In my last article I said that the greatest need of Northwest Baptists was for more pastors. That said, the greatest need I see in our churches is for more prayer – bone deep, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led prayer to a holy God who hears the cries of a repentant and broken people. In our worship gatherings we need prayer that goes beyond our surface, spur of the moment thoughts. We must bring requests to the King of Kings with the confidence of a little child asking for bread at the table.
Will our God forgive our sin? Yes, but we must confess it to Him and ask for His forgiveness. Will our God hear our prayers for spiritual awakening and revival? Yes, but we must beg Him for it. Will He intercede on behalf of our missionaries and the persecuted believers in Syria and Iraq and a hundred other places? Yes He will! But we must pray for the persecuted. We must plead for the lost. Our worship houses must become houses of “prayer for the all the nations,” as Jesus said when He entered the temple (Mark 11:17).
Please forgive me if you think I am being too harsh. But I hear far too little of this kind of praying on Sunday morning. Our churches, our worship gatherings, must center on praying to a holy and grace-giving God who delights in the prayers of His people. Strategies are good. Friendliness is important. But every person who walks into our churches must find God’s people and God’s house saturated with soulful prayer. May it be so!
I have heard of preachers and Bible teachers who say that they don’t write their sermons word-for-word, but they do write their prayers. I’m not advocating manuscripting our prayers, though that might be a good thing. But I certainly do believe that we should do advanced planning about our prayers, especially our public prayers. The children in our churches, including the spiritual babes, learn how to pray by listening to others pray, including their pastors. Although God is our audience when we pray and we must never forget that. We must know that we teach others how to pray when they hear us pray.
I want to suggest some matters for prayer that I believe ought to be included every time God’s people gather. I will simply list some and elaborate on others.
First, acknowledgement of God’s greatness and goodness should be included in our public prayers.
Second, gratitude to our holy and loving God should permeate our prayer.
Third, confession of sin, and asking for forgiveness and cleansing needs to be a part of our Sunday worship praying.
Fourth, intercession for unbelievers, missionaries, and those persecuted for Christ’s sake, should be a included each Sunday. Our people need to be reminded of, and they need to pray for, the missionaries that we are sending and supporting. When possible, specific people and situations should be mentioned. And don’t forget to pray for the persecuted. This will help remind our people that Jesus is worth everything and there are people right now, in many places, who are proving this to us by the torture and imprisonment they are enduring. Praying for missionaries and for the persecuted helps us put our own struggles into perspective. It humbles us. And don’t forget, there are people in your town who are being persecuted by their own families because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The website http://www.persecution.org will help keep you abreast of the world’s persecuted Christians.
Fifth, pray for community leaders and community concerns. Our cities and towns must know that we are partners in building a great community. When we pray for them, pray for the schools and the businesses and the police officers and fire fighters, they will know and they will appreciate it. Most importantly, God hears these prayers!
May our church houses be houses of prayer for all peoples. We will never go wrong when we lead God’s people to turn from their/our wicked ways and seek His face.
Now, have a great Resurrection Sunday!