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Prayer: The Essential Tool (part I)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18a 
I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  John 16:23  (NIV)

On Sunday, as part of a Father’s Day/birthday present from my wife Alana, we attended a service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in downtown Brooklyn, NY.  What an amazing experience/place.  Perhaps you know of the award winning Brooklyn Tabernacle choir.  But there’s much more to the church than that.  Four two hour high octane, spirit-filled services on Sunday to overflow crowds which total more than 8,000 fuel all sorts of ministries in Brooklyn and around the world.  Pastor Jim Cymbala  faithfully and powerfully delivers God’s word.  As I witnessed the many ministries and life of the church highlighted I was awed by God’s powerful use of that congregation.

You might ask, “How does this all come about?”  A lot of things certainly could be credited, but there is one thing that to me is the most crucial to all that church is.  If you weren’t paying a lot of attention you might miss the announcement of a Tuesday night prayer meeting.  You might not catch the fact that around 5pm when the doors open for the 7pm meeting people begin to gather.  You might miss that literally hundreds of people show up each week for serious spirit-directed prayer.  In his book, Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, Pastor Cymbala attributes this to be what, more than anything, triggered and sustains the growth and life of “BT” as they refer to it.  This is consistent with the Biblical proclamation that prayer is the essential tool for God’s people.

More than 30 years ago as a graduate student in history at the UNC-Greensboro, I read a statement by historian Cain Brenton which I’ve never forgotten:  “Once we we have put something into words, we think we have accomplished it.”    He was writing about our substituting talk for action, discussion for accomplishment.

In no area is this more true than in the Christian life.  We talk a great game, but never actually do it.  Prayer is especially susceptible to this problem.  We can read books on prayer, preach sermons on prayer, have studies on prayer, develop great theories and never do much praying.  I am especially susceptible to doing that.  We actually have “prayer meetings” where little praying is done.  They are filled with Bible study, formal liturgies, music, teaching, etc. but not a lot of prayer.  Someone said that the syndrome of Protestant churches is that we have become “artful dodgers of a disciplined prayer life.”

I am sure what we are as a Christian or a church rises no higher than our prayer life.  To be continued.

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