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Making Prayer a Priority

February 20 2014
February 20 2014

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Preparing for Redeemer’s transition to its new downtown facility has served to remind me of what has been so foundational to our growth—Kingdom-minded prayer! Prayer is one of the bedrock commitments of a vibrant, growing church. This is clearly seen when we consider the early church who gathered regularly and often for prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:2-4).

Sustaining the priority of prayer though is hard. So often church plants start off full of dreams as big as the Kingdom of God, yet those same hopes fade as lesser objectives overwhelm a God-centered vision.  John Smed, a PCA church planter in Vancouver writes,

We sell our inheritance to the lowest bidder—we settle for Sunday morning Christianity!  We count attendees and we count offerings.  Nickels and noses win out.  The result is pedestrian and tame.  We want the Lion of Judah to roar.  Instead, the number crunchers bicker.  The difference can be traced to prayer.  Our heartless prayers lead to gutless strategies.

Prayer, then, is the unseen, yet vital way we engage and enlist the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our midst. In light of this, Redeemer is starting a bi-weekly prayer meeting to give focused prayer for our upcoming transition. The first prayer meeting will occur at the Redeemer offices (3737 Broadway, Ste. 300) on Wednesday, February 26, at 12:00 p.m.

The following insights into prayer have shaped my prayers for the entire life of Redeemer:

  • Prayer is what we do when we realize God's Kingdom to which we have been commissioned cannot possibly be accomplished through our efforts alone!

So often in ministry what is pragmatic or “what works” drives ministry.  Because prayer is intuitively inefficient, we see it as the most un-pragmatic thing in the world.  There are few things in the world that seem more foolish than praying.  Nevertheless, if we believe our Bibles prayer is the only thing we can do to truly acknowledge the centrality of God’s working among us.  He tells us that his Kingdom does not come by our working or our might, but by his Spirit (Zech. 4:6).  Prayer forces us to come to the end of our strategies and recognize that God works above, in spite of and beyond them to coordinate amazing results.

Even so, this does not give us cause to cast our strategies aside.  Rather, prayer is also the means by which we ask God to bless our feeble efforts.  Prayer does not mean the end of “means.” It simply becomes the mechanism by which we see the Kingdom come as He blesses the seemingly foolish means of grace: preaching, bible study, fellowship, community group, sacraments.

In today’s setting what is driving the Church is the need to do “church” more efficiently.  We want to be “more” successful.  But at what cost?  Is it possible to achieve success yet lose our identity?  Consider Jesus words in Matthew, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (16:26)  Prayer forces us to acknowledge that God is the one who works first and foremost for his Kingdom.  In reality, therefore, the choice is not between pragmatism (what works) and inefficiency (what doesn’t), but between God-centered pragmatism and man-centered pragmatism.  In other words, is God central in the equation?  When we don’t pray we act as though our efforts are sufficient.

  • Prayer is what we do when we realize none of us are equipped for the ministry at-hand.

Hand in glove with the above is the recognition that we ourselves do not measure up to the task.  Not only is the task too large, we are incompetent for our duty.  I cannot tell you how many times I have thought to myself, “I am so ill-equipped for the task to which I have been called.”

For this reason, Jesus tells us to pray for laborers of the harvest because the laborers are few. One of the great blessings of gaining a facility is not more members, but more missionaries! Only through prayer will Redeemer be able to sustain its missional focus. Through Kingdom-minded prayer, our hearts are set free from the “me-first” sin-virus present in each of our hearts.

Prayer, then, becomes one of the major ways through which those who attend Redeemer become those who are sent out by Redeemer. Prayer makes us effective in God’s mission.

  • Prayer is what we do when we realize the struggle in my heart between the purposes shaped by my sinful desires and the purposes of the Kingdom.

Listening and pondering God’s Kingdom values—loving the poor, dealing ruthlessly with sin, sacrificing personal wealth or personal time, etc.—forces me to confront my sinful desires. Confessing prayer is the response to a true encounter with Jesus and what he says is most important.  If confession of sin is not a regular part of my prayer life then most likely I will be using my prayer life as a means to get my sinful appetites sated.  In other words, my prayer life will not be that much different than a Santa Claus wish list.

As John Piper writes, “We have taken a wartime walkie-talkie and tried to turn it into a civilian intercom to call the servants for another cushion in the den…prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences.”  Confession is the form our prayer takes when we realize that we have not been captured by what most concerns the heart of God.  For this we must confess our sins and do so often!

  • Prayer is what we do when we realize that circumstances are beyond our control and we must entrust ourselves to the Providence our all-powerful and good Father.

Prayer is also the response to a world that is broken around us.  Circumstances, people and both the past and the future all whirl around us.  The world in which we live is far beyond our control.  Cancer, illness, poverty, racism, disappointment, parents, children, unexpected death, etc. all force us to pray so that we not become anxious and beset with our powerlessness and discouraged by the horrific character of the world.

It is not an accident that the Lord teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Such petitions remind us that God is truly concerned with our temporal welfare and not just an abstract ideal of the Kingdom. The Kingdom encompasses the concrete realities of our broken lives.  In other words, God loves us and wants us protected from that which ultimately harms.  Moreover, he is both capable and willing.  God is both powerful and good.  Such confidence in our God builds confidence in our prayers!

This is an important time in the life of Redeemer, which means prayer must be at the top of our priority lists. I want to encourage all of us to make the bi-weekly prayer a priority. Wouldn’t it be great if so many people showed up that we had to take the prayer meeting outside of the office! I think I will pray for that.


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Jeremy W

March 31, 2014 9:19 PM
One of the most humbling things about prayer is that we don't change God's mind...rather our minds (and hearts) are conformed to His.