As you participate in the National Day of Prayer, consider this question:
What has happened to the prayer meeting?
Churches across the country have either canceled their prayer service or curtailed it to such an extent that it might as well be canceled. I’ve spoken with many pastors who have acknowledged the need for prayer but who have also decided that due to a lack of attendance, the time can be used for other endeavors. So, the prayer gathering of the church goes the way of the dinosaur, extinct with only fossilized remains to remind the church of what was.
Now I would agree that the dinosaur extinction is, perhaps, a necessity. I mean, who wants to go hiking in the mountains only to have a T-Rex disrupt a glorious morning? It ruins the entire experience. But is that the same for the prayer meeting of the church? Is the prayer meeting nothing more than a hindrance to spiritual growth and development—a disruption of other, more suitable activities?
First, prayer is the very breath of the Christian life. In the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, the entire scope of the Christian life is conveyed: Recognition of God as Father, yielding to His will, seeking His provision, receiving His forgiveness, living with forgiveness toward others, and following His lead through life (Matthew 6:9-13). As Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray.” Perhaps many churches have abandoned this model and degenerated into selfish, whim-based prayers? If so, the church must return to this model for the prayer meeting.
Second, prayer is one of the four devotions of the church (Acts 2:42). “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” These four devotions of the church (and I mean by devotion: that which is an anchor point of faithful living) must play out in the congregations of God’s people. If you will allow the illustration, these are the four legs that support the altar of the Christian life: the word of God (the apostles’ teaching), the people of God (the fellowship), the worship of God (the breaking of bread), and communion with God (prayer). Without prayer the life dynamic of the church will collapse like a table with a missing leg.
Third, prayer is the place where the church begins to see the power of God manifested. The great revivals of old all had at their foundation a collection of praying Christians. It was the group who gathered in prayer that originally received the outpouring of God’s Spirit (Acts 1:14; 2:4). The ground shook when the church prayed (Acts 4:31). Peter escaped miraculously from prison as the church prayed (Acts 12:5). The Bible says, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13-15).
Christians long to see God respond mightily to the circumstances that are in the world. But I believe that God just might be waiting on the church to respond humbly to Him in prayer and repentance. The prayer meeting of the church is not a dinosaur, lost to the ages past. It might very well be the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37), needing to hear the voice of God again and rise up on their feet, a vast army—prayer warriors all.
Faithfully yours – Michael Duncan