The following is a post by Dr. John Kimball, Director of Church Redevelopment of the CCCC. At Seven Mile Road, we are working to move prayer from the periphery to a central place in our community. Dr. Kimball’s article is a timely reminder of what we’re getting at and why.
“I don’t understand. We’ve done everything you’ve told us to do…” This godly man was frustrated and tired. He had such hopes for his congregation. And yet, the issues they had been facing for many years just wouldn’t seem to cease. The truth is, they had not done everything I instructed them to do. They had not gathered together as a church family to pray.
Why is it so hard to gather God’s people for prayer? Why are Christians in the US (it seems to be primarily an American problem) so unwilling to join each other for regular, fervent corporate prayer? Why do those who love Jesus refuse to pray out loud? I’m actually not sure of the answers to these questions, but I expect most of the problem is rooted in the fact that the Church in the US has not emphasized prayer in her teaching and practice for so long that now corporate prayer and intercession is exceptional – not normative. We limit most of our prayer time together to the worship service – and this is led by the pastor rather than the flock. We teach our children to pray the equivalent of “nursery rhymes” – e.g., “Now I lay me down to sleep…” or “God is great, God is good…” – instead of teaching them how to have a real conversation with God. Many folks say they don’t like praying out loud because they don’t know how to pray; and yet they have conversations every day of their lives.
American Christians also seem to struggle on knowing what to pray. It is rare to find a church that regularly (and corporately) prays for the lost in its own community. It is almost as hard to find a church that exercises intercessory prayer as part of its corporate prayer time, with the possible exception of prayer for the infirmed and hospitalized. I have yet to visit a church (and I visit many different churches all over the country) that asks God to break their hearts for the lost, to raise up full time laborers for the Lord’s harvest from within their own congregation, or spends substantial time in repentance before God in prayer or solemn assembly. Prayer in many congregations today is very self-centered – about what we want God to do for us, rather than for God to prepare us to accomplish His will through us.
Prayer is the missing ingredient in most churches today. We simply do not make it a personal and corporate priority. But without it, we are impotent. This I have come to know first hand. If we will not pray – together as a family – our church will not change and our “issues” will never be resolved. Until we align our hearts with God’s heart in fervent and other-oriented prayer and intercession, we will not realize the fruit our blessed Father in heaven wants to pour out in and through our ministries. If a church won’t pray, the Spirit won’t move, and no one can help them. God doesn’t want our excuses, he wants our attention. It’s time to gather together and to spend our time in prayer.