Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Breaking Through the Local Church Prayer Barrier


Breaking Through the Local Church Prayer Barrier


By Dr. Alvin VanderGriend


Question: Why is there so little prayer in the North American Church?

Answer: I think there is a lack of prayer in American churches for two reasons. First, for the past century most North American seminaries have failed to give ministerial students an adequate understanding of prayer and have failed to help them develop their prayer lives. Consequently, congregations led by these pastors have lacked the leadership required to develop their understanding and practice of prayer. Second, Christians, influenced by our materialistic and hedonistic society, are prone today to think of prayer as a way to find solutions to problems and to get the good life. When used in this way prayer turns into a monotonous system of begging God rather than a joyful love relationship. When that happens prayer becomes an activity not a joy. Begging is not something people naturally love to do.

Question: Are we making any real progress?

Answer: I see progress. Hundreds of ministries and networks are now promoting personal and corporate prayer. Many books on prayer are being published and read. Internet sites are providing helpful prayer information and teleconferencing systems are networking thousands of people in prayer. Good resources like the Church Prayer Leader Network’s website www.prayerleader.com, Mission America’s Lighthouses of Prayer ministry and Harvest Prayer Ministries’ 40 Days of Prayer initiative are making a difference. I also see more and more churches providing a variety of times, places and ways for their people to pray. These churches are seeing increasing numbers involved in their prayer ministries.

Question: What needs to happen in order for us to breakthrough this prayer barrier?

Answer: I think that the greatest obstacle to the development of biblical prayer in the church today is lack of strong prayer leadership from pastors. The most frequent complaint I hear among local church prayer leaders is that their pastors are not supporting them. The level of prayer in a congregation will typically not rise higher than that of the pastoral leaders. That being true, the greatest potential for breakthrough is to provide sound biblical training in prayer for pastors and other church prayer leaders. Church Prayer Leader Network’s prayer conferences have helped many pastors and prayer leader’s breakthrough.

Question: What can you say to help prayer leaders who want to see their congregations learn to love to pray?

Answer: I’d say begin with confession. The prophet Samuel said to the people of Israel: “far be it from me that I should sin against you by failing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). Failure to pray is sin. Congregations that are not “devoted to prayer” (Col. 4:2) are sinning. Sin needs to be confessed. God will not tolerate sin; but he will forgive it—even the sin of prayerlessness. Forgiven congregations are free to move on to new levels of devotion in prayer.

Here are some essentials for becoming a prayer-devoted church:

· Get God’s guidance

· Lay a foundation of prayer

· Appoint and empower a Prayer Facilitation Team

· Involve the church’s official leaders from the start

· Do a lot of teaching and training on prayer

· Bathe ministries and ministry leaders in prayer

· Integrate prayer into all the meetings of the church

· Make corporate prayer a high priority

· Develop all kinds of prayer

· Provide a variety of opportunities for people to be involved in prayer

· Constantly communicate prayer needs, answers and opportunities to pray

· Encourage personal and family devotions

· Balance inward- and outward-directed prayer

· Balance reactive and proactive prayer

· Move forward one step at a time

Question: What are the most helpful prayer resources available today for the local church prayer leader?

Answer: I carry Cheryl Sacks book The Prayer-Saturated Church with me whenever I do a prayer seminar or consultation and always recommend it. It’s the best think currently available. I also carry and recommend Daniel Henderson’s book Fresh Encounter. Daniel’s emphasis on worship-based, pastor-led prayer is restoring freshness to church prayer meetings. The Praying Church Sourcebook, with its 33 practical strategies for praying churches, is still very useful. Doug Kamstra’s, The Praying Church Ideabook, a kind of companion volume to the Sourcebook is excellent. I am hearing reports that both pastors and their members are finding their prayer lives stimulated and deepened by Love to Pray, A 40-Day Devotional For Deepening Your Prayer Life. Harvest Prayer Ministries’ brand new 40 Days of Prayer initiative based on the Love to Pray devotional is beginning to help churches develop meaningful 40-day prayer campaigns. It has 40-day guidelines, a small group study guide, DVD presentations by national prayer leaders and sermon resources. See www.40daysofprayer.net for these resources.

Prayer

Father, we love you. We praise you as the prayer-hearing God. We thank you for giving us prayer as a way to live in loving fellowship with you. Thank you, Jesus, for modeling prayer so clearly and perfectly for us and for interceding for us before the Father’s throne. Please teach us how to pray as you taught the disciples long ago. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for living in our hearts and helping us know how to pray. Give us the spirit of grace and supplication; and help us hear the Father’s voice.

Fill us, Lord, with the knowledge of your will. We especially want to know your will regarding prayer so that we may learn to love to pray as you loved to pray. Help us to build churches that are truly “houses of prayer”. Give us a clear sense of what our church will look like as it become a praying church. Give us patience when things go slowly. Give us faith to believe that you are working even when we don’t see the results. Help us to stand against every attempt of the evil one to diminish prayer in our church.

Hear us Father as we come to you in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit. Amen

Dr. VanderGriend is a prayer evangelism associate for Harvest Prayer Ministries.

Primary Contact: Alvin@harvestprayer.com

Writings: Love to Pray, A 40-Day Devotional For Deepening Your Prayer Life; The Praying Church Sourcebook; Discover Your Gifts and Know How To Use Them; Keys To a Praying Church.


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