Let’s be honest with each other. Prayer at times seems dull, difficult, and spasmodic for everyone, including us pacesetters! Why is this? Understanding the problems will enable us to proceed with greater effectiveness in helping others on to concerted prayer. The following are some reasons why we often struggle to stay motivated in personal and corporate prayer.
1. We may have prayed, and prayed boldly, and not seen our prayer answered. We came away feeling that we either didn’t deserve to have our prayer answered, that we failed to pray hard enough, or that maybe God simply didn’t care.
2. Some of us have limited perspective of what prayer does. We suffer from historical ignorance – we never studied the topic in Scripture or in a class or in church history. Our deficiency leads us to a lack of hope. What are God’s ways? What has God promised? Who does He intend to be in your life, in the life of the Church, and before the nation?
3. We each have a hidden aversion of a God who is holy and sovereign. As fallen human beings, we in the natural seek to hide from God’s presence, just as Adam did in the beginning. How often do we busy up our lives, for example, with “Christian” activities so we can excuse ourselves from getting down to business in serious prayer?
4. We may be afraid of His answers. When God answers our prayers, His decisions and actions cannot be controlled by us. Considering the impact and changes that spiritual awakening brings, do we really want it? If we are afraid of risks – of being thrust forward into new life disciplines and ministries that could change the whole course of our involvement in the world -of course we will hesitate to pray.
5. These practical problems may initially block our mobilizing efforts. But, take heart, all of them can be overcome. For remember prayer is a gift of God. A movement of concerted prayer must come from Him also. It is He, not we, who must persuade people to take up the work of prayer for awakening.
Principles for Mobilization
First, keep your efforts at mobilization biblical. Remember, the frontline in world evangelization is the Word of God and prayer. Scripture is the common meeting ground in our agenda for prayer for every Christian, no matter what pool of renewal or denomination they come from.
Second, set the pace in prayer yourself, even if initially no one else joins you. Remember Zechariah 8:20-21? Those who call others to prayer conclude their invitation with the words, “I myself am going.”
Third, as you seek to mobilize other, be humble. Standing at the threshold knocking does not make me any more spiritual than those who have yet to join me.
Fourth, integrate the agenda of spiritual awakening into every other prayer situation. Do this, for instance, when you are called on to pray during small-group Bible study. The more you integrate, the more you alert others to your concerted prayer vision, and to the good reasons to get involved.
Fifth, begin with the few. Don’t be dismayed if that is all there is for a while. God is already raising up people of prayer long before you begin to mobilize them. Where will you find these few? Let me suggest two prime candidates: (1) those who are seeking after Christ, who want a deeper reality in their walk with Him; (2) those who have a sense of mandate to redirect their lives for maximum ministry to the world.
Sixth, seeks the seekers. How can you do this effectively? You could begin by widely circulating an invitation for others to join those of you who have begun, and see who turns up.
Seventh, be enthusiastic. People need to know that you really believe in what you’re doing. But don’t force the issue too far, because there is a time when people are ready to seek, and a time when they are not.
Eight, listen for barriers to prayers. Are people afraid of what it will cost them? Have they had bad experiences? Is their vision fuzzy about what they are praying toward? Are they struggling to integrate the issues of spiritual awakening into their problems of daily life? Is it possible that there is sin in their lives that prevents them from drawing near to God? Are there broken relationships with other Christians that have soured them on Kingdom concerns?
Ninth, as you begin to understand these barriers, it is important to help people see that their involvement can meet their felt needs. Most of us approach any new challenges on the basis of “what’s in it for me?” Help people to see that concerted prayer is compatible to who they are, relevant to what they need, and desirable in achieving God’s life objectives for them.
Tenth, fire imaginations with the biblical and historical patterns of spiritual awakening, and with evidence that God is preparing for another such work today. Give them a new vision of the Church, a new vision of God’s work amongst the nations, a new vision of hope about the future and the advancement of God’s Kingdom.
Eleventh, show people that concerts of prayer are manageable. Maybe your concert will be two hours one evening a month, 20 minutes once a week after each worship service, or 15 minutes after each campus fellowship meeting. Show people that he concert won’t demand an unreasonable amount of time. Even 15 minutes, if clearly on target, can be a concert of prayer.
Twelfth, once you get them there, get them into the action. Have different individuals lead various components of the meeting, do research on information to be prayed about, recruit others, or send out a little newsletter to all regular participants.
Thirteenth, tap into the Prayer Gathering Guide. The Prayer Guide can help you do this. We need to hear what God is doing in the variety of corporate prayer expressions, and we need to communicate with each other about what we are learning from God about revival prayer, about concerted prayers. Those who have studied previous awakenings note that one critical human contribution to expanding prayer movements was clear, accurate, sufficient communication between those who prayed.
Fourteenth, expect a battle. When it comes don’t let it throw you. Satan’s greatest concern, next to preventing the gospel from reaching those who haven’t heard, is to sabotage prayer movements that call for God to revive His Church and advance movements that call for God to revive His Church and advance His Kingdom. He will try to discourage you, whether it be by interruptions as you pray together, by dwindling numbers, or by those who misunderstand and even question your efforts at prayer with, say, charges of spiritual elitism. The battle is sure to become toughest as your prayer group increasingly experiences the hand-to-hand cosmic warfare described in Daniel 9 and 10, Ephesians 6, and Revelation 12. Concerts of prayer are serious business.
Source: Concerts of Prayer by David Bryant (Regal Books, 1988)