Hope for Your Church in Prayer

“In order for the church to be revived, it will demand a mighty work of God’s Spirit.  Following a particular methodology or program does not guarantee success.  One might greatly desire for the church to revitalize and grow, but genuine church growth calls for more than personal passion.  It requires the Spirit of God.” [1]

The sad truth is that most of our churches rarely pray. We may hold prayer meetings. We may take prayer requests. We may have prayer lists, chains, and newsletters. We may talk about prayer. We may hold Bible studies on the topic of prayer. We may spend a few minutes in our worship services praying. Yet, we are far removed from the early church’s commitment to prayer: “And they devoted themselves to … the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

If there is hope for our churches and if they are to be revitalized, then we must become serious about prayer. The time for talking about praying is over. The time for merely studying prayer is past. The time for prayer meetings with little prayer must cease. We must truly, deeply, and passionately pray. We need to pray.

When my church bottomed out sometime in 2008, the list of administrative tasks to be performed, decisions to be made, and meetings to be held seemed beyond number. The juggling act of trying to determine which ministries to keep and which to let go was all-consuming. The task of caring for a demoralized membership was exhausting. Every numerical category by which we measure a church was sinking.

In the midst of these troubles, I led my church to pray:

  • What do You want, Lord, from our church?
  • Do You want us to keep the doors open?
  • Will You meet this particular need? That particular need?
  • Will You give us the strength when our strength has disappeared?

So, I began praying with everyone, all the time. I would pray to open and close meetings, as well as any time in the middle of a meeting the discourse became difficult, challenging, or uncertain. I would pray with my leadership team, with individuals, and by myself. I would pray with anyone in the church who was willing to meet me for that purpose. I would ask anyone outside the church who was willing to pray for our church.

I would love to tell you that I began praying because I am a super-spiritual Christian. Truth be told, however, I had no choice. I had nowhere to go. I had nowhere to run but to the Lord. I had to pray.

For the very first time in my life, I learned what it meant to truly depend upon the Lord. Our church was broken. Our church attendance was dismal. Our ministries were on life support. I had no idea where to go. I was uncertain about the future. However, I had Jesus and, for the very first time in my life, that was enough.

As I prayed and as our church prayed, God slowly began to renew our hearts and renew our church. He began to show us a new path. He began to help us renew our strength in him. He began to give us hope.

I firmly believe that none of this would have happened if we hadn’t prayed.

If our churches are to have hope in the midst of despair, we need prayer, because the work of revitalization requires the hand of God. We don’t need to talk about prayer. We don’t need more studies on prayer. We don’t even need more prayer requests. We need to pray.

There is a vinyl wall cling in my office that highlights two verses from Proverbs, which serves as a reminder of what God taught me about depending on him in prayer during this season at my church. The wall cling reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).

We need to pray.

[1] William Henard, “Can these Dry Bones Live” (prepublication book presented at Southern Seminary’s Intro to Church Revitalization Course, Louisville, Kentucky, 2014). This work has since been published, available here.

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