On the inside of my favorite Bible, I have taped a half-sheet of paper with Mark Clifton’s six imperatives for replanting a church from his book, Reclaiming Glory. The first of those imperatives is “Pray without ceasing,” which comes directly from 1 Thessalonians 5:17.
I remember reading that phrase almost four years ago and thinking, “Well, yah, of course prayer is important.” Then I remember quickly scanning the other five imperatives for the real “meat” of church revitalization. Now, don’t get me wrong. The other five are really good too. But when I began the journey of replanting First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 2016, I vastly underestimated the powerful role prayer would play.
You and I are completely powerless to replant anything on our own. I’m definitely not that great a pastor, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say you aren’t either.
In Colossians 1, Paul makes clear that Jesus Christ is the head of the church. As the head, He alone has the power to bring back to life a church that is on the brink of death. The good news is, of course, that He loves to bring things, which were once dead, back to life.
George Müller’s example
When I was reading George Müller’s autobiography, one of the things that struck me was how often he talked about spending time in prayer. If you’re not familiar with Müller, he had a remarkable life and ministry in which he completely depended upon God’s provision. He ran an orphanage in England in the mid-1800s that housed thousands of children during his lifetime, and yet he never asked for a single donation from anyone. Despite never asking for money, Müller discovered the depths of God’s faithfulness as seemingly random people donated money, bread or milk – in just the nick of time to meet a need.
That’s not to say that things weren’t difficult or that there was never a significant need. Müller records many times when there was no money to buy bread and, when he was at the point of desperation, there would be a knock at the door with just the right amount of money to provide for that day’s needs.
The power of praying without ceasing
I hope you see the parallel between Müller’s life and church replanting. There may be many times when it seems there is simply not enough money to pay the electricity bill or, perhaps, even your salary. There may very well be Sunday mornings when the number of people absent outnumbers the number of people in the pews.
In such moments, do not despair. You and I serve the same God that George Müller knew so well. And the God who took such good care of him will take care of you as well. That doesn’t mean there won’t be nights that you go to bed wondering if you’ll get paid that week. George Müller did that many a night.
And yet God never failed to come through for him. And I can attest that, in just over five years of being in the middle of church revitalization, God never failed to come through for our church as well. It didn’t always look the way I would have liked for it to look, and it didn’t always happen according to my timetable. But I can honestly say there was never a single need that was not met.
Yes, I lost some sleep and some hair in the process, but I also learned to trust the Lord more deeply than I could have imagined. And that experience led me to understand just a bit more about what it means to pray without ceasing.
Published May 31, 2023