Most of us pastors have led prayer meetings with low attendance—and we get discouraged when only a few people gather to pray. I suspect, though, that we don’t help ourselves when we jump to conclusions that people just don’t care about prayer.
Having studied and written about prayer for a number of years, I think these other reasons—reasons I’m convinced we can fix—also contribute to this issue.
- We’ve done a poor job teaching believers how to pray. We tell them to pray but don’t teach them to do so. If Jesus’ disciples needed instruction to pray well (Luke 11:1), surely our church members do, too. We’re expecting them to join us to do that which we’ve never taught them.
- We don’t preach much about prayer. I realize that’s a generalized statement that may not apply to everyone, but I can’t remember the last time I heard a teaching or a sermon on the necessity and power of prayer. Occasional references to prayer aren’t the same as a focused teaching series on this vital component of our Christian walk.
- As leaders, we aren’t often model prayer warriors. I know a lot of pastors, but not all of them so live in prayer that I want to be like them. Those who do, though, have a deep, genuine relationship with God and incredible confidence in Him. They make me want to be around them when they pray.
- We don’t celebrate answered prayer enough. In fact, it’s not uncommon that churches still have on their prayer list the same requests God answered some time ago – but no one kept the church updated. If we never hear how God responds to our prayers, we miss an opportunity to grow in prayer.
- We don’t use enough sermon illustrations of prayer warriors in church history. I’m currently reading another biography of George Müller (by Roger Steer)—and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed, amazed, and challenged by Müller’s life. It’s even harder not to tell others about a man who, according to Steer, “knew his God.”*
- We’ve led boring, disorganized prayer meetings. To be honest, I’ve been to prayer meetings that I never want to attend again, too. Most often, they lack focus and direction. At times, the praying itself is minimal. Those who lead sometimes lack any sense of prayer passion themselves.
- We try to create praying congregations rather than develop praying believers. That is, we try to change the whole church and make them prayerful through a program or process. That’s seldom the way we raise up prayer warriors, however; rather, we raise them up one-by-one as we teach individuals to pray and invite them to join us.
So, I’m convinced we can work on these areas. I’m praying that we will.
*Roger Steer, George Müller: Delighted in God(Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2018), 9.