This morning we will conclude our teaching series on prayer. For the past three months we have taken an in-depth look at this topic, guided by a Bible-study by Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. I have taken the weekly lessons from his DVD segments and accompanying materials and developed them into twelve full-length sermons, the last of which you will receive today.
We have called this series “When God’s People Pray”. Here is a brief summary of some of the key points we’ve touched upon along the way. When God’s people pray...
● the LORD is delighted.
● seeds are planted that have the potential to sprout later on.
● the Holy Spirit goes to work.
● God speaks, and we must learn to listen.
● sins are forgiven fellowship with God is restored.
● they must first be reconciled with their brothers.
● they become better prepared to face the future.
● faith is developed and becomes stronger.
● the promises of Scripture can be claimed and secured.
● for others through intercession lives are transformed.
● they demonstrate love for God by spending time with Him.
As you can see, we have covered a lot of ground over these past several weeks and learned a lot about prayer. My perspective on prayer has been forever changed and my knowledge about it immensely increased as a result of this series. I hope yours has as well.
That said, head knowledge alone regarding prayer is not what we are striving for. God is not calling us to become more knowledgeable about prayer, but rather is urging us to actually become more prayerful. With this in mind, we will wrap these messages up with some final, practical thoughts on how to create a vibrant prayer ministry in our church.
DVD SEGMENT (not available online)
I. PRAYER MEETING IS THE BAROMETER
There is a saying in the business world that goes like this - “If you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing!” We have borrowed this statement and applied it within the realm of the church. I agree that numbers have significant merit, and believe that (when properly used) they can be a valuable measurement tool to help in the overall work of the church.
Baptists, in particular, love to measure things. We are completely enamored with numbers. We use them to make judgments about the relative successes or failures of our churches and their ministries. How many people come to your church? How much money do you have in the bank? What is the average weekly offering? What is the value and square footage of your facility? How many baptisms did you perform last year? How many new members have joined in the past few months? And the list of numbers goes on and on…
But in the video segment Pastor Jim suggests a better measure of the spiritual depth and health of the church. He states that the number of people who attend the prayer meeting is the greatest spiritual barometer we have. In most churches, only a tiny fraction of the Sunday morning crowd will come to a mid-week prayer meeting. In many churches, the prayer meeting has been cancelled altogether. The sad reality is that most of our churches have severely neglected the practice of prayer, and thus have lost the manifest presence of God within them.
II. SOME GENERAL ADVICE ABOUT CREATING A PRAYER MINISTRY IN CHURCH
Every church is different. Each has a unique appetite for prayer. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach to implementing a successful prayer ministry. As such, Pastor Jim Cymbala offers some general advice in hopes that it will point us in a general direction for improving our church’s corporate prayer.
A. Leadership (Pastor) must be convinced that prayer is a priority
I read a quote a few days ago that went as follows - “A praying pastor begets a praying pew.” This statement underscores the importance of the church leadership, especially the pastor, making prayer a priority in their personal life. When the pastor fails to lead by example, you can be all but certain that the laity will not value prayer as they should. Leadership should pray together regularly, seeking God’s face as a team.
B. Pastor must preach more on the topic of prayer
Prayer is such a critical spiritual exercise that we must constantly keep it on the forefront of our minds. Prayer is the source of power that undergirds all of our ministries, so you’d think that we would talk about it more than we do. I have heard (and prepared) many more sermons over the years covering other church activities than I have on prayer. We as pastors need to spend more time preaching about the necessity of prayer.
C. Give more time in the Sunday service to prayer
As I said in the introduction, at some point we must move beyond an intellectual understanding of prayer to an actual practice of prayer. Because most people don’t come to the mid-week prayer meeting, we must find time on Sunday mornings to pray more. We must build it into our weekly order of service. This will allow the larger group to experience corporate prayer in a more meaningful and life-changing way.
D. Emphasize the value of the Wednesday night prayer meeting
Finally, we must constantly promote the incredible importance of the prayer meeting and continually encourage people to come and pray. The focus of our prayers must be upon seeking God and drawing closer to Him. They are primarily about knowing His presence, not about presenting our petitions. The prayer meeting is the most critical gathering that we conduct each week.
I hope that this series on prayer has been a blessing to you. I really hope that it has led you to pray more and pray better (more authentic, honest, and Spirit-led) than you ever have before. And I further hope that it will produce a greater appetite for prayer within our church body as a whole, and that through it we will see new growth and maturity in our corporate prayer ministry.
You’ve probably heard the old church saying, “When people work… people work. But when people pray… God works.” I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to see God work. And that can and will happen, but only “When God’s People Pray”!