When someone asks me for reasons to attend church worship I understand how they probably feel. I’ve quit church a million times primarily because of people. They’ve snapped at me or my family members. They’ve lied about me or someone else in the church. They’ve accused others of all kinds of sins. They’ve gossiped and slandered me and others trying to get their way. They’ve run off with another person’s spouse and acted as though they were right to do it. They’ve started shouting matches and fist fights in the church building. They’ve split congregations and started their own churches. Sometimes the pastor or sometimes a lay person has chased people away in order to control the church’s decisions.
I’ve quit church a million times but I keep coming back. You may wonder, “Why?” Give me few minutes for the next six days and I’ll tell you what I’ve discovered. There are a few things you cannot experience outside of God’s church.
Today I want you to talk to you about ENERGIZING PRAYER.
To be honest there are a lot of times when my prayer life is more duty, ritual, habit and responsibility than anything else. I often pray because I know I need to talk with God. Needless to say, my prayers in those times are not energizing, exciting or enjoyable.
We all struggle with our prayer lives. We come to God telling him what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done and who needs to do it. A wise man asked,
What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer? [Thomas Merton, Catholic writer and mystic (1915-1968)]
I have met very few Christians who would claim they pray enough. We all feel a need to pray more. We all struggle to find the time to pray like we feel we should and we wonder why we feel powerless.
If it’s possible to experience prayer that energizes us, how can we find it?
The book of Acts is saturated with prayer. The first chapter ends in a prayer meeting that launched the birthday of the church – Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit came.
The last chapter opens with Paul praying for a man’s healing. Nearly every other chapter mentions prayer of one kind or another. Sometimes it was a matter of ritual and habit and sometimes it was an emergency call for help. But from the very beginning God designed the church for energizing prayer.
Some of God’s greatest promises to answer prayer are addressed to the church not to individuals.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
Energizing prayer can only be experienced in community. If you want energizing prayer experiences, then…
- Refuse to settle for powerless, dull and downright boring prayer times when we gather. Pray until you connect with the Lord.
- Stop expecting little to nothing to happen when we pray. Be disappointed and ask tough questions to find out why God is not answering our prayers.
- Pray with each other knowing that God longs to refresh, renew and revive us; to answer our prayers in powerful, surprising and attention-grabbing ways.