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America’s Only Hope: Why Aren’t We Utilizing It?

America's Only Hope: Why Aren't We Utilizing It?

“God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there
is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the Church’s
power against the world.”
— Andrew Bonar

I have a sign in my yard. Having it out and displaying its message is the only reason I’m glad I live on a highway that is frequented with steady traffic.

The sign says, “PRAYER, America’s Only HOPE, 2 Chronicles 7:14”

If you drive through the bustling metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas (population 32,305), you will see this exact sign staked on the lawn of home after home after home.

But how many of us are actually praying?

Do we really believe this is America’s only hope? If we do, we’re certainly not acting like it!

“One can believe intellectually in the efficacy of prayer
and never do any praying.”
— Catherine Marshall

I am grieved for our nation like never before.  An innocent plop on the couch last week, in hopes of watching TV and resting a bit, set me on a course of study that has turned my insides—a study of the culture of death in America.

I should have been more aware of what has been happening to our society. I mean I’ve known about it. But that doesn’t mean I’ve faced head on the course we’re traveling as a nation and the almost certain outcome that lies ahead – unless a miracle occurs.

Battling Lyme disease and overseeing the growth of a ministry has kept my plate pretty full for the past decade. Maybe that’s why my eyes have not been fully opened.

Or maybe it’s because just like teaching, when we research and study something well enough to present it to others, we truly know it. Researching for the posts on assisted suicide forced my eyes wide open concerning some pretty grave issues.

Or perhaps it’s just the times…or my age.

Regardless the cause, it’s high time that I wake up!

Yet simply becoming aware is not enough. Christians are waking up to many sobering facts…but we’re not acting as if Scripture teaches that prayer is our only hope.

One question has been plaguing me for months – especially as it concerns America’s pastors, churches and ministry leaders:

Why are we not praying?

I don’t understand why not?  Why aren’t our spiritual leaders leading us in prayer gatherings– not 15-minute prayer meetings but gatherings in which the chief purpose and priority is prayer?  It would be beneficial not only to us as a nation but to individual churches as well.

I don’t understand why corporate prayer is shunned by church leaders. Perhaps it is due in part to our media-driven age—where waiting on God in prayer doesn’t measure up to flashy media presentations and culturally relevant material.

Maybe it is because so many church services are televised and pastors feel they must produce a “program” for TV.

Maybe pastors fear that corporate prayer would be too somber, too boring…or get too out of control. Perhaps they feel it would make some people feel uncomfortable.

I completely understand the need to be relevant, to be modern, to utilize the tools God has given us in modern day technology.  I know that television programs have to retain interest and be geared with viewers and their habits in mind.  But at some point, we are defeating our very purpose if we are not designating times set apart for prayer. And I mean more than just Wednesday night prayer meeting where ten people age sixty-five and older attend.

I have a friend who has been a member of a very large, well-known church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for many years. This church is known throughout the nation. In generations past, fiery ministers left its walls to reach the world. Almost every time I speak with my friend, she mourns the decline of the prayer meeting at her church. It is now held in an old auditorium on a weeknight. Only a few senior citizens attend–though church attendance on Sunday is astronomical. I favor senior citizens praying; I just think the rest of us ought to join them!

“The early Church exerted the privilege of prayer.  The Church of today is in danger of deserting the privilege.  With all of our technology, invention and innovation, let us emphasize, centralize, and prioritize on prayer – life’s limitless reach!”

— Jack Taylor

Corporate prayer is in the best interest of an individual church, its congregation, and community.  I don’t understand why individual pastors don’t make it a priority. I don’t understand why they don’t decide:

“You know what? No more going through the motions without the Spirit of God. Hardly anybody comes to prayer meeting on Wednesday night, so the prayer meeting is going to go to the folks. This Sunday morning, we’re not having church as usual. We’re going to pray and seek God until He tells us to stop.  We are going to wait on Him. If we don’t sense a breakthrough, we’ll do the same next Sunday.”

I don’t understand why we’re not praying, fasting, repenting, interceding until God responds.

“What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods.  She needs men whom the Holy Spirit can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.  The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men.  He does not come on machinery, but on men.  He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer!”

– E.M. Bounds

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings.  So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people.  If God be near a church, it must pray.  And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer.”

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon

True power of God is wielded on our knees. Kingdoms are shattered. Rulers defeated. The lost are won to Christ and the saved revived through prayer.

We act as if church growth and church attendance equal spiritual power. The Church in America is large, wealthy…and powerless.  We are, for the most part, spiritually asleep!  And it seems as if our leaders are content for us to remain that way.

After the Concert of Prayer and all-night prayer meetings this past year, I will never be the same. Individuals around me will never be the same – either because they were involved in the prayer meetings, or because their lives were changed as a result of the prayers and promises pleaded at those meetings.

At church, we go through the motions every Sunday, content to proceed without the power of the Holy Spirit. If God withdrew His presence from your church this Sunday morning, would anyone notice? Or would everything go on as planned – media, music, message and an orderly exit. What happened to the men of God who knew that everything else was pointless unless we have first prayed down the power of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit? All of our modern methods and contemporary structures don’t replace that fact.

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
– A.W. Tozer

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services, but few conversions; much machinery, but few results.”
– R.A. Torrey

Gary + Tony had a Baby

The evening that I was so tired and just wanted to veg in front of the TV for a few minutes was the evening I turned the channel to Larry King’s program. Jack Kevorkian was the guest that night, rationalizing and glamorizing murder. Between Kevorkian, HBO and Hollywood, the idea is looking quite appealing. What a deception.

When a commercial came on, I turned to CNN headline. On CNN headline was an interview with two gay men, Tony and Gary, who had a baby by paying a surrogate $100,000. The interview featured a third guest, a man who adopted a child with his gay partner.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love homosexuals, just as Christ does. I love them and pray for their salvation but disagree with the lifestyle.  Scripture calls it sin—as it does all sexual immorality.  This same story, “Gary + Tony Had a Baby,” was going to be featured on Anderson Cooper on CNN the following Monday night.  It wasn’t just the subject matter that grieved me, it was the blatant fact that homosexuality is becoming accepted. The fact that perversion is so prevalent in America.  The fact that our society is eroding beneath us. The fact that a culture of death has consumed our values, our decisions, our actions – individually and as a society—more than we realize.

These two interviews – children growing up with two dads and Hollywood conditioning us to cheapen life even further than we already have—are indicative of just how far down the slippery slopes we’ve drifted.  Sin, immorality, death, perversion…it’s everywhere we turn!

Why are we not praying—and praying in earnest?

“The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.”

Leonard Ravenhill

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

What If?

What if this Sunday, July 4th, every church in America dispensed with the sermons, the music, the media displays, the skits…and got on our faces before God? What would happen if millions of Christians across the nation were praying in unity? July 4th falling on a Sunday makes it the perfect occasion for national prayer.

Forget the television cameras. Let Americans at home pray with us! Forget the visitors and what they might think.  Forget that the offering might be less. Forget that some might get bored and leave.  Are we now trying to please men or God?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

What if we all showed up, bowed in prayer and repentance…and waited on the Holy Spirit?  If God shows up and leads us into song, great! If the Holy Spirit puts a word on the pastor’s heart, excellent!

But what if we were sincere and desperate enough before God to dispense with business as usual?

I am not a pastor. I don’t believe Scripture gives women the authority to be pastors, nor would I want to be one.  So it may be incredibly presumptuous of me to even voice this desire, or rather, frustration over the absence of corporate prayer in the Church in America.

If scripture didn’t clearly indicate this is the prescription for our nation, I’d think I’m way off base—that I simply don’t understand what it’s like to be a pastor and lead a church service.

I am a pastor’s daughter, though, and know full well the importance of planning, having an order of service, featuring certain topics, having engaging music, being culturally relevant, being savvy when it comes to using different forms of media, etc. I know all of that. But tell me, what true, eternal difference do all of our spiritually empty, powerless acts make in the lives of others?

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”

– Samuel Chadwick

I realize that pastors have numerous challenges and obstacles within their congregation. Some can be positive, like rapid growth, and others can be negative. These local, immediate challenges can be so overwhelming that they force nationwide concerns to take a back seat. However, an individual church will never rise above its own challenges apart from prayer. It will not impact its community the same way as it would if strategies were preceded by prayer. Even if a pastor’s primary interest is his church, above the nation, still prayer is what is called for.

Personally, I believe if more pastors believed in prayer, and led their church in earnest prayer (not the 15-minute, town meeting,Wednesday night kind) our churches would be transformed. The power of God would rock the individual church where such meetings occur.  Talk about church growth!  People becoming truly saved, truly revived, passionately sold-out for Christ—now that’s church growth. I don’t know a pastor in the world who wouldn’t want these kinds of believers in their pews.

As a leader, from the perspective of “me and mine,” I don’t understand why pastors aren’t leading their churches in prayer. It’s in the best interest of the people in their congregation and their community.

This doesn’t make sense to me on an individual church basis.  Nor does it make sense to me from a national perspective.

If we engaged in earnest, corporate prayer, the power of God would rock the individual church, our cities, our states and our nation.

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying. When a church is truly convinced that prayer is where the action is, that church will so construct its corporate activities that the prayer program will have the highest priority.”

– Paul E. Billheimer

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Quotes

“We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon

“When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”

– Max Lucado

“God will do nothing on earth except in answer to believing prayer.”

– John Wesley

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services, but few conversions; much machinery, but few results.”

– R.A. Torrey

“Prayer as a relationship is probably your best indicator about the health of your love relationship with God. If your prayer life has been slack, your love relationship has grown cold.”

– John Piper

“Prayer is not a fruitless exercise that God asked us to perform to determine whether or not we’re faithful. Prayer is the vehicle that releases God to move in the earth!”

– Joseph Cameneti Sr.

“There is no power like that of prevailing prayer, of Abraham pleading for Sodom, Jacob wrestling in the stillness of the night, Moses standing in the breach, Hannah intoxicated with sorrow, David heartbroken with remorse and grief, Jesus in sweat of blood. Add to this list from the records of the church your personal observation and experience, and always there is the cost of passion unto blood. Such prayer prevails. It turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God.”

– Samuel Chadwick

“The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis.  God give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost!”

– A. B. Simpson

“The Cinderella of the church today is the prayer meeting.  This handmaid of the Lord is unloved and unwooed because she is not dripping with the pearls of intellectualism, nor glamorous with the silks of philosophy; neither is she enchanting with the tiara of psychology.  She wears the homespuns of sincerity and humility and so is not afraid to kneel!”

– Leonard Ravenhill

“The time factor in prayer is very important. In the exercise of prayer God is not tied to our clocks. Neither is He at the other end of the phone to receive and answer our two-minute calls. It takes time to know the mind of God, to shut out the material things of earth and to be wholly abandoned.”

– Hugh C. C. McCullough

“You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.  You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night.  But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.”

– Anonymous minister quoted in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala

“Prayer is the source of the Christian life…Otherwise, it’s like having a baby in your arms and dressing her up so cute—but she’s not breathing! Never mind the frilly clothes; stabilize the child’s vital signs…That’s why the great emphasis on teaching in today’s churches is producing such limited results.  Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled.  If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but unfortunately, spiritual life cannot be taught. Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, ‘We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.’ This conviction makes us squirm a little, but how else will there be a breakthrough with God?”

– Jim Cymbala

“Let us think of the need of souls, of all the sins among God’s people, of the lack of power in so much of the preaching, and begin to cry, ‘Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?”  And let us have this truth lodged deep in our hearts; every revival comes, as Pentecost came, as the fruit of united, continued prayer.”

– Andrew Murray

Question: Why do you think churches in America have abandoned corporate prayer? What can you do to impact the prayer life of your church?

 

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