This past weekend I challenged our church to a greater emphasis on prayer. Prayer is the fuel of the church—and our individual lives. In prayer we come in contact with God’s purposes and plans, and we open ourselves to his power. Prayer is not meant to be an afterthought, but the driving force behind everything we do.
Even the nicest, most expensive, fastest car is useless without fuel. You could have your dream car—a Ferrari or Lamborghini—and without gasoline it’s just a really expensive lawn ornament. If you want to go somewhere, it’s better to have an old clunker with gas in the tank than a luxury car sitting on E. In the same way, it’s better to have a praying church that does everything wrong than a cool, hip, cutting edge church that’s based primarily on human effort.
Too often we treat our churches and lives like the cars on the old Flintstones cartoons—powered by nothing more than our own two feet (or hard work, creativity, people skills, brain-power, leadership prowess, etc.). But foot-powered cars aren’t going to get us very far and will leave us exhausted in the end. It’s much better to let the explosive power of gasoline do the heavy lifting. It’s the same in church. If we don’t want to wear ourselves out getting nowhere, we need to prioritize prayer.
But how much prayer is enough? That’s like asking how much fuel is enough. It depends on how far you want to go. If you just want to stay where you are and take a bit of a joy ride around the block from time to time, you can get by with very little fuel/prayer. But if you really want to go places, letting God bring you on the journey he has for you, you need to fill that tank up and keep filling it.
Acts 1:14 says the early church “joined together constantly in prayer.” The Greek word for “constant” carries the meaning not only of continual, but also persistence—they didn’t give up or grow tired of prayer. For them, prayer was their first priority. Just a little wasn’t enough!
Too often we make prayer our last priority, like a bit of “God-juice” we sprinkle on after we have done everything we can on our own. What would happen if we as a church could pray “constantly”—consistently and persistently, both as individuals and in group settings? What would happen if we as a church (and individuals) made prayer priority one? I’m not sure, but I bet it would open us to see God’s power at work in ways we haven’t seen so far.