Don’t underestimate the power of prayer
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 this journey of replanting First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, I vastly underestimated the power 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 that 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
I’m reading through George Muller’s autobiography right now. One of the things that strikes me is how often he talks 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, or 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 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 almost four years of being in the middle of church revitalization, God has never failed to come through for our church as well. It hasn’t always looked the way I would have liked for it to look, and it hasn’t always happened according to my timetable. But I can honestly say there has not been a single need that has not been met.
Yes, I’ve lost some sleep and some hair in the process, but I’ve also come to trust the Lord more deeply than I could have imagined. And that has led me to understand just a bit more about what it means to pray without ceasing.