(this article originally appeared in the Sherwood Church Communicator in 2006. I believe it is still applicable. Maybe more so now than ever. While I am no longer the Senior Pastor at Sherwood, I’ve chosen to repost this article for pastors to read and possibly use as we move into 2023).
I remember the first time I heard Wayne Watson’s song by that title. I sometimes find myself humming it or singing it—of course, I’m alone when I’m singing it. “When God’s people pray, there is hope restored there is sin forgiven…”
It’s not that prayer changes things; it changes me. Prayer is not the method we’ve been given for twisting the arm of God. It is not a way of convincing God to see things from our viewpoint. Prayer is a privilege given to learn and embrace the mind of God.
A church is only as strong as her prayer ministry. I’ve almost been able to chart the ebb and flow of God’s blessings on this local fellowship by our prayer ministry. Since those days in the early 1990s when Don Miller challenged us to be a praying church, we’ve not been able to move forward without being on our knees.
We have walked through every crisis, fear and opportunity through prayer. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a deacons’ meeting when we didn’t talk about things that needed to be prayed over and then end with our men breaking up into small groups to pray. I don’t think we’ve had a Sunday without the Pastor’s Prayer Partners meeting to pray.
When we began the largest building and fund-raising project in our history, we prayed. The deacons made their recommendation based on thirty days of prayer. We would not be where we are today if it were not for prayer.
Any “successes” we might have enjoyed have been the result of prayer. Every step of Facing the Giants was bathed in prayer, from writing the story to casting to editing. It is an element the world cannot explain or even understand. God has done exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we ever hoped or imagined.
The fact that we’ve walked through the “worship wars” without having a war is, I believe, the result of prayer. We had to make some changes in our worship without forsaking our heritage. Some did not like it, some left, and some did not understand, but because it was prayerfully done instead of forced, the change has been blessed.
The examples are too numerous to mention, but I think you get the point. The prayer tower that stands in front of our new facility is not our 900-foot-tall Jesus, but it is a symbol of what we stand for. It is our power source. It is a constant reminder that prayer is the key to what we do.
The disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to lay hands on people, heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water or even deal with the Pharisees. They asked the Lord to teach them to pray. It was the prayer life of Jesus that impressed them above all else. God the Son praying to God the Father caught their attention—the Godhead in tune with itself so that the will of God in heaven would be done on earth.
The greatest failure of the three—Peter, James and John—is summarized in the words, “Could you not watch and pray with me one hour?” Prayer is a spiritual ingredient this church. No Christian can do without it.
I was reading Leonard Ravenhill’s Treasury of Prayer which is taken from the writings of E. M. Bounds. Read these words carefully: “It may be said with emphasis that no lazy saint prays. Can there be a lazy saint? Can there be a prayer-less saint? Does not slack praying cut short sainthood’s crown and kingdom? Can there be a cowardly soldier? Can there be a saintly hypocrite? Can there be virtuous vice? It is only when these impossibilities are brought into being that we then can find a prayer-less saint.
“He who is too busy to pray will be too busy to live a holy life. Other duties become pressing and absorbing and crowd out prayer. Choked to death, would be the coroner’s verdict in many cases of dead praying, if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity.
“One of Satan’s wiliest tricks is to destroy the best by the good. Business and other duties are good, but we are so filled with these that they crowd out and destroy the best. Prayer holds the citadel for God, and if Satan can by any means weaken prayer, he is a gainer so far, and when prayer is dead the citadel is taken.”
It’s easier to do anything in the church than to pray. It’s easier to serve, sing, preach, teach, change diapers or coach a team than to pray. It’s not that we should stop doing these to pray. We must pray and then do these things or our serving lacks power.
As we move into this New Year, let us resolve to be, more than ever, a praying people. Praying is not our duty; it is a necessity. It’s not optional on our spiritual checklist. The truth is, I must pray and I must be prayed for.
Let me again quote from Ravenhill’s book: “That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of other good people to give to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is the pre-eminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it became overwhelming and irresistible in it=s power. Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean that defies resistance.”
Let me suggest a few areas where we need to agree together in prayer. One—for at least 150 people to be baptized this year. Two—for at least 20 additions per month. Three—for a greater sense of urgency in light of the days in which we live. The culture wars, terrorism, the decay of society and the situation in the Middle East all demand the body of Christ to wake up. Four—for a wind of the Spirit to blow through our services as never before.
Will you join me? Can we pray in unity that God will bless this next year even more than he did last year?