THE CRUSHING WEIGHT OF A PRAYING CHURCH
I stood on the shore of a river in Asia, watching the bustling activity on the other side and felt a heaviness in my spirit. The percentage of people in this region who know about Jesus is frighteningly low. How can that be? Jesus’ words came to my mind:’” ... I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’” (Matt. 16: 18). I believe that with all my heart, and yet, as I gazed across the river, it seemed that hell was indeed prevailing, at least for a time. While we talk about pushing back the darkness, it seemed to me that the darkness was doing some pushing back.
That may not seem like a faith-filled attitude, but it is an honest report on viewing the lostness of man and mourning over it. During those days I wondered why it is so difficult to penetrate certain areas with the love of ]esus. While I realize it is a complex issue, the thought that dominated my thinking was the concept of prayerlessness.
I imagined the weight of a praying church crushing the evil I saw around me. Is it possible that darkness prevails because the Church is not praying as it should? Is it possible that the gospel would go forth with more vigor and efficacy if the Church would engage in deeper levels of prayer? Why are we inclined to pray so little?
Without trying to be too simplistic, it seems to me that the core problem relates to our understanding of prayer. If we truly understood our divine call to pray, we would pray much differently If we truly believed prayer can unleash the power of God, we would pray with greater passion. And if we truly believed prayer can alter the course of history, we would pray with greater fervency.
Perhaps a few examples would be helpful. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them … “ (Luke 6: 12-13). Jesus spent the night praying and then chose the twelve disciples and designated them as apostles. These ordinary men would later alter the course of humanity as they built the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed and history was forever changed. Scripture contains so many other examples. Jesus prayed and healed; He prayed and fed thousands; He prayed in the garden and walked the hard road to the cross.
On a personal level, my wife, Char, and I have been praying for approximately eight years for a need relating to our special needs daughter. Eight years of prayer without much hope of a breakthrough. A few months ago we were praying with friends in Colorado Springs, and we asked them to pray over us on behalf of our daughter. These five friends laid hands on us and prayed; I can vividly remember the words of each one. Just a few days later we were meeting with the people who care for our daughter, and, to be honest, we did not raise the issue. But as the meeting was coming to an end, one person spoke up about an opportunity for our daughter-the very one we had been praying about for so long! In a moment, the prayer was answered, and funding was provided for her to move to a new setting. Why did it take so long? Why did things happen when we finally asked others to pray over us? I cannot answer those questions with absolute certainty, but I know that the course of our dear daughter’s life took a new trajectory because people prayed.
Prayer changes things-! believe it, but it is an incomplete thought. We can come to see prayer as a commodity or a function; one that produces benefits if we “do it right.” Someone has aptly stated that we often treat God as our heavenly butler, ordering him around and expecting him to wait on our every need. A W Tozer taught that the highest kind of prayer has nothing to do with making requests. He was writing about the beauty of the relationship. He was writing about prayer as drawing into the presence of our loving God. He was so right!
Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. More than that, it is the primary blessing of God’s people to be freely invited into the Most Holy Place. When I enter into the presence of God, I know I will be forever changed; and when I earnestly engage with Him in prayer, I know the world will be forever changed. As the Holy Spirit moves in our midst and stirs up a desire in us to pray, we believe in faith that the crushing weight of a praying church will prevail in pushing back the darkness in our hearts, our communities, our nation and our world!