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 God’s people pray, there is hope restored there is sin forgiven…”
It’s not so much that prayer changes things, as much as it changes me. Prayer is not the method we’ve been given for twisting the arm of God. It is not given to convince 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. I don’t recall ever having a deacons’ meeting that did not 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.
We have bathed in prayer every building program, every church plant, every step of faith, every expansion. We would not be where we are today if it were not for prayer.
Any “success” we might have enjoyed has been the result of prayer. Every step in the season of making movies has been bathed in prayer, from writing the story to casting to editing. It is the element the world cannot explain or even understand. God has done exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we ever hoped or imagined.
Years ago, we walked through the worship “wars” without having a war. I believe it was because we had a praying base of people. We had to make some changes in our worship without forsaking our heritage. Some did not like it…some left…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 you get the point. The prayer tower that stands front and center of our facility 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. We want people who drive by this church to see something that symbolizes prayer.
The disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them how to lay on hands, 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 (and no Christian) can do without.
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 prayerless 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.
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 its power. Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean that defies resistance.”
We should never make prayer an option. It is the heartbeat of a vibrant church. A prayerless church is a powerless church. Is your church powerful or powerless? You can look at the level of your prayer ministry and find the answer.
(copyright Michael Catt, All Rights Reserved)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.