While spending a Sunday in London, five college students went to the Metropolitan Tabernacle to hear its famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon. As they waited for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man (who they would later learn was Spurgeon himself), who offered, “Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?”
They were not particularly interested for it was a hot day in July, but they didn’t want to offend the stranger so they consented. The students were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, “This is our heating plant.” Surprised, they saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. In that moment, the students learned an important lesson: a healthy church is a praying church. (Our Daily Bread, April 24, 2014)
How do we develop healthy, praying churches? There are at least 3 beliefs required for this to happen.
#1 Believe in the Need for Corporate Prayer
Throughout the Book of Acts we see the Church praying for one another. In Acts 2:42-48 Christians gather together to pray. When God is present by His Spirit, there is unity and mutual care. The Holy Spirit desires to work in us individually and collectively. To this end, He brings forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in individuals and in the community of believers (Gal. 5:22-23). Such fruits of the Spirit are given to edify the body of Christ and increase the spiritual growth of both individual believers and the Church as a whole. Prayer in this instance is like water to a flower garden—without it the flowers will not bloom and grow.
#2 Believe in the Need for Individual Prayer
Paul commands, “Pray without ceasing.” The point of this admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17is for God’s people to make prayer a regular habit in their lives. After all, Christians have been given access to God in prayer through the finished work of Jesus. They are summoned to come boldly before the throne of God’s grace (Hebrews 4:16). A healthy prayer life is one of the chief means the Lord uses to grow His people in His grace. Our faith is strengthened when we see the outworking of God’s answers to our daily prayers. A strong faith in God gives the believer a rock to cling to in times of trouble. This is also our witness to others – in that when we are tested with hardships and troubles – our faith in Jesus remains unshaken.
#3 Believe in the Need for Intentionality
Local churches should provide times of corporate prayer and encourage individual prayer. Here are six helpful and intentional ways local churches can help their people grow in prayer. First, those involved in teaching—whether in Sunday school or from the pulpit—must teach on prayer. Second, stock your church library with resources on prayer. Third, your church website should list suggested books on Christian living topics like prayer. Fourth, provide a prayer time before the service. Fifth, invite people who need prayer to come forward and have church leadership pray for them. Sixth, have a mechanism for people to submit prayer requests by e-mail or via a prayer card that can be dropped into the offering plate or a prayer box. Practical, intentional steps like these are vital for growing a praying church.
The Gospel Is the Key to Prayer
Healthy churches equip the people of God through faithful ministry and application of the Word and Spirit. The key to prayer—to praying often, to praying openly, to praying boldly and freely with gladness of heart—is to remember that you are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, invited to His saving grace, purchased by his precious blood, and anticipated by His sympathetic intercession (Heb. 2:17-18).
Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, and the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine. He and his wife, Sarah, are members of Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, where they serve in a variety of ministries. Dave received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on twitter @DaveJJenkins. Find him on Facebook or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.