9-Ways-for-Church-Leaders-to-Pray-More

By Chuck Lawless

Several weeks ago, my post on why church leaders don’t pray must have hit a nerve, as the feedback was strong. More than one reader, though, pointed out I gave diagnosis for the problem, but no prescription. I agree, and I’m writing this blog in response.

I know there are other “prescriptions” to consider for these diagnoses, but I hope these ideas get you started in the right direction.

DIAGNOSIS #1: Leaders are “fixers” by nature.

PRESCRIPTION: Take a risk to tackle a task not easy for you. That task might be something like telling a neighbor about Jesus, confronting a problematic church member, addressing a “sacred cow” in your church, or confessing a sin in your life. All of these tasks require wisdom, but the point is this: if you tackle a challenge too big for you to “fix,” you know you must pray.

DIAGNOSIS #2: We never learned how to pray.

PRESCRIPTION: Study about prayer. It’s really that simple. Read books like Paul Miller’s A Praying Life, Tom Elliff’s A Passion for Prayer, or T.W. Hunt’s The Life Changing Power of Prayer. Ask a prayer warrior how he/she prays. Listen to sermons like David Platt’s series, “Why Pray?” Review my suggestions in “Ten Simple Strategies for Prayer.” Make yourself learn, and then pray.

DIAGNOSIS #3: Prayer has become more about ritual than about relationship.

PRESCRIPTION: Think relationship. If you love someone, you want to talk to that person . . . often. Start by praying short prayers throughout the day. Assume you won’t go an hour without taking time to communicate with God. Pray at least briefly at morning, noon, and night. Read about men and women of prayer like Rees Howells, “Praying” Hyde, Corrie Ten Boom, and Amy Carmichael. Learn from their relationships with God.

DIAGNOSIS #4: Prayerlessness can be hidden.

PRESCRIPTION: It’s time to get real. Find someone you respect, and tell him/her the truth. You struggle with prayer. Sometimes prayer feels routine. You teach about prayer but don’t always live in prayer. Seek accountability, and be gut-level honest. If you need to, get someone to pray with you each day. Bring your prayerlessness out of the darkness, and start living in the light again.

DIAGNOSIS #5: We don’t really believe prayer works.

PRESCRIPTION: The answer to this issue is to read the Bible regarding answered prayer. Find stories of answered prayer, including Hannah’s prayer for a child (1 Sam. 1), Hezekiah’s request to live (2 Kgs. 20), Jehoshaphat’s prayer for help (2 Chron. 20), the church’s prayer for Peter’s release (Acts 12). When the early church prayed, even the place where they met was shaken under the power of God (Acts 4:31). Let the Word of God encourage you that prayer really does work.

DIAGNOSIS #6: We have never been broken under God’s hand.

PRESCRIPTION: Nobody wants to be broken by God. We want God to use us, yet without changing us – and most certainly, without breaking us. God uses people, though, who willingly bear a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), who worship Him even when life is in disarray (Job 1:20-22). To learn how to trust God this way, echo this petition: “Lord, do what you must to make me lean on you in prayer.” It’s scary, but God will teach you to pray.

DIAGNOSIS #7: Leaders read the Word in a one-sided way.

PRESCRIPTION: Learn to pray as you read the Bible. Read Genesis 1-2, and thank Him for creation. Confess your sin as you read Psalm 51. Honor Jesus for who He is as you read Mark 1-5. Ask God to strengthen family relationships as you read Ephesians 5 and 6. Read Revelation 21-22, and praise Him for His fulfilled plan. Let the Word of God drive you to your knees.

DIAGNOSIS #8: Some leaders have simply lost hope.

PRESCRIPTION: God already knows your hopelessness, so go ahead and pray in heart-wrenching candor. Even a prayer like, “God, I don’t know if you’re there, but I’m looking for you” is a start. Pray with someone who can share your burden. Weep if you must, and cry out in desperation (Psa. 88). You won’t surprise God, and He might just surprise you in a powerful way.

DIAGNOSIS#9: We miss the Gospels’ focus on the prayer life of Jesus.

PRESCRIPTION: If you didn’t study Jesus’ prayer life in the Gospel of Luke after the previous blogpost, do it this week. Learn to pray from the Master: Luke 3:21-22; 4:42 (cf. Mark 1:35); 5:15-16; 6:12-13; 6:27-28; 9:16, 18, 28-29; 10:1-2, 21; 11:1-13; 18:1-8, 9-14; 19:45-46; 20:45-47; 21:36; 22:17-19, 31-32, 39-46; 23:33-34, 46; 24:30, 50-51.

What other prescriptions do you recommend? Let’s teach one another to pray.


Lifeway_Blog_Ad[1]Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary.

You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. says

    As a leader who struggles with prayer, this is a good reminder. One thing that has helped me is to do “on the spot” praying or praying immediately about various things. One place that I have utilized this is on Facebook where I have written short prayers for people when I am responding to a person.

  2. says

    I know #1 has been an issue for me. If i can fix it I can be in control. But the fact is I really can’t fix another person. I can’t get them change, Only the Holy Spirit can do that. I get in trouble when I try to do something only God can do.

    Thanks,

    Thom for your insight.

  3. says

    Great article, Dr. Lawless.

    #3 can be a real struggle for me, just going through motions rather than looking at it as an opportunity to spend time with God. This was a much needed reminder.

    Thank you.

  4. says

    I found Dr. James MacDonald’s emphasis on Unceasing Prayer in his book Vertical Church a real kick in the pants. It was very helpful. IN particular his simple observation that Prayer was the “how to” the disciples ever asked Jesus for. Not how to preach or fund raise or lead or anything like that.. simply how to pray.

    • Chuck Lawless says

      It’s likely those disciples had learned something about prayer already. They wanted not just to pray, but to pray like Jesus did– and so should we.

  5. Steven says

    Thanks for this! I am starting a new bible study series, at my church, on great prayers of the bible. Your post is very helpful for me not only in my personal life but for my study at church!

  6. Bill says

    Thanks Dr. Lawless,
    In my experience #5 & #8 are especially convicting – and very closely related. The reality that prayerlessness betrays a lack of faith in God’s merciful willingness to respond brings great conviction. And the realization that my lack of faith perpetuates a paralyzing sense of hopelessness can either feed into a debilitating spiral OR it can lead to the remedies of #6 and #4. I am prayerfully and dependably pursuing the latter while I confess and forsake the former.
    Thanks again… A helpful post.

  7. Bill says

    Thanks Dr. Lawless,
    In my experience #5 & #8 are especially convicting – and very closely related. The reality that prayerlessness betrays a lack of faith in God’s merciful willingness to respond brings great conviction. And the realization that my lack of faith perpetuates a paralyzing sense of hopelessness can either feed into a debilitating spiral OR it can lead to the remedies of #6 and #4. I am prayerfully and dependently pursuing the latter while I confess and forsake the former.
    Thanks again… A helpful post.

  8. BARRY says

    Good stuff; one is missing: congregations that are spiritually shallow, which do not pray FOR or encourage/support spiritual formation in general, for themselves or their pastor. Prescription: find a clergy partner or group to pray with regularly…and multiply options for learning prayer in the local setting (even if just a few show up at first)

    • Chuck Lawless says

      I don’t disagree, Barry, and I do think it’s important that all folks have someone to pray with. At the same time, though, my anecdotal evidence is that churches often don’t pray because their leaders haven’t led them to pray . . . because they themselves don’t pray. It really does become a painful cycle if not corrected at the top.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Every Saturday night 6-7pm is a drop in prayer meeting at Mercy Church withSamuel Getachew and Gospel of Mercy Church. Charismatic/non-charismatic, multicultural – some pray the vespers from an Eastern Orthodox prayer book to start and then free-flow prayer (silent, loud, walking, kneeling, sitting, etc.). There are also prayer cards available to help guide you. Prayer birthed these two churches from nothing and sustains us. We are living a miracle every day of our existence that no person, program or show can explain. #holyspirit #peopleofmercyhttp://thomrainer.com/2013/09/03/9-ways-for-church-leaders-to-pray-more/ […]

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