Prayer matters. Prayer has played an indispensable role throughout the history of the church. St. Augustine (A.D. 354–430) said, “Lord, You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” This idea rings true in prayer as we express our faith and dependence on God.
The prayers of God’s people initiate things in the heavenly realm. For example, in 1727, the presence of God came to a Protestant group called the Moravians. They were a refugee colony from Bohemia that was allowed to settle on the estates of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf in Hernhutt, Germany. They birthed a 24/7 prayer meeting that lasted an entire century. Twenty-four men and twenty-four women committed and scheduled to pray one hour every day. Soon that number grew. Eventually every hour was filled with multiple people in intercession. From that ongoing prayer meeting, more than 300 missionaries were sent throughout the world.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), who saw thousands come to Christ through his preaching, refused to take credit for the success of his ministry. Instead, he would point to the nearly 700 people who bowed in prayer to seek God’s presence and blessing on upcoming services—services continually marked with God’s power and glory as a result.
These stories from church history should inspire us to pray. However, the reality is that we can quickly find ourselves disappointed in our inability to persevere in prayer. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” The following are a few ideas to help us find our stride in the “greater work” of prayer:
Be convinced of your need to pray.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Oswald Smith notes, “You can be marvelously gifted for the service of God, but if you have not learned to prevail in prayer, you can never expect God’s blessings on your labors”.
Schedule to pray.
We must make our calendars submit to our vision. We are busy people who inevitably allow seemingly urgent things crowd out what is genuinely important. I have too often allowed the pressures, demands, and disappointments of this life keep me from Him. I find that I consistently pray when I write it into my schedule. Paul Miller writes, “Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart”.
Every Wednesday at 6:00am a handful of men pray with me in my office. The camaraderie and strength we receive from praying together cannot be overstated. Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer”.
We too easily have a thought, read an article, or even hear the Holy Spirit without responding. Take action. Start with a reasonable goal, place it into your calendar, ask some believers to join you, and know that God Himself will help you.
In his book The Spirit-Filled Church, Terry Virgo quotes Philip Hughes, “Prayer is stressed over and over again in the New Testament as a vital pre-requisite for the release and experience of God’s power.” May our churches, and we as individuals, continue to discover God’s loving presence and power through a life marked by prayer.