Friday, March 25, 2011
Prayer: The Game Changer
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend what was called a church multiplication event that was sponsored by my tribe (the Free Methodist Church). The presenter was Dr. Dave Earley, professor at Liberty Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA. I came expecting to hear about systems of church growth and some good stuff like that. But for more that half the time Dr. Earley focused on prayer. I didn't think this was about spiritual formation, I thought it was about church growth. It was most definitely about church growth.
Dr. Earley presenting some staggering information as part of his presentation. For example, did you know that the average pastor in America prays for only 7 minutes a day!! If I'm completely honest, I have to admit that is me. Why did he focus so much of the day on the topic of prayer? One word: Acts. When we look at the book of Acts we see the staggering growth and the moving of the Holy Spirit and great numbers of people coming to faith in Christ and we want to see that again today, especially in America where church attendance and participation is continually declining. But one thing that is often neglected as church people long for what we see in Acts is a prayer staurated life and ministry. The early church did not appear to do anything without first praying and seeking God.
One of Dr. Earley's little quips was, "Acts 1 comes before Acts 2." I know, staggering information, right? But it is very important. We often focus on the Pentecost event, and rightly so, but we neglect what happened before that event. In Acts 1 Jesus ascends, they apostles chose Matthias to replace Judas but something else is there in that chapter. Look at Acts 1:14:
"They all joined together in constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."
They all gathered together constantly for prayer. This is no small thing. Also, again in 1:24 they pray for God's guidancein choosing a replacement for Judas. Also, check out Acts 2:42, 3:1; 4:23-31--and these are just a few examples from the early chapters. The book of Acts is permeated with the prayers of the believers. In comparison our prayer life is weak and feeble.
John Calvin once said: "God is idle when we are mute in prayer." John Wesley also said something very similar. During the seminar yesterday Dr. Earley also said something which I wrote down: "Prayer is not the preparation for warfare, it is the battle." If we want to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ change communities, yes we need to engage the community, but even before we do that we need to pray. Pray about all things, pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
As an example Dr. Earley referred to the example of the Korean seminary students at Liberty. They pray for about three hours together in the chapel early in the morning everyday. In light of this is it any wonder that Korea has per capita more Christians than any other nation?
Again, "Acts 1 comes before Acts 2." If we want to see God work we must pray. Jesus said that his dicsiples should "ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field" (Matt. 9:38).
James tells us in 5:16 that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective. Apart from God we can do nothing (John 15:5), prayer is the connection we need and I believe the more we pray the more reliant upon God and His power we truely are. If we want to see Pentecost today we need to begin on our knees.