Cancel your prayer ministry. Do away with scheduled prayer meetings and seasons of special prayer focus. End the prayer chain and your email list.
Blasphemy? Unchristian advice? Neither! Each of these activities is an important part of the life of the Church, the ‘House of Prayer’ our Lord and the Bible command us to be. It’s the granularity that damages the whole. A prayer ministry, for example, is a segmentation of that spiritual practice within the holistic life of the Christian. The result is that prayer becomes just one among many activities that the believer can choose from in their life of discipleship. In our hurried, over-scheduled lives, prayer becomes a choice on the schedule.
One that often loses out to other choices.
When the Apostle Paul commended continual prayer to the believers in Thessalonica, he placed this emphasis within the spectrum of a complete life. While 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (pray without ceasing) often finds its way onto throw pillows and coffee cups, the Apostle was much more intentional in emphasizing that prayer is an irreducible part of life. The complete passage reads, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] Do we schedule “rejoicing” meetings? Do you need to receive an email reminder to be thankful? Most likely ‘no’ on both, so why prayer? The answer is hard to type and harder to hear: because many churches and Christians have not made prayer central to their identity.
Prayer should be as natural a part of our lives as is breathing. The culture identified with Christ’s Church should be a culture of prayer. The Lord modeled continual, natural prayer with the Father during his time in the world. While he set off times of quiet communion, Jesus did not schedule prayer time with his disciples separate from the ongoing ministry they pursued. It was a natural part of the life of discipleship. If we study the relationship between Jesus and his guys, we come to recognize how our separation of spiritual activities has affected the church. Prayer should not be a separate ministry; it must be the air that we breathe as we become more Christlike. Prayer should define our culture.
It is better to let the work go by default than to let the praying go by neglect. Whatever affects the intensity of our praying affects the value of our work…Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account.E.M. Bounds
This is easier said than done. A culture of prayer for an individual or a church requires extraordinary commitment, from yourself personally or from the leadership within the body of believers. It will feel unnatural at first and this will cause hesitation, grumbling and questions of motivation, but you must persevere to find the blessing. We must model spontaneous prayer at every opportunity. A good place to start is the Sunday gathering, where everyone can use their gifts and seek an audience with the Lord on behalf of the body. Prayer as a regular part of Christian fellowship can strengthen those relationships. Pray for your brother aloud as he confides his struggle to you. Pray immediately–not say you will pray–for the family in crisis. As prayer becomes second nature over time, it will also become more comfortable and natural. We won’t see prayer as a separate part of the whole where participation is subject to the whims of choice. Prayer will not be a ministry, we will rightfully see it as ‘the’ ministry. The culture will change. Your church will change. You will change… and be blessed for it.