“Before power comes petition. A church which never gets on its knees will never get on its feet.”
That quote comes from a vision pamphlet I wrote years ago where I highlight what I believe are 10 essential elements for major impact in our field of ministry.
Prayer is not a magical ritual that moves God like a puppet on a string. He cannot be manipulated. The secret of the power of prayer lies in its connection with faith. True prayer involves a personal and impassioned communication with our Sovereign God. That supplication in turn is driven by a sense of absolute dependence upon His provisions. Sincere prayer from a believing heart honors God; that is why God invites and honors it.
Prayer is powerful for two reasons—because God is sovereign and invites the petitions of His believing people. That God responds to it is repeatedly affirmed by both Scripture and personal experience. James says in his epistle that the effective (the Greek word implies “intensive”) prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [James 5:16]. God delights in our dependence and seeks to encourage it whenever appropriate to His purposes and our true and eternal good.
It is worth noting that integrity as much as faith is a qualifying condition of answered prayer. God will not take up the cause of self-serving people who seek His help but are unwilling to live by His rules. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” [Psalm 66.18, cf. Isaiah 59, James 4:3)
The habit of prayer says a lot about a person. It says “I know which side my bread is buttered on. . .I know Who is in control. . . I know the One in whose hand are all the issues of life and death, health and sickness, and wealth and poverty.”
At Lake we want to encourage and nourish that godly practice.
As modern churches go, this is a good church. However “as modern churches go” is an inadequate standard. American churches as a whole are in pitiful shape. Let’s be content with nothing short of true excellence. Let’s aim at approximating what God intended a local church to be. For that vision few attributes are more critical than the discipline of prayer.
Don’t get me wrong. Prayer in itself doesn’t make a person spiritual. But it has a whole lot to do with drawing the heart toward God. Good prayer time is like a good shower after a dirty job. . . it’s cleansing. . . it refreshing. . .it’s invigorating. One will nearly always notice, I believe, a strong correlation between people who spend time with God and those who spend themselves for God.
Let me challenge you individually to make prayer a regular discipline. Resolve to add daily communion with God to your roster of priorities. There is, to be sure, prayer without power, but I have yet to see power without prayer. What I am talking about is not rote, ritualized prayer that too often characterizes our public gatherings. I am talking about those “closet” sessions in which we pour out our hearts before God alone.
Prayer has never been more urgent.
These are evil days. The sunlight of the truth is setting in America. Darkness is gathering around the people of God. The signs are ominous. Hatred of Christians and the truth is boiling to the surface. Violent storms of opposition are in the air. God only knows what is on the horizon.
My prayer is that Lake will materialize as a great beacon of truth and grace in this island of ever-deepening darkness called “Portland.”
You see, the danger for us now is the delusion that with our new church we have finally reached our goal. Actually, the building is not the consummation, but merely the commencement. This is the starting gate, not the finish line. God has simply provided us a playing field; now its time to play ball.
Now that we finally have a house of God what we most need is great heart for God. A house of God without a heart for God is a monumental waste.
Let us never forget that we are not called to build churches, but to make disciples. Buildings are not our mission, yet they are essential to that mission. We rejoice in His provision. Now let’s pray that He will enable us to take full advantage of it.
Please pray for me. Ask especially that God will keep me stumbling, that I will maintain spiritual credibility and finish my course with honor and will not embarrass the truth with any form of pastoral misconduct.
Pray likewise for our pastoral staff and elders. God has given us some great people who are godly, able and wise. Pray that God will keep them that way.
Pray for new staff that they will be like-minded and well-suited to our team.
Pray that God will rain down upon this work a power that is rare in our day.
Pray that this church will make a difference for the Kingdom of God. . . that we will become in every sense of the word truly a mega-impact ministry.
If you and I will pray, God will hear and we will see the glory of God manifested before our very eyes.
But remember. . . no prayer, no power. Either we turn on the prayer or turn out the lights.