by Mike Jebb
After approximately 12 years of attempting to build a great church, Pastor Wilson (pseudonym – name available upon request) decided to turn in his resignation, due to his failed attempts concerning his pastorate. Just prior to resigning, Wilson accepted a complementary invitation to a three and a half day Pastors’ Prayer Summit on the beautiful coast of the Pacific Northwest. Wilson loved the coast and thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for him to walk the rugged beaches and write his letter of resignation.
During the first day of the prayer summit, while Pastor Wilson walked along the shore, and contemplated his resignation, a pang of guilt came over his conscience. He had accepted this complementary scholarship for the summit, and over $100 worth of free books, and consequently felt he should at least attend one or two sessions before writing his resignation. As Pastor Wilson sought the Lord during one of the sessions, he came to the startling realization that in his effort to develop his church, he had tried ‘everything except prayer.”
In light of this startling yet intriguing revelation, Wilson chose not to resign his pastorate. Instead, he would return to his people, and make prayer the “highest” priority in his own life, and in the lives of his congregation. And yes, you have guessed the conclusion… This new paradigm led to more than a decade and a half of incredible growth and ministry, and it was the total commitment to prayer, not church growth strategies, that Pastor Wilson is convinced made the difference.
If you ask those in fulltime Christian ministry, if they are for prayer, you will almost always hear a resounding yes. If you ask congregants, who have at least a touch of maturity under their belts, if they believe prayer is powerful, you will hear very few, if any, naysayers. If the vast majority of layman and pastors (holding to a high view of Scripture) are for prayer, why does it appear that the preponderance of our people are only scratching the surface, when it comes to tapping into this awesome resource?
The work of the Strategic Prayer InitiativeTM has been acutely focused on aiding average American Christians to become seriously more effective in prayer and spiritual warfare. Part of that effort has been to gather diagnostic survey information from over 3,000 believers on how well they say they are doing in various aspects, or practices, pertinent to the spiritual battle, prayer being the most prominent of these factors. This analysis, typically done on Sunday mornings, has given us some strong indications of where these people feel they are.
Before we take a brief look at some of the survey results, let me pose what I believe to be a salient question. If we believe that the fervent prayers of a righteous person can accomplish much, if we believe the prayer of faith can move a mountain, then why do such large numbers of American Christians tap this great resource so casually?
In looking at some of the data, our research shows that 16.6% spend about 30 minutes or more in fully focused prayer on a typical day (somewhat like Mark 1:35, i.e. not multi-tasking). Eighty-three percent spend 10 or less minutes daily in fully focused prayer, 56.7% spend five minutes a day or less, and 30.6% spend two minutes a day or less.
When you ask these people to tell you if they are satisfied or not with their current prayer lives, 80.2% will say no, yet 95.7% believe “that God wants all of His true followers to have a good prayer life.”
When we asked people to self-rate their current prayer lives, 25.7% said their prayer lives were good or mature, while 46% said fair, and 28% said their prayer lives were poor.
However, one of the most helpful pieces of data shows both the serious need, as well as the incredible untapped potential. When asked how much of their entire life as a Christian they have actually had a good prayer life, 52.3% said only a small portion of their Christian life, or never. In other words, half of our warriors are firing blanks from one of their most important weapons!
In conclusion, the Scriptures are replete with admonitions about the power and importance of prayer, and our nation (& world) are abounding in problems and moral crisis. 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…