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We Don’t Believe in Prayer

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

“Some claim that it was on June 17, 1963, that the end began. That was the day prayer was removed from public schools. Christians argued about this date as if everything was fine on Tuesday and then fell apart on Wednesday. I am certainly not saying that this was not a sad day for followers of Christ; but this assessment is not only naive, it is indicative of our disconnection to the real crisis. The crisis did not begin when prayer was removed from public schools but when we stopped praying. Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force

Amen, Erwin!

Some years ago, the United State Supreme Court was considering a school prayer case arising out of my home state of Texas. It involved a prayer given over the intercom at a football game one Friday night. I happened to be consulting with a church which had become very politically active in the media “campaign” to keep our “rights” to pray over the intercom at football games. This was a church where a few hundred people would attend worship services on Sunday morning. I went to their regularly scheduled Wednesday night prayer meeting one week, expecting to get a taste of their fervor for prayer. I was surprised to find only a couple dozen people there…a crowd I was assured was pretty standard for their weekly prayer meeting.

What is wrong with that picture?

Here is the truth. Here in America, the church has demonstrated a great deal more passion about its rights to pray at football games and schools than its belief in the power of prayer in the first place. Let’s face it, if we the church really believed in God’s promises to a people who humble themselves and pray, our prayer meetings would be filled to overflowing each week. If we thought we could actually bring about change in the world by gathering and crying out to God together, we would all be at prayer meetings late into the evening praying for a cure for cancer, or peace in Gaza, or food in Zimbabwe. But we’re not. Instead, we are working late or taking kids to soccer games or watching American Idol or doing just about anything else. C’mon everybody, who are we really fooling, pretending to be outraged about not getting to pray at football games?

You know what I wonder? I wonder how, from God’s perspective, the collective prayers of the American church compare to the collective prayers of the underground church in China? I wonder whether the burning in our hearts pales in comparison to the fervor with which they pray? I wonder if our political energy spent trying to make our prayer lives more convenient is as well received by God as the tears of oppressed Christians in China praying for the release of their brothers and sisters in prison because of their beliefs?

Here’s the deal. If the church is to ever regain some sense of focus, some understanding of where God is working and what He is up to in our communities, if a local body of believers really desires to know its next right step in terms of ministry or its way forward through conflict, then we must search within us and find that brokenness which drives us to our knees together. Jesus had extraordinary focus because He had an extraordinary prayer life. The church can have an extraordinary focus when it has an extraordinary prayer life as well.

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chron. 7:14

The more time I spend walking among our churches, the more convinced I become of this promise.

© Blake Coffee

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