|“One of the most amazing things in the Gospels is how much time Jesus spent in prayer. He had only three years of public ministry, but He was never too hurried to spend hours in prayer. He prayed before every difficult task and at every crisis in His ministry. No day began or closed in which He was not in communion with His Father.” - Billy Graham, Hope for a Troubled Heart|
Room to Grow
Hilltown family, of THE CORE VALUES WE IDENTIFIED, this is the area in which I fear we fall short the most. If someone were to visit our church for a month, spending time in our various ministries, would they come away overwhelmed and saying, “Wow, these people genuinely value and believe in the power of prayer!”? I’m not sure they would. And I desperately want that to change.
Diagnosing and Redirecting
This is the third in our “Core Values” series (see PART 1 HERE, PART 2 HERE) where we set out to answer questions like “What defines Hilltown the most? What do we cherish most and why?” The reason A Strong Prayer Base is included among this list is not because it is something we already do so well, but something we want to do better. And I believe we can and will. I don’t need to overwhelm us with the biblical evidence for the importance of prayer. We know that “the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) and that we are to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”(Romans 12:12). We see it modeled by Jesus who “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). We see it modeled in the early church who “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
We defined a Strong Prayer Base as “Genuine dependence on the Lord evidenced in an impulse to turn to Him in confident anticipation of what He will do” (Acts 2:42; Rom 12:12; Phil 4:6). What would that look like at Hilltown? What are some ways you and I can help foster that? What are some things we need to see more of around our church?
Whether it be in large groups, small groups, or as an entire church body, you can anticipate more organized opportunities in the coming future to participate in prayer. On the other hand, if you are a leader of a Sunday School class, a small group, or a particular ministry, don’t make prayer the after-thought. Make it central. If we find ourselves saying, “Let’s close in prayer real quick” more than on a rare occasion, make note and make a change.
b. More Spontaneous Prayer
We’ve all been there. A friend of ours shares a struggle, a fear, or a problem here at the church or over the phone, and often our first response is to say, “I’ll be praying for you.” I have to be honest–most times I don’t. Not because I don’t feel like it. I just forget! I may remember the next time I see them and ask how things are going, but I don’t often remember to take it to the Lord in prayer.What’s the simple solution? Don’t tell them you’ll be praying. Stop and pray for them right then and there. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a few people here and there throughout our church building praying for one another throughout the day? I’d love to see more of that.
c. More Direct Prayer
Keep it simple. Keep it short. Keep it pointed. I think one reason we avoid praying is very practical (yet nonsensical): it takes a lot of time. At least, it does if you pray like we think others are expecting us to pray. Jesus taught us not to be wordy (Matt 6:5). He pointed out that God knows what you need before you ask (Matt 6:8). So if you’re praising God, use tons of words; if you’re beseeching God, use few words. One of the things the elders have been enjoying is the practice of praying over our congregation members in simple 2- or 3-sentence prayers. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. And it’s a recognition that it’s not our ability to theologize that makes prayer effective, it’s our ability to humble ourselves and recognize we need help from our loving Father who already knows it.Join us in this journey to becoming a more prayer-dependent community of Christ-followers, won’t you? I’m excited to see what the Lord does in our church family and through our church family if and when we begin to value prayer more.