WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO PRAYER?

I can’t speak about what’s going on in believers private prayer closets, but we do know it is rare for believers to gather just for the sake of prayer anymore. Last year I went to a prayer meeting at a large church. All four of us had a great time. By comparison, nearly a hundred attended our pastor’s mid-week Bible studies last week. Why has corporate prayer taken such a back seat in the church?

A staff person of our church asked for our feedback on a proposed training program for new believers. Seeing nothing in the outline on prayer, I suggested it be included in the curriculum. She agreed, adding that people “seem so afraid of prayer.” Why would prayer be a cause of anxiety among modern believers?  Maybe it’s just because we are out of practice.

Here is an observation of a cause for this malaise and some nuts and bolts solutions.

 The Pastoral Prayer  We do have prayer at worship of course, but is it really corporate prayer when the pastor does all our praying for us? Prayer time is even often termed “the pastoral prayer.” Is it any wonder pastors include “people’s prayer proxy” in their job description?.

I once asked a Roman Catholic why she prayed to the saints.  “We don’t,” she insisted. “We ask them to pray for us.” This is not so different from Protestants, except they don’t ask dead saints to pray for them but live professionals. And what kind of answers are we getting from these prayers?

 Prayer that Got Results  Imagine you are back in Jerusalem when Peter and John report to the young church that Jewish leaders are threatening God’s work. Someone suggests they pray and you see Peter stand and say, “Let us pray” and does a pastoral prayer.  Was that Jesus’ idea when he taught we could expect great things when even just two or three believers join together in prayer. (Read about it in Matthew 18: 18-20)

Here’s what really happened:  “When the believers heard it, they all joined together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:22 GNT).  They intensify their prayers by doing it in one accord, as Jesus urged. What happens? Luke tells us, “the meeting place shook, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and bravely spoke God’s message. (4:31). Later we read, Many miracles and wonders were performed among the people (5:12) Imagine how attendance would soar at First Church if these kind of things were going on there today!

What can be done to begin to restore this kind of praying in our churches? In a nutshell, we need to give prayer back to the people. Here are some “for instances.”

Prayers of the People   In the seventies, Presbyterians replaced “the pastoral prayer” with “prayers of the people.” We took this to heart in our church. During worship, folks were encouraged to give prayer concerns and then various folks in the pew were invited to pray. Many did and it was warmly welcomed by most and even traditionalists gradually came around to it.

Prayers by the People  We attended a service in Illinois where the pastor boldly broke with tradition. In place of the pastoral prayer, he encouraged us to join up with four or five others, share our concerns and pray together, right there and then. It was a heart-warming experience and a step in the right direction.

Prayers for the People Pastors might launch a “teach us to pray” campaign by doing a series of teaching sermons, encouraging the saints to engage in effective corporate prayer  They could bring pew sitters into the pulpit to lead in prayer. Bible Studies could be introduced on the subject of prayer. Workshops could be created to believers feel comfortable praying together, then ease them into the experience itself.

4 thoughts on “WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO PRAYER?

  1. Great and important post for our day! I think your opening lines point to one answer in a nutshell: “I can’t speak about what’s going on in believers private prayer closets, but we do know it is rare for believers to gather just for the sake of prayer anymore. Last year I went to a prayer meeting at a large church. All four of us had a great time.”

    I think this phenomenon of few showing up for prayer is a sign of what is going on in the private prayer closet. We don’t really know God well enough by praying/speaking/listening to him when we are alone with him, so when asked to speak to him in front of others we’re too intimidated – out of practice? I don’t know, that might be too kind a term.

    I do know when I’m in the presence of someone who prays often. When they pray I am ushered to the throne right along with them.

    I think one answer may be to incorporate times of prayer into other meetings like you suggested. I know in our church the pastor started doing that and more and more people began to participate. It was edifying and electrifying a times.

    We are a nation of Christians sadly out of practice. As Dallas Willard writes, “The body and the social environment are filled with regular patterns of wrong doing and are constantly inclined toward doing what is wrong. In this condition the intellect finds reasons why what is bad is good–or at least is not bad–and what is good is bad–or at least is not good.” http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=57

    The initiative is always first God, but our response is a very important part of the equation. Practicing the spiritual disciplines is largely lost in our society and we must begin to get in spiritual shape. To name a few: The inward disciplines of Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study, Simplicity. The outward disciplines of Solitude, Submission, Service. The corporate disciplines ofConfession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration.
    http://www.albministry.org/pdf/List%20of%20Disciplines.pdf

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  2. Jesus is the vine we are the branches. Jesus is the good gardener and the vine dresser. Nothing brings new life, trims dead undergrowth and removes unhealthy growth quicker than calling on Him. It has been my observation that God is most concerned for His Body His Bride. If you want to see the mighty hand of God move then join or start some type of prayer gathering in your local church. Good article Dad.

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    • Yes and Amen. How can we encourage one another to gather for prayer? “Lord Jesus, you are the vine. Without you we can do nothing. Help us to hear your specific voice, your Rhema-Word, as well as your Logos-revealed word in Scripture. Show us how to get believers together to pray. We really need to hear from you. on this.

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