Friday, November 27, 2009

Inner~View #77: Your Journey to a Prayerful Life

Your Journey to a Prayerful Life


Phil Miglioratti interviewed Barb Schutt, author of Your Journey to a Prayer Life

Your Journey to a Prayerful Life

Phil ~ Barb, what does the title tell us about your book?

Barb ~ The title implies that learning to live a praying life doesn't happen overnight. It continues to be journey for me, as I suspect it is for most Christians. My hope is that people who read the title will be prompted to engage in an adventure of deeper prayer!

Phil ~ As you introduce us to the book, you wrote:
"God has been changing my life through prayer. He placed a desire in me to move from being a woman who knows how to say a prayer, to living a praying life."
...What does this quote tell us about your journey into a more fulfilling life of prayer?

Barb ~ I grew up in a Christian home and learned that praying routinely, such as before meals, and at bedtime, is something that good Christians do. I was also very aware of the power of prayer as I prayed with and for others. But as God placed a hunger in me for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him, I discovered that "saying prayers" was not enough. I believe God gave me the desire to learn more and then to put into practice some things that have encouraged growth toward a more fulfilling life of prayer. Prayer has become a way of life for me.



Phil ~ Throughout the book you make several startling statements - please comment:

Barb ~ Guess I didn't think of them as "startling!"
  • "To pray is to change" - Whenever we engage in conversation with God there is potential for change. Usually God reveals more of himself, more about ourselves or more about the situation about which we are praying, so transformation takes place. When we pray in faith we can expect to be involved in change!
  • "Prayer starts with God" - If left to ourselves, and because of our independent natures, we wouldn't be prompted to involve God in daily life, unless perhaps we are in a crisis. Even then, God is the one who invites us to pray, to engage in conversation and relationship with Him. We simply respond to his invitation!
  • "Praise agrees with God's perspective" - I have learned so much about the importance of including praise in prayer. I have discovered that when I praise God first, most of the things I have been struggling with or am worried about are put into a proper perspective. Praising God for who He is reminds me of his ability to handle any situation.
  • "Praise invites the Holy Spirit to work" - This is especially true in corporate worship. Have you noticed how praise and worship opens our hearts and minds to the work of the Holy Spirit? I have experienced with great frequency, that when congregational singing and prayers are focused on praising God, the Holy Spirit is free to move in through the preaching of the word with great power! Dead worship experiences can often be attributed to a lack of praise.
  • "When we listen to God, we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit" - God speaks through His word, through prayer, through wise counselors,and through circumstances, but we have to be quiet long enough to listen for His voice. One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to give guidance or counsel, but we have to be open to hearing it. To me, that means I need to listen to God at least as much as I talk to God.
  • "Continual prayer is about developing an awareness of God" - For me, praying without ceasing means to live with an ongoing awareness that God is involved in every aspect of life and He is at work in me and all around me at all times. This attitude or awareness allows me to pray continually. I don't mean saying audible prayers 24/7 but rather being conscious of the Spirit's intercession for me, of God's provision and protection and of Jesus' deep love for me throughout the day.
  • "Group prayer was the driving force of the Acts church" - Lots of cool stuff happened in the early church as a result of people praying together! When people prayed, the Holy Spirit showed up with great power!
  • "Prayer makes evangelism exciting" - If we try to do outreach or evangelism without prayer we have a tendency to rely on our own gifts or on the strength of our own story. But when we pray for the Holy Spirit to open up people's hearts, ears, minds to the things of Christ and they begin to respond, we know it's a God thing. It is so exciting to see how God works when we have prayed specifically for someone's salvation. I don't have the spiritual gift of evangelism, so if I am prompted to share my faith with a pre-Christian I
    am keenly aware that I will mumble and stumble without doing some prayer work first.
  • "Prayer is not limited by time or geography" - Prayer transcends time or geography. Because I have lived in 15 different places throughout my life I am aware friends and family located in many different states and time zones. I can't physically be with my dad, for example, who is in ill health in Fl, but I can minister to him regularly through prayer. We can pray anytime, anywhere. We are not limited because God is always ready to listen and respond!
  • "Jesus' prayer life didn't end when he left earth" - This refers to the Heb. passage that teaches us that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God, the Father.
  • "Prayer alone has no power" - Sometimes we can worship our spiritual disciplines rather than worshiping Jesus. This statement was written in the context of keeping in mind that without Christ our words have no power. The same is true of great music, or dynamic small groups or an amazing youth ministry. Without focusing on Christ none of these have power.

Phil ~ In the Foreword, Martha Grace Reese writes:
"After interviewing 1200 people, conducting surveys, visiting churches and analyzing mounds of statistics from churches in seven mainline denominations, we made a major discovery. Prayer is the major underpinning of the great evangelistic churches. We also discovered Barb Schutt!

...What does this reveal to us about your passion in prayer and the need to reconnect praying and witnessing to Christ?

Barb ~ I was amazed to read Gay Reeses' comment and am humbled by it. But I am passionate about prayer and I am passionate about the Church of Jesus Christ and I wholeheartedly agree that "prayer is the underpinning of the great evangelistic churches." I believe that prayerless churches = dying churches. That's why whenever I get the opportunity to encourage prayer teams or pastors to deepen their personal life of prayer and the life of prayer in their congregation I get excited! I have seen the difference a praying congregation makes in the life of their community, reaching seekers for Jesus. There is nothing more exciting!



Phil ~ If you could speak to a group of pastors, what would you want them to hear from you? Encouragement? Exhortation?

Barb ~ Probably some of each! I first want to encourage pastors to be sure they have a prayer shield or a PIT crew. (Personal Intercessory Team) The work of the pastor is much too difficult to do without strong prayer cover. The arrows come from within and without. Without prayer protection pastors are vulnerable to all sorts of junk. I would be less worried about sharing your struggles and trying to hold out an image and more willing to tell some trusted prayer warriors how you need their specific prayer support. Ask for prayers for your family as well for your ministry. Ask your prayer team to pray that your personal spiritual vitality would be renewed and refreshed. Next, I want to encourage pastors to teach their congregants to pray. Many people attending worship know they should pray but they really don't know how to do it. Teach by example as well as through sermons, classes, small groups, etc. Gather a group to fast and pray with you regularly and then be ready to see how God changes you and the church where you serve. If you are not a person of prayer or aware that you are weak in this area, don't let that stop or hinder your congregation from growing in their life of prayer. Pray that God will give you a hunger for a richer prayer life. Surround yourself with prayer mentors and be willing to see how God will change you from a person who knows how to say a prayer to a pastor who is living a praying life!



Phil ~ Prayer leaders and local church prayer coordinators often feel isolated; sometimes tagged as the prayer lady or prayer guy. What would you like to say to them?

Barb ~ Yes, prayer leaders often feel very alone. Sometimes we do it to ourselves because we can be so intimidating. Sometimes we are viewed as being very judgmental or pious. Some prayer leaders are known as the "prayer police" in their church, always checking to be sure people are praying, or counting heads at prayer gatherings. I would like to say, let's "lighten up." No one is drawn to a ministry that is viewed as judgemental. No one will feel like they measure up if we give the impression that people have to pray exactly like we do. Rather than giving messages that are discouraging such as "Only 3 people showed up to pray last Tuesday" we can say, "It was so great to be in the presence of Jesus last Tuesday and here is how God answered our prayers. Would you like to be part of this?" If they decline, keep on praying. Leadership is lonely for other church leaders too. Prayer coordinators are not the only ones. Don't take it personally, just keep being faithful to what God is calling you to be and to do.


Phil ~ What about the church member who has a growing passion to see prayer saturate their congregation but sees little interest among leadership ...

Barb ~ This is a tough one and from what I hear it happens alot. Again, just keep praying for your leaders and for your church. Keep the lines of communication open with your leaders. Encourage and support them and speak well of them whenever possible. Form a prayer shield for your leaders. Pray for them while they are in meetings, conducting services, doing the work of ministry. Pray for God to give them a hunger for deeper prayer.God will reward your faithfulness in prayer.



Phil ~ Barb, please give us a prayer we can pray with you, asking the Lord to take His Church further on the journey towards a prayerful life.

Lord God, we praise you that you are the only King and Head of the Church. We praise you that you have called us to be involved in the work of ministry. What an awesome privilege and responsibility. Jesus, when you left this earth you established the church to carry on your ministry. Teach us to pray and then help us to continue the work of teaching men and women to pray. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to be effective in communicating your desire to have us live in unbroken fellowship with you through prayer. Move us beyond perfunctory, routine ritual to deep meaningful praying lives. Help us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. In Christ's name, Amen.

Barb ~ Thanks for this opportunity, Phil. It is my prayer that Your Journey to a Prayerful Life will be a tool useful for pastors and prayer leaders as they seek to encourage Christians at every stage of the journey to keep moving deeper in their understanding and practice of prayer. It is set up as a 6 week study, can be used alone, but probably best with a group of 4-12 people. The daily lessons get us into the Bible and the study encourages some scripture memorization, practicing different prayer styles and prayer action steps. As individuals grow in their life of prayer, congregations will also grow to become more prayerful. And my prayer is that as we pray the Spirit will be unleashed so that many will come to know Christ as Savior and Lord!

Blessings,
Barb Schutt
dbschutt@pacbell.net



* Type keywords in the "Search This Blog" box above
* Coaching? Teaching? Preaching? on prayer - Contact Phil@nppn.org
* Pastor Phil's ministry schedule: http://nppn.org/Schedule.htm
* Join the Church Prayer Leaders Network @ http://www.PrayerLeader.com

1 comment:

John Arnold said...

I love the comment about moving from knowing how to say a prayer to having a praying life. I think I am in that kind of movement right now. Prayer disciplines have been a part of my life for years now, but recently I am finding myself drawn into pray and what I do flowing directly out of that. Sunday I led an officer strategic planning meeting in my church. I tried and tried to come up with a plan for it. Eventually, in my prayer closet, the whole thing basically unfolded for me. I virtually led the event from my prayer journal. I feel much more like I am discerning what needs to be done in a day rather than planning it.