A church that prays, or a praying church?

Meredith Flynn —  March 20, 2014

Heath_Tibbetts_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42

Baptist prayer lists are where requests go to die. How many times have you looked at the prayer list at your church and said, “Who’s that person?”
Most of us have come across the request that was once pressing and now forgotten. Oft times I have asked someone about a previous request, only to watch them stare at me blankly. I suddenly realize I’ve prayed about their request more than they have.

The problem isn’t really with the prayer list, but our listless prayers.

The early believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to many areas that Southern Baptists pride ourselves on today. We are known for our devotion to strong biblical teaching and to friendly, fried fellowships. But how devoted are we in our personal
prayer lives?

We can never have a praying church without a praying membership.

The word “devoted” in Acts 2:42 indicates the church prayed with expectation and then waited for results. Many of these new believers had rarely heard prayer outside the temple and now they had direct access to the Father through Jesus, their great high priest. Prayer was now powerful and personal and they became praying people building a praying church.

It still happens today. As we watch from half a world away, Ukraine is mired in difficult days. And yet IMB worker Shannon Ford, who lives in the capital city of Kiev, gives this report: “The response from the churches has been fantastic. It really has been a time for prayer – not simply saying we’re going to pray, but actually going and being seen and guiding other people to pray.”

This is the work of the church. God didn’t call us to be a house of activity, but a house of prayer in Isaiah 56:7. Churches must begin praying with expectation, waiting to see God move. The great call of the church is to call on God.

So, how do we make this shift, and how can we tell if we’re even getting close?

First, we must never assume people in our churches are praying. Luke 11:1 tells us of Jesus completing His prayer time and being asked by his disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” These were guys who had grown up in church, and they had no idea how to talk to God.

Ask people about their prayer lives, and encourage them by praying with them and for them. I’ve even found sending a quick text, Facebook message, or e-mail can be a great way to encourage fellow believers to make time for prayer.

And secondly, pray! I believe we should see prayer going on all over the church. I was greatly encouraged a few weeks ago when I saw a hurting family being prayed for by one of our church leaders in the hallway. This needs to happen more. Stop saying, “I’ll pray for you,” and instead say, “Let’s pray.”

The greatest encouragement I can provide as you examine your own church is in Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too
deep for words.”

Even a praying church is a credit to the work of God.

Don’t just take prayer requests, but truly pray. Let people know you’re praying for them, and take the opportunity to rejoice together when God moves in a request. Let us no longer pray because it’s scheduled, but because we’re moved. And watch us make that subtle, but powerful, turn from a church that prays to a praying church!

Heath Tibbetts is pastor of FBC Machesney Park, Ill.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

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