We live in a highly organized and technological society. Churches need to be well informed, organized, and up to date with the latest technology. However, accompanying these modern marvels comes the danger of substituting organization and administration for the power of God. If a church is on the cutting edge of societal change, but is missing the power of God, that ministry is a failure. A church without power is like an engine without gas or clouds without rain. There may be the appearance of power, but in reality there is no power at all. If we are to accomplish great things for God, we must have His power.
Substituting service for prayer was a concern for the early church. The leaders were concerned about allowing the distribution of food to the widows to dominate their schedule. These men realized the most important facet of the ministry was prayer and preaching the Word of God (Acts 6:4). We also can become too busy for the essentials of the Christian life. Prayer, witnessing, and preaching the Word of God have always been the key functions of the church. These spiritual virtues are seldom the theme for a church growth seminar because they require humility, discipline, and work. Who wants to work if a seemingly easier way can be found? But the keys to an effective ministry are of a spiritual nature rather than man-made ideas and organizational structure.
The outward appearance of a ministry does not always reflect its true state. It is possible for a church to have a beautiful building, a large attendance, and great offerings while accomplishing little for the cause of Christ. Without great prayer there cannot be great churches. Our prayers reflect our attitude toward God. A lack of prayer signifies that we do not really need God to do His work. Much prayer indicates our need for God and reflects our belief that only by His power can anything meaningful be accomplished.
When Zechariah rebuilt the temple, God reminded him that the work must be done by the power of God in Zechariah 4:6, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Church members must learn the importance of prayer at the very beginning of a new church. Every service should begin and end with prayer. Every counseling session should be prayed over. Every Sunday school class should include prayer. Saturdays are a good time to schedule special prayer meetings. This time should be for praying, not fellowship. Fellowship is important, but it should not be a substitute for meaningful prayer.
From time to time there needs to be special seasons of prayer, which may or may not include fasting. Every major decision of the church should be bathed in prayer. Times of trials as well as special occasions may call for special prayer. In addition, national events and tragedies offer an opportunity to call men and women to prayer for the needs of our country. God is interested in blessing a nation who prays and depends upon Him.
Prayer should be perpetual by the leaders and members of the church. This will only happen if the pastor leads the way. People will know if the pastor has been spending time in prayer, and they will follow his lead. We should learn to pray about everything; nothing is too small and nothing is too big to bring before the throne of grace. Prayer will limit gossip and criticism because it is difficult to be critical while we are on our knees.
God answers prayer. There is nothing more exciting than answered prayer. Knowing that the God of Heaven has heard and answered our feeble prayers will increase our faith. The community will hear about the working of God when we pray, and some will be influenced toward salvation.
Many books have been written on the subject of prayer, but we must remember that prayer must be experienced, not merely studied. Prayer is not just a doctrine, it is an act of obedience and worship toward God. Every new church planter will be tempted by the special methods of conference speakers as well as the seeming success of other pastors. We must be willing to leave our results to God and commit ourselves to spending our time in the Word of God and prayer. God will bless our efforts more than we can know.