Dave Butts, the former leader of Harvest Prayer Ministries began his article titled "Prayer Power in the Church" with this quote by S.D. Gordon,
“The great people of the earth today are the people who pray! I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor those who explain
I might add, the great churches of the earth today are the churches who pray!
In my previous article, I shared why prayer has to be priority in our churches. In this article I want to share how you can know prayer IS priority in your church:
Pastors are leaders, and leaders have to be tough. But strength, power and endurance in leadership does not have to be clothed in pride. In fact, pastors who spend time with God (those who pray) are those who are most aware of their short-comings, weaknesses and desperation. Any success they experience in ministry is celebrated in humility because they know better than anyone Whose success they are experiencing.
By spending time in their prayer closets, pastors prove their conviction that they can do absolutely nothing apart from Christ. The apostles understood this far better than we do. Perhaps that is why their ministry was validated by supernatural signs and wonders while ours are striving to succeed with clever programming and hard work.
Sam Rainer (Church Answers) wrote a great article on what a humble pastor looks like. You can read it HERE.
I've met some of the meanest people I know in the church. But none of them were in prayer groups with me. Well, I take that back--we did have a season of spiritual battle when the war infiltrated the congregation. The women got together to pray because we knew that prayer changes things, and we certainly knew we wanted things to change!
At the first gathering of the women, those who were on one side of the conflict literally gathered on one side of the worship center. Those who were on the other side of the conflict got together on the other side of the room. And while that was terribly uncomfortable to me, we were determined to pray together. The first thing the Spirit of God did was blend our sides together. I can't remember just how it happened, I just know that we took our prayer meeting to someone's living room and circled up our chairs. There are no sides in a circle. We prayed through our disagreements and let God restore our unity.
Our prayer clinic team of 35 people will tell you that the camaraderie we share is different than any other kind of togetherness we share as part of any other team we serve. God knits hearts together in prayer.
The world is hungry for love. They ought to be finding it in the church. Unfortunately too few churches prioritize prayer. The result is that pure love God offers to demonstrate on the platform of church-goers lives, has been replaced by religion that produces the weed of judgement instead of the fruit of love.
When we pray, we know that God is the One who does the work of the ministry. When we don't pray we are duped into thinking our programs are what accomplishes the work. Praying churches allow programs to run long, be interrupted, canceled, edited or ended all together.
As I write this article revival has broken out on the campus of Asbury University. Did you know that Asbury University has experienced 8 other revivals since 1905? This tiny little college of 1600 students in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky, 16 miles outside Lexington has experienced a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit, 8 times in the past 120 years! That's remarkable!
I can't help but believe that the Spirit of God is eager to pour His blessings on His people. But I wonder if He only does so where He knows He's welcome.
This current outpouring that began at the end of a regularly scheduled chapel service on February 8 was allowed to continue. When the students lingered to worship, pray and be together longer, no one stopped them. Professors and administrators offered flexibility and honored what God was doing. This ongoing chapel service has continued until today (February 18), and I just now saw that the president of the University is establishing some parameters for the continuation of this spiritual experience as students return to a semblance of normalcy on their campus. And even though the services will move off campus after Sunday night, he expressed his humble appreciation for being a part of this experience.
When prayer is priority, the Spirit of God will most likely disrupt the normal programming to bring you something better. And He will be welcomed by people aware that whatever He's got in mind is way better than what they had planned.
When prayer is priority, the people discover God's given us His Word. Not only has God revealed Himself in the Bible, but He's filled it with promises that apply to everyday life in every culture and every generation.
Those promises were not meant to just sit there.
When your church prays, people discover the specific promises God's given them and they share them with each other. They help one another find the promises that belong to them, because the more promises they cling to, the more promises God proves faithful to fulfill!
As praying people stake claim to God's promises, those promises come to life! They grow easier to believe with every one that God keeps. In a church where prayer is priority, every mess becomes a miracle and every test a testimony! God's Word is proven powerful and effective, over and over again, and the gospel is validated by the signs and wonders that become normal.
I think we forget that our prayers were meant to be answered. When prayer is a priority, the church experiences answered prayer. In our prayer clinic ministry we tell people that we are committed to pray with them until their prayer is answered because we know God answers prayers.
We celebrate (and document) answered prayers! We are thrilled but no longer surprised that God has answered us when we pray! We expect Him to answer, and we pray until He does.
Andrew Murray wrote, "Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God’s messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us."
Remember what Moses prayed when God declared He was done with the children of Israel? (He wasn't completely done, God promised to send an angel to go with Moses the rest of the way to the promised land. But Moses didn't want a mere angel, he wanted God Himself!)
And this is what he prayed,
“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16)
I'm afraid we've been far too satisfied with the lesser powers of programming and education; technology and training; cleverness and creativity. We've forgotten that nothing but the actual presence of God distinguishes us from all the others.
Prayer will take time. Time you don't have. Time that is spent on something else. "That something else is important, very important and pressing, but still, less important and pressing than prayer." (SD Gordon said)
That's what makes prayer priority.
And here's a promise for us today...
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14