When I read that stat I wondered about writing a blog “RIP: The British Prayer Meeting”, or “How to revive prayer in a contemporary church setting” etc etc. My worry was no one would click through to read the blog. Unfortunately, the stat probably signifies the fact that the prayer meeting conjures up very little passion in many of us!
But before you stop reading – just take a deep breath. Is it possible for a contemporary church to embrace the ancient path of prayer in a way that’s relevant, fruitful and “flake free”? Can we adjust our expectation, our models, our enjoyment? Is it actually possible to have a vibrant church community without somehow solving the “Prayer Problem”?
Let me share 10 quick things about corporate prayer that I hope will help your church journey:
1. We Can’t Live Without It! Firstly, we’ve got to admit, hard or not, well attended or failing; busy with outreach or not – we cannot live without prayer in our churches. That’s my starting point. Jesus flung tables around without untameable zeal, angry that His House should be anything other than a “House of Prayer for all nations”. Youngi Cho and countless other revivalists state “Prayer is the key to revival” (It’s not the whole room though – just the “key” to the door!). The early church “devoted themselves to prayer” day after day. So I have to start from the assumption that all of heaven wants me to solve the lack of passion for prayer in my church or in my own life.
2. I Don’t Like Praying To solve the prayer problem, I have to admit that my flesh really does not like prayer. I do not like getting up early, praying at night, fasting, praying in tongues for an hour or more, stirring up passion. “Jarrod does not like to pray” is something I have to admit, in order to “crucify Jarrod” and start living a godly life. Finding God’s passion where mine runs out is vital in so many areas of life! And the church I lead is just as likely to find prayer difficult. Admitting this is a great starting point.
3. Prayer is a Muscle. So here’s my third point. I may not like prayer “in my flesh” – but it is a muscle I can develop, with the Spirit’s help, until it becomes second nature to pray! After a recent all night session of prayer in our church, I literally could not stop speaking in tongues. Having prayed in tongues for 12 hours, my prayer muscles learned to operate with greater ease! This a great truth: The more I pray, the more I will enjoy it!
4. Smaller, does not mean irrelevant. In our success driven age, sometimes I wonder if the “small, (comparatively) poorly attended” prayer meeting get’s dropped, as it’s not seen as successful. It might seem like a lot of effort, but generates few headlines! I realise we are doing well if 20% of our church attend a weekly prayer meeting, but is that reason to drop it? I have had to adjust my expectation and overcome my frustration and relax about prayer meeting attendance. Stop counting heads – start enjoying prayer!
5. Fruitful Prayer. Of course, we get discouraged about prayer unless we can connect it to results and get those headlines! Intimacy is the first reason for prayer; but RESULTS has to come a close second! Testimony boards, praise reports and historical journalling is a MUST to retain energy for prayer.
6. A Prayerless Generation The danger of not delighting in corporate prayer is that an entire generation of believers will never touch the true depth of intercessions, tongues, groanings. A generation that loves Jesus, must model their lives on Jesus; who continually “offered up prayers with loud cries and tears” (Heb 5:7) and was to be found on the mountain of prayer regularly.
7. The Call to Prayer Most churches experience an ebb and flow in prayer meeting attendance. There seems to be no other church dynamic that requires a regular “Call to…” like prayer. When ever we “Push” prayer, the meetings fill again, and passion is re-ignited. Giving in to this dynamic seems to be a part of relaxing into the seasonal nature of prayer in any church.
8. Create Adventures One great way to call the church to prayer, is to highlight significant seasons of prayer. A 6 week fast (where each member picks a day a week to fast). An all night prayer service; 24 hours of worship; (allowing people to rota who need to). 7 days of listening. Each time we call our congregations to prayer, we flex and grow the muscles of the giant of prayer in our midst.
9. Worship is Prayer Ok, not literally theologically correct, but putting music alongside our prayer. Mixing prayer and worship. Flowing prophetically between the two. It makes prayer more palatable. To pray for hours – mix worship and prayer.
10. Prayer – releases deeper worship. I have always said, that if a church knows how to pray, you never need to teach them how to worship. If you want dynamic, vibrant, presence filled worship in your church – don’t teach them how to worship. Teach them how to pray.
As a pastor I do not exist to get people “into Church” but “into Christ”. Getting people to church is easy. Put on a youth club, improve your music, run attractional events. But I know that my role is to take that crowd and get them into JESUS. That is where lives are truly transformed. It is in encountering Jesus, face to face, that I have been transformed. 9 times out of 10, this has never been at a Sunday service or a conference. It’s been in prayer.
Let’s take this generation up the mountain of prayer. Britain will never be the same again if we do.