Today the banner or cross of Christ is honoured in what is called Christianity, by more people on planet earth than at any other time in history; more than one billion. As the church has moved from the caves to the cathedrals, she has amassed fortunes, build elaborate places for her members to gather for entertainment and the promotion of programs and doctrines squeezed from selected Bible verses. She sings “Oh how I love Jesus”, the servant of all, with a silver and gold cross, with inlaid diamonds, around her neck. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” has taken wings and soared to the skies in a Lear Jet bound, not for a cabin or leper colony, but a mansion on a hilltop or a Pent House. As the war for souls wages, and as the enemy, Satan, seems to be gaining ground; soldiers of Christ have abandoned the battleship and taken up passage on the cruise ship. Instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, she is burping from an over-indulgence of the delicacies of the world. Her mantra has survived from a rebuked ancestor, who dared to say when rebuked by Jesus, “We have need of nothing.” Nail scarred hands have been replaced by manicured handstand stainless gloves; instead of serving hands that wash dirty feet, they are waiting to be served.
Instead of killing the fatted calf to celebrate the prodigals return home to his father; the fatted calf has been reserved to celebrate the meeting of a budget or some other self-imposed goal. As the old farmer said, “We ain't doing what that Bible teaches.”
A movement inherited from ancestors, we claim,in the first century who conquered the world or her knees with the spread of the gospel (cf. Colossians 1:23), is now being conquered by members who are on pews who rarely pray. Indifference is draining her power. A church without power can’t win a spiritual battle As the church limps or rides her power scooter deeper into the 21 st century she has a number of obvious needs; that if not met may well lead to lights out and locked doors, as she is lowered in her casket in the graveyard of dead congregations. She needs a wake up call. She needs to hear and proclaim the gospel, which is the only power that can save a lost person (cf. Romans 1:14-17). Sin needs to be presented not as a social malfunction or disease, but as a cancer of the soul that keeps people out of heaven. Hell needs to be presented as hot and eternity long; and once there it is final—all hope is left behind. The church needs to leave “Broadway” for the “straight and narrow way”.
The church needs leaders, at all levels, who have fire in their bones for God and His word (Jeremiah 20:9). Business meetings need to be turned into prayer meetings. She needs to quit arguing about the size, color and placement of deck chairs while the Titanic sinks; she needs to throw out the lifeline. She needs to quit training soldiers how to manage the fort and train them for spiritual warfare out in the world (cf. 2 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 John 5:19).
The church needs to be driven not by slick adds from Wall Street, but by the mandates of the Holy Spirit contained in the Bible; God’s inspired word (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17). It is people who Jesus died for (cf. Matthew 26:28), not programs or agendas created by some marketing expert. Christ left heaven, not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).
Perhaps more than anything else the church needs to restore her prayer power. The prayer power that moved the first century Christians to boldly take the gospel to a hostile world (Acts 4:11-13). Our spiritual ancestors didn’t tack on a few minutes of prayer, as we are prone to do in our tight schedules. Prayer wasn’t a token exercise or part of a prescribed time-line in their services. In one of our favourite passages, Acts 2:42, we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.” They CONTINUED! It wasn’t a rare thing. A reading of Acts reveals prayer is mentioned in one way or another approximately 30 times. To say prayer is a Bible subject would be an understatement. Prayer is mentioned in one way or another approximately 650 times in the Bible. Prayer is demonstrated more than 200 times in the Bible. When did prayer become a neglected subject relative to obeying Paul’s command to “Pray without ceasing”? Whatever happened to Midweek Prayer Services? They are now a footnote in church history.
Can you imagine what would happen if the sermon was reduced to five or ten minutes in the Sunday morning and Sunday night services? What would the reaction be if prayer was given 30 to 45 minutes in the services. It is interesting that we have mega commands and examples of prayer and only a few related to preaching. No, I am not suggestions that we give less time to preaching; just more time to prayer.
What if we stopped our “deep theological” discussions about the “real meaning” of 1 Thessalonians 5;17—“Don’t stop praying”—and actually made it a pattern of our lives; what do you suppose would happen?
Where do we start? Perhaps the place to begin is with that familiar passage in Luke 11:1: “Now it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples”. We need to be taught how to pray! We need to study prayer and practice prayer in the church meetings and in our homes and personal lives. Prayer is a demonstration of our faith, character, and trust in God. It is our response of love to His love toward us.
We need to intentionally examine our present emphasis on prayer. Since the Bible has so much to say about it, we, too, need to be saying a lot about it, but more than that; we need to be practicing it more. Let’s pray! Not, “Shall we pray?” which someone may say no to, but “Let’s pray!”
J.J. Turner is the author of Prayers To The Father Never Go Unanswered. Order from my website: Amazon tab.