I was playing racquetball once with another minister and a manager of a local business. The pastor got joking with the manager about the fact that ministers only work on Sundays. He continued to joke, “Ya, and all I do is read my bible and pray all day!” Although he was joking, there was also the sense that if he was reading his bible and praying all day this would be ridiculous. I had to speak up at this point, so I said, “Would it be so bad if you were reading and praying all day?” The manager (who was not a follower of Jesus) said, “If you did that you would be a monk!” Far from it, you would be an effective Christian leader!
The manager didn’t understand and I didn’t expect him to. The pastor on the other hand, not so much. Beware of a Christian leader who doesn’t have a significant prayer and word life! I mean, after all, we (Christian leaders) should be doing a good deal of praying and bible reading! It’s not just my opinion, it’s biblical. How can we have a culture of prayer in our churches if we as leaders aren’t praying and studying? Jesus Himself said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Mark 11:17) Should we leave that to IHOP and other prayer movements to discover while we look for other ways to lead the church? I don’t think so. Leaders, how can we lead effectively and see lives change if we are not living a lifestyle of prayer? And how can we bring forth word of God with accuracy and power if we aren’t studying it profusely? Some of the most effective Christian leaders I have seen have a deep abiding prayer life with God. When they speak, amazing things happen. It’s as if the heavens open up.
I was listening to John Mulinde once, an African church leader from Uganda who has influence all over the world. He said they don’t even consider having someone preach until they have read the bible through at least 3 full times, among other things. He himself often reads through the bible through multiple times per year. We struggle to read through the bible once a year yet we don’t hesitate to read a dozen or more books in a year. I’m not saying it’s wrong or bad, I love books too. I’m simply saying maybe we need to re-evaluate. Are our practices and ministry philosophies biblical or are they based on the latest fad? The primary way I see the church growing in the New Testament is through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord spoke something to me once that I will never forget. He said, “If God’s people are faithful to pray, I will be faithful to pour out My Spirit.” As my friend says, “We all want Acts chapter 2 but we aren’t willing to do Acts chapter 1.”
Back to the pastor who joked about reading his bible and praying all day. On one hand, I knew what he meant as he joked about this. This particular person wasn’t a lead pastor and had many responsibilities other than prayer and the ministry of the word. After all, everyone involved in church work can’t pray and study for the majority of their time. Someone has to do the other work. But if you are responsible for leading other people in any capacity, your prayer and word life should be of utmost importance!
I’m not a Church basher, I’m a Church lover, yet I can’t help but wonder if the Church in America is anemic for this very reason. I’m not talking about the number of people in our churches. There are many large churches, although out of the 60 largest churches in the world, only 5 are in America. I’m specifically talking about power: the power to transform lives and culture. The power to see revival AND reformation. I agree with Lou Engle when he said, “We need to go from prayer meetings to a prayer culture.” It’s not an easy thing. God must first do something in the heart of a leader in order to see prayer become a part of the culture of the Church.
Next time, I will give a biblical example of exactly what I am talking about and share some of my story about how God in His grace has given me a life of persevering prayer.