Why Church Prayer Meetings? (Part 2)

Whatever Happened To The Prayer Meeting? - Article by Rev Jim Cymbala

Recently I was discussing the need of our churches to return to simple prayer with a leading pastor of a large church in an area of the country where "super" churches abound. He told me that in his entire area the prayer meeting had become virtually extinct and mere lip service was being paid to the power of prayer. This was a painfully accurate picture even among churches which were models of "success" in their denomination because of their large membership and busy programs. He honestly confessed that time was made for visiting speakers who will help "mature us," Gospel concerts, youth nights, fellowship nights, etc., but no prominent place at all given so the church collectively could seek God with all their hearts.

He very perceptively, and yet ashamedly, pointed out that he knew the main reason why most churches (including his own) did not schedule and advertise a true prayer meeting! Why? Because it would never "draw" the people and the turnout would be pitiful!

How would those embarrassed pastors explain their large auditoriums being mostly empty on prayer meeting night as a handful of hungry people waited on God – when the very night before many hundreds had attended a Gospel concert or heard a famous Christian speaker? Imagine this if you can – God cannot "draw" crowds by Himself! There has just got to be talk, entertainment, or human activity of some kind or else the church folks usually just are not interested!

Many other respected men I know confirm this sad truth – churches desire teaching about God, music about God, correct doctrines about God – but prolonged spiritual contact and fellowship with the real living God of the Universe is not popular in Christ’s own Church! We have fulfilled the very Scriptures that so many are vehemently denying could ever be applied to this church era of "success," supposed maturity and large numbers.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20).

Imagine Christ Himself outside the door of His Church’s heart asking for entrance so that He could commune with those for whom He died! How meaningful is all this preaching, teaching and Bible study if it does not give churches a desire and appetite for God Himself? What good is having the evangelist and teacher visit if when they leave the church is still bankrupt as to prayer?

Ministry in any form that becomes the focal point and not merely a guide to actual communion with the life-changing Saviour is nothing more than a subtle form of spiritual idolatry. We have become engrossed with words about God along with an over-adulation of men and women the Lord uses – but God Himself is being neglected. The ministry of any man, no matter how anointed by God, can only create hunger and stir the heart. God has never relinquished His place and desire to be the great Companion and Strength of our souls.

Ministry that does not lead us to Christ directly in new depths of prayer and heart revelations of the Lord is not only a failure, but extremely dangerous. Multitudes will travel distances or even pay money to hear "Christian ministries" yet not cross the street to wait a few hours in the Presence of One who is supposedly the answer to all our needs.

We must quickly be delivered from the delusion that someone always has to be talking, teaching, "sharing" or singing; that to keep the crowd interested we have got to keep things "moving" lest there be a lull where God might actually draw us out of ourselves into real spiritual communion. Jesus Christ is not a truth, a doctrinal formula or a sermon for our minds to analyse and enjoy. The Lord is the Divine Person who over and again calls and even pleads with men not to merely hear about Him but most importantly, to "come to Him."

The false religion of His earthly days is resurfacing again today in the same old "doctrinally pure and soundly scriptural" disguise – "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life" (John 5:39-40). Men study diligently His Word and yet somehow never come to know Him personally in vital spiritual union!

Let us evaluate the real prospects for a revival of the prayer meeting. According to Paul, it is possible to bring the Church back to God’s priorities.

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men" (1 Tim. 2:1).

True Revival Means Prayer First!

Whether in preparation for a fresh, powerful move of the Spirit or whether as a sign of an ongoing present revival of the Spirit – the prayer meeting will be paramount in the life of the Church. Hungry, sincere seekers of God will pour out their heart’s desire to Him in corporate prayer. Worship and praise will spontaneously ascend from the spirits of men and women who have seen Him who is invisible.

"And if My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray…" (2 Chr. 7:14), along with countless other Scriptures prove what we already know by spiritual instinct – prayer for revival must precede the actual revival! That fact is elementary and must be so by the very nature of God and His Word. Will God endue with power churches that are so unconcerned and carnal they will not even pray together? In fact, He has sworn to withhold His choicest gifts and graces from a people who remain remote from Him in their pride and self-sufficiency. "Asking, seeking and knocking" (Matt. 7:7), are the only biblical grounds a church can stand on if it expects God to work those wonderful works which will bring glory to His Name.

During the course of an ongoing and present revival, the prayer life of the church will intensify and be liberated by God into even deeper areas of intercession for men without Christ. New depths of the spiritual worship the Father seeks will be ignited by the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly records and all of church history confirms that a church revived and "on fire" will burn brightly in prayer and supplication.

Can a prayerless church claim a great "renewal" or revival from the Holy Ghost? Every honest Christian knows that a mark of God’s Spirit in us is that wonderful spirit of prayer which He bestows so that we can affect situations and souls through a powerful laying hold of God in faith.

God Visits the Church That Prays

The history of the Church in the book of Acts proves that the secret of dynamic power, glorious witness and the very direction of important Church affairs all came from God responding to a people who prayed and waited in His Presence!

Cults like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses can experience only intellectual study, but the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ can make contact with heaven and expect God to intervene on their behalf. When has God ever failed to visit a church that truly prayed?

Do we fully realize the implications and indictment that this command from God makes? The Church of Christ was not born in a teaching seminar or evangelistic outreach but in a simple prayer meeting! Divine power that later shook the kingdom of darkness was not bestowed during an intellectual study of important doctrines but rather as hungry men and women waited with open hearts for God to come in all His fullness. The true Christian faith is not essentially or primarily a "teaching" religion although study and instruction are important features of the spiritual walk.

God’s priority list has remained unchanged regardless of what the latest fad or emphasis might be in religious circles. We can make up any formula we want for what we call "success" but God’s heart cry and command echoes down through the ages: "...I want the men in every place to pray lifting up holy hands without wrath and dissension" (1 Tim. 2:8).

Time for God

I am asking – how many churches do you know about where time is taken, plenty of time, to wait on God and pour out the deep desires and petitions of the heart? Take your city or town. How many evangelical, fundamentalist, charismatic or other churches have a night devoted solely to prayer?

We all claim we believe in the Bible. Many argue vehemently that theirs is the true "New Testament Church" with nothing but sound and orthodox doctrine. Others point to charismatic manifestations, "deep" teaching or large memberships as the sign that all is well. But how can a church be truly "New Testament" or even truly Christian if they have willingly neglected God’s "first of all" priority?

We teach about prayer; we sell books on prayer; and ministers extol the "power of prayer." We have prayer symposiums and seminars, a well-publicized "National Day of Prayer" observance, even prayer manuals with all the relevant Scriptures clearly outlined. But the sad fact is that in both "super" churches and smaller churches alike, the prayer meeting has almost become extinct! We do everything together but pray!

The Christian church that was born with power in a simple time of waiting on God has now forgotten its very origin and life power. Why are not whole evenings simply devoted to talking to God and waiting expectantly for Him to fulfil the many promises He has given us? What good is it to hold orthodox doctrine when God Himself has become so unpopular that our churches do not take time to commune with and receive from Him?

How about the church you attend? A simple but critical question: Is there a real prayer meeting? Is there a regular and important night each week when all the church gathers to practice the most elementary command – "First of all, I urge entreaties and prayer." The Lord did not say, "First of all, teach" or "First of all, study" – but rather to put prayer first so that all our teaching, study and activity would be blessed and anointed by heaven.

If God is as great as we say, why do we not prove it by making time with Him our first church priority? We only deceive ourselves when our services have to resemble hyper "pep rallies" with something always going on just to keep shallow meetings "interesting." There has got to be more to fellowship with Christ than mere intellectual excursions into the meaning of words and phrases.

It is ludicrous to try to "talk up" revival or claim some great spiritual renewal when the very pulse beat of the Holy Spirit’s power among us cannot be found in our churches. It is also pure fantasy for us to claim we even want God to do new and great things among us when we do not even talk to Him. If the Apostle Paul pastored a church in our city or town, you know what meeting he would stress, "first of all." Why do others not feel the same way today? Does anyone not want God for Himself anymore?

Our churches have nights for teaching on sure ways to "grow in the Lord," Gospel concerts and social gatherings of every kind. I am sure these all have their place – but where is God’s "first of all" priority? Almost all our teaching and preaching ends up with mere knowledge about God but how few want to "follow on to know the Lord" (Hos. 6:3) in an actual and real communion with the Living One! Church calendars are filled with everything but time for God’s people to quiet their spirits in His Presence and wait for fresh infillings of power and love.

Coming Home

No matter what fantasies we need to be rudely awakened from, it is surely worth it so that our churches can become the vibrant "houses of prayer" in which God will be glorified. The prayer meeting "barometer" is the real measurement of where our congregations are in God – and we must face that though it lead us to a deep humbling and confession of sin and failure.

What kind or brand of Christians are we producing if there is little or no appetite for God? Think of the Divine power available and even promised to us – if we would but pray together to God. If only a small percentage want to really seek God then we must admit a wrong turn has been made somewhere or someplace.

No matter what the attendance is for Sunday services, a prayerless, aloof church cannot be what Christ had in mind for His Bride. He has called us to Himself and not just to attendance at human controlled gatherings which rarely let us get to the very heart of the problem. Most of our minds are already overloaded with "teaching truths" about God, but how far do our hearts and lives lag behind in Christlikeness and power! The need of the hour is for the church to pray.

Nobody knows how to pray. We all struggle and fumble along, for prayer is both the highest and most difficult of all spiritual practices. But God will help us if we just give Him a chance. "And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26).

That kind of prayer meeting involves risk. Satan will be stirred up to opposition in many ways when God’s people really pray. But what are our options? We have to come to the place that we must have God and real prayer…or what is the sense of going on?

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (Jas. 4:8).

The Holy Spirit can and will take the whole congregation into realms of intercessory prayer along with deep heart worship and adoration of the High and Holy One.

The Holy Spirit can and will do more transformation of lives in five minutes while His people besiege heaven than is often done by fifty programmed little meetings which never strike down deep into the heart of man.

"And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord…and when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:24, 31).

It is not too late for any church. We can still have God Himself as our Portion! He is the One who woos and draws us to Himself; to experiences in prayer that go beyond our wildest dreams. See if God will not vindicate and honour those who cry to Him. Let us return "first of all" to our rightful place of privilege and power in the Presence of the Lord.

Dear Lord Jesus, Send Your Fire TODAY!

Serving You,

Pastor Ong & Pastor Nancy.

“Intermingling prayer with praise, worship with intercession”

Rekindling and Sustaining the Fire of God

“A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” (Lev. 6:13)

Charles Spurgeon said, “We shall never see much change for the better in our church in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” His ministry was fuelled by what he called the “furnace room,” where hundreds of believers bombarded heaven with believing prayer. Spurgeon credited the success of his ministry to the prayers offered by the members of his church.

Join us every Wednesday as we pray for a greater release of the Fire of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the lost, in bringing cleansing, healing and deliverance of the church, for the fire of passionate zeal and the revival of spiritual passion for Jesus Christ.

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