by Mike Jebb
“If Jesus was right that the prayer of faith could cause a mountain to be cast into the sea, it makes one wonder what might be possible, if the church could actually be mobilized in fervent, righteous, and strategic prayer…”
As we touched on last week, The Strategic Prayer Initiative(TM) (SPI) is striving to find ways to successfully help move large numbers of American Christians into much greater effectiveness concerning fervent, righteous, and strategic prayer, as well as other aspects of spiritual warfare. This week I would like to share with you one of the most encouraging results to date, as well as one of the most troubling.
The primary methodologies employed by SPI(TM) are prayer, research, advice from many counselors, pilot launches, adjustments, and then new launches (very much an iterative process). Having gone through a whole string of launches, the adjustments made to the models about two years ago attained what appears to be some serious breakthroughs. Two churches, launched about six weeks apart, both were able to move their congregations from about 25% reporting good or mature prayer lives, to over 50% reporting good or mature prayer lives, and this was done in about four months at both locations (the churches were not in the same denominations, nor were they even in the same state).
This movement of over a quarter of a congregation, in about four months time, and subsequently repeating it in a second church appears to be a very important milestone in the efforts to move large numbers of American Christians forward in prayer. A matter of fact: in querying five of what many would consider the top 30 Americans presently involved in the prayer movement, none of them are aware of two back to back churches that have seen this dramatic of a change (one said it was doable but in 10 year time horizons). Dr. Paul Ceder, President of the Mission America Coalition, recently said that results like that would be extremely meaningful, and might be driven by the Holy Spirit. He went on to say that he was not able to achieve such results at his church (where he previously had pastored), even though he had heavily focused on it while in leadership there.
The previous results are still a far cry away from being sure of future success. Questions remain about maintaining results over the long haul (although these churches currently have a two year track record). Other questions also apply, such as, can the numbers not just be maintained, but can they continue to progress upward? Furthermore, do the congregants really know what actually constitutes a good prayer life (even though we provide tools helping them to know)? Additionally, can they actually demonstrate answers to prayer, some of which are to be expected, if they are praying Biblically?
As a quick summary, the above results were derived by: 1) using the SPI Diagnostic Survey — to help lay a foundation & encourage participation in SPI, 2) doing weekly, or bi-monthly congregation wide measurements using a tool known as the QuickCheck Card(TM), 3) by having the whole congregation go through their own copy of a short booklet called Love to Pray, 4) making the entry level of the PrayerCords(TM) System available to those who might be interested in it. Another “very” encouraging result comes from the second of the two churches previously mentioned (running 100 to 150 in weekly attendance). In this church about a third of their people are in PrayerCords, and after about two years these Cords are averaging over 75% of the people reporting a good prayer life.
Now on to one of the discouraging results. Since we believe that the scriptures teach that known, unconfessed, and unrepented sin in a Christian’s life can limit the effectiveness of his/her prayers, out of necessity we have tried to get a handle on this very important aspect of a good prayer life. In the diagnostic survey, we are finding there have been large portions of some of the congregations say (sometimes as high as 40%) that sin does not interfere with prayer. Additionally, when getting a regular, and anonymous read on this, we have been finding that often little or no progress is being made in the sanctification process. However, a possible silver lining behind this cloud is that those that have been in SPI PrayerCords, in one of the two churches previously mentioned, have become much more effective in the sanctification process, in comparison to those not in PrayerCords.