by Bob Whitesel, 6-4-15.
It was one of my professors, Dr. C. Peter Wagner, who said that prayer was the one topic he has heard discussed more, yet practiced less, than any other church discipline. After 25+ years of church consulting, I must sadly say that I can anecdotally confirm that analysis.
It is my hope that discussing prayer and its important correlation with church outreach, will inspire church leaders to buck the trend and integrate prayer more copiously in their congregations. It is helpful to remember that prayer is the a work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-9), and thus prayer is the “right-arm” of evangelism.
Some of my favorite insights on prayer come from the following quotes:
“All of God’s works are done through believing prayer” is the famous saying of John Wesley, who turned the spiritual tides of England back to the Lord in a dark hour (quoted by Armin R. Gesswein in “Prayer and Evangelism,” Evangelism: The Next Ten Years, ed., Sherwood Eliot Wirt, [Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1978], p. 97).
And Dwight L. Moody the American lay-evangelist and founder of the Moody Bible Institute is remembered for his well-known observation that “every work of God can be traced to some kneeling form” (Gesswein, ibid.).
There is a simple quote by Jim Cymbala in the book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that, “When people work, people work. When people pray, God works.” What poignancy!
Another one of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Billy Graham. I used it in the chapter on “Missteps With Prayer” in my book Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (2004). But because of its importance I want to quote it here again. Dr. Graham has said that “the secret of each Crusade has been the power of God’s Spirit moving in answer to the prayers of his people. I have often said that the three most important things we can do for a crusade are to pray, to pray, and to pray” (quoted in Sterling W. Huston, Crusade Evangelism and the Local Church [Minneapolis, Minnesota: World Wide Publications, 1984], p. 50).
Because of this strategic nature of prayer, in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning I spoke of several methods for “mobilizing prayer.” I encourage leaders to consider carefully these options, and work to inculcate prayer move pervasively in their congregations. Again for review, here are some of those prayer strategies:
1) Prayer Teams.
2) Neighborhood Prayer Centers
3) Operation Andrew: A Prayer Covenant List
4) Prayer Triplets
5) Concerts of Prayer
6) Designating “Prayer Coordinators”
In addition, just as important is the strategy of employing 50/50 prayer in EVERY prayer opportunity (I’m not yelling by using all caps, I just want to stress the pervasive nature that 50/50 prayer must take 🙂
For a recap, 50/50 Prayer means emphasizing and employing prayer in all venues and meetings that is structured so that:
50% of the prayer is focused on the needs of the congregation.
50% of the prayer is focused on the needs of the unchurched.
50/50 prayer must be stressed, encouraged, talked about, and modeled. But, 50/50 Prayer does note mean praying less for congregational needs. Rather it requires adding 50% to our prayer times to ensure we mention the needs of those who are unchurched.
If the reader would like some more reading on the strategic importance of prayer and church growth and health, here is a selected and annotated bibliography of classic prayer books I have found helpful:
Terry Teykl, Make Room To Pray (Muncie, Ind.: Prayer Points Press, 1993). This is an excellent book, explaining how to add a prayer room to your church that people will actually use!
Terry Teykl, Blueprint for the House of Prayer (Muncie, Indiana: Prayer Point Press, 1997). Here Teykl gives a workbook for your leaders to go through to distribute 50/50 prayer throughout your congregation. This is a great tool for a prayer or a leaders’ retreat.
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997) is a new classic. The quote I used earlier in this missive comes from it. Fantastic insights!
David Bryant, With Concerts of Prayer: Christians Join for Spiritual Awakening and World Evangelism (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1984). Bryant turned the church on its head when he put small group interaction, varying types of prayer, and testimonies into a prayer event he called a “concert” of prayer. Tens of thousands of people have participated in these concerts in venues from sports stadiums to Sunday School rooms. These energetic and creative “concerts of prayer” have helped revitalize prayer gatherings.
Dick Eastman, The Hour that Changes the World (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1980). This is a classic book that explains how prayer is linked with bringing people to Christ. Eastman argues that the world will never be effectively evangelized if we do not increase prayer.
D. L. Moody, Prevailing Prayer (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1885). Moody was involved in one of the greatest revivals America has ever known. And in this tome he tells how prayer played the key role.
Leonard Ravenhill, Revival Praying (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1962). Another classic, that will inspire, motivate, and enthuse your leaders to take prayer for the unchurched seriously; eventually adopting it as a lifestyle.
Pray! Magazine (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, http://www.navpress.com.) is a great periodical that will remind you of the strategic nature of prayer. Put in on your end table next to “Outreach Magazine,” ”Rev.,” and “Time.”
There are many more great books available on the important topic of prayer. But the above are tendered to begin to spur your thoughts and thinking on prayer. It is my hope that prayer will become a “core competency” of all congregations. It has to … if we are to change the world!