We learn to pray by praying. It is more caught than taught. Nothing can replace being in the middle of a passionate prayer meeting. Listening to others pray, blending our voices with theirs, being infected with their passion, sharing their burden for the lost – we catch the spirit of prayer. Like taking coals of fire from the altar, we carry prayer-fire home to the privacy of our own prayer closet. A church that has people who deeply love God and intercessors with hot-hearts will always have an altar full of prayer-fire. Coming together for prayer will eventually insure that our home-altar glows red with passion for the lost and a love for the Lord. Soon we will discover that we too are coming to the public altar bringing fire with us. Others will catch our heart-fire. And a revival spirit will grow. Back and forth, between our home-altars and the church, we move.
We are not successful in prayer ministry until we have established personal, at-home, daily prayer in the lives of our members, evidenced by church-wide prayer events full of humble – but passionate – people of prayer. You must not have one without the other. Generally, you will never have one without the other.
Chuck Swindoll lamented about a letter he received as chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. A student wrote in sincere appreciation for his education. But, he confessed that when he came “he was deeply in love with Jesus Christ; but when he left, he had fallen more in love with the biblical text…he left loving the Bible more than he loved his Savior.”2 Sadly, that could be said of far too many Bible Colleges and Seminaries where prayer is ancillary, something assumed – not a part of the curriculum or appropriately valued.
Prayer brings Jesus back to the center of the believer’s life! Our churches have become “houses of preaching” instead of “houses of prayer.” Frank Lauback charges, “Evangelical Christianity is lost unless it discovers that the center and power of its divine service is prayer, not preaching.”1 Prayer enhances preaching, and preaching should drive us to prayer. Yet, as Frederick Heiler noted, “Not speech about God, but speech to God; not the preaching of the revelation of God, but direct intercourse with God is, strictly speaking, the worship of God.” George Buttrick got it right – “Corporate prayer is the heart of corporate worship.”
The Reformation sought to ground the church on objective truth. It made the pulpit central. Buttrick says, “When the book is made central, prayer may become an appendage of scribal interpretations. When preaching is made central, prayer…may become only an introduction and conclusion to the sermon. The heart of religion is in prayer…prayer must go through the rite, Scripture, symbolism, and sermon, as light though a window.”2 Oswald Chambers declared, “Prayer does not equip us for the greater works – prayer is the greater work.”3
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
1 Frank Lauback, Prayer-the Mightiest Force in the World (Westwood, NJ: Spire Books-Fleming H. Revell, 1946), 50.
2 George Buttrick, “Leading Public Prayer,” The Contemporaries Meet The Classics on Prayer, ed. Leonard Allen (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 2003), 238.
3 Oswald Chambers, “The Key of the Greater Work,” The Contemporaries Meet The Classics on Prayer, ed. Leonard Allen (West Monroe, LA: Howard Publishing, 2003), 257.