In an earlier post, I briefly argued that prayer should be more of a priority for Baptist churches. In short, prayer should undergird and guide everything a church does.
But before we get too far down the road, let me suggest we may need to redefine the way we do prayer ministries in our congregations. Too often churches start prayer ministries where people gather once a week or can come to a prayer room. I understand that. These are good efforts. There are times where this model needs to be followed. At times in Christ’s ministry, we see Him go off by Himself to pray. Much like in our prayer meetings or prayer rooms, Christ would spend time alone with God.
But prayer simply can’t be contained in rooms and meetings.
Let me suggest what was once suggested to me by a minister I respect tremendously — Texas Baptists, like Christians everywhere, need to be people of prayer. What does that mean? What does that look like? Quite simply, it’s a lot like life as you most likely are currently living it. It’s noticing things throughout your day. It’s visiting with your friends. It’s building new relationships with others. It’s rejoicing in life’s highs and grieving when life is hard.
But throughout all that, people of prayer are talking to God — praising God for the good and petitioning Him for those things that concern us or others.
It’s here in the conversation between us and God that everything changes. It’s through these dialogues that we begin to see people as God sees them. We see opportunities to care for them. We see opportunities to pray for them. We see opportunities to share the hope of Christ with them. We love a little better. In short, hopefully we learn to be a little more like Christ.
When God changes the way we see the world, He changes the way we interact with it. Children’s ministries, evangelism opportunities and discipleship efforts happen naturally as we reach out to others according to God’s calling in our lives. Kingdom growth becomes natural, organic.
I’ll be honest, if I were a pastor or minister at a church, this model might on the surface scare me. How do you evaluate something like this? How do I know if people are praying if they aren’t signing up to pray at a certain time or coming to a prayer meeting? As a leader, I would want to make sure we are effectively encouraging people to have active prayer lives.
The evaluation of a congregation’s prayer life in my view is actually quite simple. Are lives being changed? Are church members sharing their faith regularly? Does God appear to be working through your congregation? If you can answer those questions affirmatively, my suspicion is your congregation has a healthy prayer life. They are sensing God calling them to do certain things, and they are following through.