"Why Prayer Misfires"
When it comes to developing a dynamic environment of prayer in the local church, many leaders misfire. Too often we take the approach of fire, aim -- ready. The compelling biblical priority of prayer attracts us to want to do something. The romance of prayer inspires us to get prayer in motion, but the reality of prayer as a long-term resolve often demands more than we were prepared to give.
I've thought of three reasons why our good intentions do not materialize into a vibrant, life-giving presence of prayer in the fabric of ministry.
1. A Muddled Heart Commitment
Recently, I've engaged in discussions with pastors who desire more prayer in their church but who exhibit a serious reluctance to commit their heart and soul to leading the prayer effort. In one case, the leader simply declared, "I don't have the spiritual gift of prayer." Since prayer is not listed as a spiritual gift in the New Testament, I immediately smelled an excuse. In reality, prayer is a clear leadership calling, not an elusive gift.
Another leader declared, "I can't be the champion of every ministry in the church." This smelled the same as the first one. It is true that leaders cannot give equal and primary passion to every ministry of the church. Of course, prayer is not a ministry department of the church -- it is the ministry heart of the church. Obviously pastors must choose certain ministry priorities above others. A strong argument can be made that prayer is near, if not at the top, of the list of key priorities. Every significant spiritual advancement in the book of Acts was preceded by extraordinary prayer by the leaders (Acts 1, 4, 6, 13). The apostles in Acts 6:4 chose prayer above the priority of feeding the widows. Paul instructed Timothy to make prayer his first priority in the leading and organization of the church (1 Timothy 2:1). Simply put, prayer is one ministry leaders must champion.
2. A Marginal Time Investment
Time is the precious commodity of life and ministry. Since a prayer environment is always the overflow of the leadership culture, leaders must invest substantive time seeking the Lord as a core commitment of their relationships, interaction, and planning. A cursory prayer-review of a grocery list of needs is insufficient. The "zipper" approach of opening and closing meetings in prayer does not instill a culture of prayer among the leaders. Prayer never manifests in the church beyond the level of passion it claims among the leaders. Quality and extended time collectively invested by the leaders in a Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, and worship-based experience of prayer is an absolute requirement for a prayer-ready church.
When the leadership teams prioritize time spent in prayer, the ministry departments will do the same. The Sunday services of the church will also reflect the value of prayer as one of the big rocks of the service. Pretty soon everyone realizes prayer is more than a slogan, an inspiring idea, or a good intention. Rather, it becomes a reality, as the evidence of a time investment will affirm.
3. A Minimal Financial Commitment
Churches invest millions of dollars into building a house of brick and mortar. We invest hundreds of hours every week into creating a house of programs. Many do not invest a dime into a commitment to building a house of prayer. We usually get exactly what we pay for.
Of course, we do not have to pay to pray, but in the purest sense the same thing could be said about many other ministries of the church that often receive multiplied thousands of dollars for staffing, activities, and supplies. Jesus made it clear: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34). Churches who are serious about prayer need to consider substantive funding for staff leadership in coordinating the equipping and mobilization of the people. Money invested in training, retreats, a prayer center, and other helpful tools makes a strong statement about the real priority of what is arguably the first ministry of the church.
Ready, Aim, Fire
A congregation is best prepared for a movement of prayer when their heart commitment is firm, with a readiness to invest significant time and even substantive funding. Their aim must be clear: A prayer culture that ignites life-transformation and supernatural mission achievement for the glory of Christ. Then, when they begin to fire up a prayer passion, by the power of the Spirit, it will flame brightly -- just as the Lord Jesus intended.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
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