What kind of church do you have? Do you have a church that prays? Or do you have a praying church? Do you have a house of prayer for all nations? What are the differences?
The Church That Prays in Crisis
When there is an emergency or a great need, a prayer meeting is called, but usually only when there is some sense of urgency! The prayer conducted in this church centers on problems and needs. Prayer is typically a response to a crisis.
One way to recognize this kind of church is that the public prayer time is consumed with prayer requests. When its members think about prayer, they do so in terms of offering their needs to God. When they ask another to pray for them, it is rarely about growth in Christ and expanded vision in behalf of His kingdom – it is about some personal or family need.
One survey indicated that 89 percent of our praying was crisis related. Another survey revealed that 92 percent of North American believers are casual (pray as one goes through the day) or crisis pray-ers. Only eight percent were committed pray-ers.
We should pray about needs. Prayer is the means by which we appropriate the grace of God, but that motive alone should never be at the center of our objective in prayer. When we only seek the hand of God, not His face – or yet, His heart – we have defined our relationship with God too narrowly, and often in user terms.
The Church With a Prayer Ministry
This congregation is intentional about prayer. It refuses to allow its prayer ministry to be characterized by crisis praying. This church, aimed at undergirding its ministries with prayer, is determined to be a ‘praying church.’ This church organizes a prayer ministry by mobilizing intercessors and rallying them to support the ministries of the church with prayer. The teaming and partnering of intercessors with ministries is a decisive improvement over the first kind of church.
This approach, however, makes two critical mistakes. Here, prayer is a ministry among other ministries. It is segregated when it should run through the heart of all ministries in the church. You cannot separate a prayer ministry from other ministries.
In the church with a prayer ministry, those who are musical join the choir or orchestra; those who are gifted to teach or serve join the Christian Education Department; and those who are intercessors sign up to participate in the congregation’s prayer ministry. Prayer is one of the many ministries of the church.
The Praying Church
The life-giving center of every member and every ministry, every activity in the church, is Christ himself – not prayer. But prayer is the means by which we maintain fellowship with Christ, the center, and have access to His grace for both life and ministry. The third kind of church has prayer at the heart of every ministry, at the very center of all it does. It refuses to place prayer ministry among other ministries, or to make prayer a mere engine for other ministries. The praying church encourages every ministry to put prayer at the heart of its activities.
The praying church has neither a crisis prayer ministry nor a crisis prayer theology. The church must be defined by worshipful, transformative prayer. Jesus declared: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The activity of His house is prayer, and the focus of that prayer is missional – it is for the nations, for a harvest out of every ethnic stream.
A praying church finds ways to involve the whole church in prayer activities and experiences.
This blog is an excerpt from the Revised Edition of Transforming Your Church Into a House of Prayer. This book echoes something we are all hearing: God is changing more than our circumstances. God is calling us to change. The Reformation is still on. God is still changing His church.
Receive this book for FREE with your paid membership in The Praying Church Movement, a network of local prayer leaders who are on a journey to bring prayer to the heart of all they do.
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.