I guess this program is probably the nub of why we decided to make the Pray that Prayer series.
Kevin and I regularly go as a duo to play in exhausted churches where there are only twelve or fifteen people in their Sunday morning service. We go to these churches because we are conscious that these churches, often ageing, longing for renewal and don’t know how to make it happen, are the ones that need the encouragement we bring more than any others. After the service or performance is over there will be a stream of questions that we always get asked:-
Where do Kevin and I go to church?
How many people are there in our church?
Are there young people in the church that we attend?
Our responses are always the same – we are members of a buzzing home church with about 600 people attending through the various services each Sunday, and when the young people go off to their morning groups about a third of the church goes out.
So we then get asked how the church make this happen; what strategy did we employ that resulted in this glowing success?
Well… there’s the crux of the issue. Back in the 1970s, our church was struggling in the same way as so many others, with a dwindling congregation of about forty ageing people on a Sunday.
But three men started to meet every Monday evening to pray for revival in our church. They kept at it for years. First God started to make promises, and then, over the years He started to deliver on those promises, until we came to the point that we are now.
Now, when I tell people in those ailing churches about the need for ongoing prayer, I normally see their faces fall, because they can’t see anyone in their church achieving that committed prayer.
So why do we sometimes find it so hard to pray? Especially when that prayer demands us to get out of our homes and arrive at a prayer meeting either in church or in someone else’s home. Is it that we’re lazy? Does prayer demand an inspiration that we just aren’t feeling? Bad coffee? Shortage of cake?
I have to say that when we started to put this series together, I was suspicious that the problem was that for many of us praying felt a bit like yelling into an empty void. All that seems to come back is the echo of our own voice.
So to put a series of interviews together where we get to hear some of the inspirational stories of how God has blessed others at their time of need seemed a worthwhile thing to do – and I’ve no doubt that that was right – but I’ve also come to the conclusion that, with regard to encouraging people to pray, it wasn’t the whole story.
I can’t help feeling that, for oh so many of us, we actually aren’t confident that we really know how to pray.
I now realise that this is definitely true for me personally. I can talk to God – been doing it for years – talking (let’s face it) is what I do. But when it comes to communing with God; hearing His opinion, being led by God, I am in the land of serious struggle.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt that He manages to get a word in edgeways at times, but for me to be able to walk into a prayer meeting and expect to hear His voice is something I’ve never done. Hearing God’s voice for me has virtually always been in a quiet moment at home.
And until now, that has always been kind of enough. But whilst it’s enough for me, I am coming to realise that it’s not enough for Him. He misses me. He wants so much more.
Over the years, rather than battle with my innate reluctance to spend time with Him, I have learnt to ask Him to take control and to change my heart so that I will choose to go to Him in prayer. He answers that one on an ongoing basis – I now find myself seeking out God at all kinds of moments – so that has been a welcome change. But I also realise that I still have a lot to learn, and I realise that if I can sort this out, my prayer life will become deeper, richer, more colourful than it has ever been before.
I’ve been reading ‘The Grace Outpouring’ by Roy Goodwin and Dave Roberts.
Roy Goodwin is the Director of Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales, a missional house of prayer and Christian retreat centre that has changed so many lives. He is also the founder of TransMed Vision which plants houses of prayer in nations surrounding the Mediterranean and beyond.
Roy describes how God one day filled his heart with this:
‘Oh Roy, how I miss the relationship we had then.
How I remember the days when you would stop and you would worship me, and you would sing to me and you would honour me all those years ago. How I miss you, Roy. How I wish that we had that back again.
How I miss the openness to me that you had.’
At this point in the book, Roy Godwin, with decades of being a solid Christian, evangelist, mentor and retreat leader behind him now stated that after thirty years of ministry, he did not know how to pray.
In other words, I was not alone in my inadequacy.
At that point Roy said to the Lord:-
“Lord God, I want to say to you that the truth is I do not know how to pray. If I knew how to pray, life would be so different. But the truth is I don’t.”
I’m going to encourage you to read the book, because it is utterly inspiring and you can buy it through the Ffald-y-Brenin website. In the book you will read God’s response to Roy, which was very specific in terms of the actions that were asked. He was asked to pray across all of the land, all the buildings, all the rooms of the house, calling on the blood of Jesus, the name of Jesus, glorifying, lifting up and exalting the name of Jesus, so that it covered every curse, every sin, every other form of bloodshed that had occurred over the buildings and land in the past, pressing the name of Jesus into walls, floors, ceilings, ground, atmosphere within rooms.
Or I could direct you to another really helpful book, ‘How to Pray’ by Pete Greig. Again, like all Pete Greig’s books, a readable, enjoyable book in which he divides the prayer process into ‘Pause – Rejoice – Ask – Yield’.
Notably, from both authors, realising that there must be something more that was missing in their relationships with God, was the start of the process with that opening request ‘Lord, teach me to pray’, followed by the Lord responding ‘I thought you’d never ask’.
The truth is that Jesus provided an excellent form to be used as a structure when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray in Matthew 6. He said this:
"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. (NIV)
But to summarise, doing justice to the nature of prayer and how we can improve our prayer lives is beyond what can be achieved in a short blog. There are lots of books out there to inspire and to help, but one really good thing would be to go the the source himself – ask God to teach you.
You can be sure you’ll be asking for something that totally reflects what he wants you to receive. PENNY LYON