing, rather than seeking his answers.  When God doesn't do what we asked for, we think of it as "unanswered prayer" rather than seeing God's hand in it like Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12.

So - we pray too long and discourage participation.  We pray too horizontally and don't lift people's thoughts to God. We give God the answers and are disappointed when he doesn't respond.  Is it any wonder that people aren't coming in droves to the prayer meetings?

(And that, of course, is for the churches that actually DO have prayer meetings)

That probably paints a more negative picture than I intended - but I've experienced all these things and done all of them too.  I've seen the difference in prayer meetings when people really know what it is to pray in community - you can feel the electricity and the anticipation of God's moving.

Comment by mitch on September 11, 2015 at 10:16am

Thanks guys!

Andrew, to your questions:

What then shall we say about the fact that prayer is such a small part of the life of most churches today, when it was one of the four pillars of the Acts 2 church? -- It seems to me that prayer is not really such a small part, because prayer is practiced at most gatherings I go to. It's just that prayer the way we envision it being practiced in Acts 2 doesn't seem to be happening on a very large scale.

Shall we say that the Holy Spirit no longer draws people to pray?  Or that we as a people are not as in tune with the Spirit's drawing to prayer as the early church was? -- To the 1st part of this question I would have to say a definite "No" because of my own personal experience and testimony, and to the 2nd part I would agree with you.

I would also tend to agree with you on the teaching aspect, it's just that it gets a bit discouraging at times. Folks seem to be set in their ways about praying together. Those that aren't comfortable don't want to budge out of their comfort zone, and those "seasoned prayer warriors" keep on keeping on (And quite frankly a lot of them are the ones that don't follow the instructions at the beginning of a prayer time) -- Never the less, we all need to continue to learn and be taught. My prayer is that the Spirit move among us all in the area of prayer.

Lewis, something I would add to the heart issues is: Those of us that are motivated and excited about prayer and our churches becoming houses of prayer. We need to be checking our hearts regularly to make sure pride isn't setting in, and to not be looking on those that are less passionate about prayer with a judgmental attitude. We also need to cautious to not make prayer an idol.

And to your questions about instruction: I would say yes, we need to keep on instructing in all of those areas. One thing that has been neat, is that God has been providing opportunities for me at the church I attend, for me to go into a few of the adult fellowship groups and lead some open discussions on the topic of prayer and it has been interesting to hear what people are feeling. Whether they're seasoned prayer warriors, or those that are uncomfortable. I pray for more opportunities and for the Spirit to do a work thru the discussions that have already taken place.

Yes, great discussion!

Comment by Lewis Turner on September 10, 2015 at 9:07pm

I appreciate the answers of both Mitch and Andrew. 

Mitch--you have learned how heart language is expressed.  Many do not recognize what heart language is.  Also, I appreciate the way you have learned to let the Holy Spirit move, by seeking Him through prayer. Good insight for all of us.

Andrew, you bring up instruction as a way to help people understand more about prayer, including seasoned prayer warriors.  I remember being one of those prayer warriors, and my prayers probably at times intimidated others and kept them from praying.  That wass the last thing I wanted--but I know it probably happened.  ---> Now here is a question--How does teaching seasoned prayer warriors help people pray?  Would instruction help those who do not know much about prayer?  What about pastors?-->many of them have little or no real training in prayer--would teaching help them?  I would like to hear the response from others about the area of instruction about prayer-including pastors.

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on September 10, 2015 at 6:34pm

Mitch,

Ultimately, I would completely agree that it is the Holy Spirit who draws people to prayer.  What then shall we say about the fact that prayer is such a small part of the life of most churches today, when it was one of the four pillars of the Acts 2 church?  Shall we say that the Holy Spirit no longer draws people to pray?  Or that we as a people are not as in tune with the Spirit's drawing to prayer as the early church was?  My own thought is that it's more the latter than the former, again for many reasons - heart issues, lack of example, lives filled with busyness and "lesser things", a culture that values activity and visibility, etc.

I do want to comment on one of your points because I think you were spot on expressing people's discomfort with group prayer - either due to lack of "eloquence", lack of comfort, not understanding the expectations, etc.  This is an indication that people need to be taught how to pray in community.  Scripture doesn't say a lot about this - presumably because people at that time just got it.  But praying in community doesn't come naturally, and frankly relatively few people do it well - even people who are "seasoned prayer warriors".  In fact, they're the very ones who most intimidate new people most of the time.  Lack of instruction at the beginning of a prayer meeting makes for an "anything goes" type of time, and only the staunchest prayer folks will find themselves at home in a situation like that.

So, if I put all of that together, it seems like we (the Body) need to:

  1. Respond more consistently to the Spirit's call to pray
  2. Lead our churches in prayer (for pastors)
  3. Learn how to pray well in community.

Great discussion!

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