By Claude V. King
God has been calling us to be a people of prayer since He said in Isaiah 56 that His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
In the research for Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer, Lifeway Research identified seven elements characterizing churches with significant transformation in the lives of church members and their community. Of those seven elements, only one was found in every transformational church: prayerful dependence.
Prayer is not simply a religious activity to check off your to-do list or a slot in your order of worship. Prayer is a relationship with God, and your prayer life reflects the measure of your dependence on Him.
God is our only hope for the crises we are facing in our homes and marriages, our churches, our cities, our nation, and the world. Is your prayer life up to the task of seeing transformation in these areas? Would God describe your church as a clear example of a house of prayer for the nations?
In order to successfully partner with God to see transformation in these areas, we must be devoted to prayer. If we intend to turn the world upside down (actually right side up) as the early church did, we need to follow their example in their devotion to prayer.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42, emphasis added).
“The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said … ‘We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry’” (Acts 6:2, 4, emphasis added).
In the first-century church, the leadership and the people were devoted to prayer, and God worked through them to change their world. Let’s become people and churches devoted to prayer by taking the following 11 steps:
1. Follow the example of Jesus and model a praying life for others. Jesus “was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Luke 11:1).
As the disciples watched Jesus talk to His Father in prayer and saw the impact of His praying lifestyle, they wanted to learn to pray like that.
Are you modeling a praying life for others? Ask Jesus to teach you to pray in such a way that others will desire to pray like you do.
2. Surrender your all to King Jesus. We have a King in heaven who deserves our loyalty and obedience far more than any earthly king.
When we pray, we are entering the very throne room of heaven where King Jesus sits on His throne extending His nail-scarred hands awaiting a pledge of full surrender.
What would happen differently in your life or church if you began each day in full surrender to King Jesus? Are you surrendered to Him?
3. Get right with God and one another. James tells us “the intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful” (James 5:16). If God doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers as you desire, you (God’s people) may be the problem.
If you want to see powerful responses to your prayers, make sure you’re living rightly before God and in right relationships with one another. Are you living a praying life that is powerful and effective?
4. Rekindle a first love for Christ, the wounded Savior. Jesus told His disciples love for Him would be reflected in their obedience to His commands.
At a Lord’s Supper service on August 13, 1727, the Moravian church fell in love with the wounded Savior. Church members began a 24/7 prayer effort that lasted for more than 100 years. And their obedience to Him resulted in powerful praying that changed their world.
One-third of the group went out as missionaries, and one of those bands pointed John Wesley to genuine faith in Christ. The world has never been the same since. Are you wholeheartedly in love with your Savior?
5. Help individuals experience an intimate and personal love relationship with God in prayer. Many in our churches have been reared in families where their distrust of their father or other significant people has distorted their capacity to freely love and trust God as heavenly Father.
These wounded souls need prayer and encouragement so they may experience the reality of a love relationship with God that is real and trustworthy.
Pray for equipping, direction, and breakthroughs in helping them. This relationship is foundational to a healthy prayer life.
6. Equip members to pray privately and together. Prayer is best caught experientially rather than taught. That’s why small group experiences and one-to-one mentoring should include much prayer. Are you teaching others to pray?
7. Pray for one another while together. This is a great activity for a small group. Ask people to gather in groups of four or five (men with men and women with women). Instruct them to ask one individual at a time: “How may I pray for you?”
Focus on personal, spiritual matters rather than physical matters. Sometimes the best instruction for prayer is to cry out to God for the things that really matter.
8. Be devoted to prayer with God’s people in every setting possible. When Jesus said, “You can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5), He meant it. We demonstrate prayerful dependence on Him every time we come to Him for direction, help, or resources.
When we do not pray, we essentially say: “We don’t need You on this one, Lord.” That statement is never true. In everything, pray. Do you demonstrate prayerful dependence on God for everything?
9. Make prayer a primary part of your work strategy in every aspect of church life. For every decision, for every plan or strategy, for every provision, and for every intervention in the lives of people, we need God’s direction.
Any time you need to know what to do, pray. Don’t offend Him by ignoring Him. Is prayer a primary strategy in your work? In your church?
10. Tell stories and share the testimonies of answered prayer. One great motivation for increased dependence on God in prayer is the testimony of a recent answer to prayer. Ask people in your church to share how God has answered a prayer.
Focus on what God has done and not on the contributions of human efforts. Testimonies increase faith to believe God for greater things. Are you able to tell the stories of answered prayer?
11. Pray for God’s assignments to the lost world beginning at home and to the ends of the earth; then obey Jesus’ final command (Great Commission). God has work for us to do. Prayer is our means of submission to Him for the assignments.
When He reveals His purposes and His ways, that encounter becomes our invitation to join Him in His work. We need to trust Him and obey! Are you obeying the final command?
Is your church ready to respond to this invitation to teach your members to pray with power, boldness, and effectiveness? Are your pastors, staff, and leaders modeling lives of prayerful dependence from which others will learn to pray?
Do you have prayer mentors and small group leaders ready to teach others to pray through meaningful prayer experiences? If not, now is the time to get ready for the amazing things God can do in and through your church when you become a house of prayer.
CLAUDE V. KING, coauthor of Experiencing God, is discipleship and church health specialist at Lifeway. For more details on being devoted to prayer, go to Claude’s video blog and click on print downloads at blog.lifeway.com/growingdisciples.