The Vital Difference Between a Church that Prays and a Praying Church
By Derek Dickinson
I thought planting a new congregation in Fairbanks, Alaska, was a terrible idea. The winters are brutal. It occasionally hits 50 degrees below zero! In the winter, it’s a place of darkness, with only four hours of sunlight per day. This “terrible idea” wasn’t mine, thankfully, but God’s. I was so opposed to planting a congregation here that I fasted from all solid foods for 30 days on two occasions and prayed that I could plant somewhere else. But God’s answer was clear: I was to be the founding elder of a new congregation here, at “the end of the road.”
Prayer isn’t the only key to the health of this work, but we believe it’s the engine that powers our progress. One of our key values is “Prayer: Committed to consistently pray with shameless audacity expectantly looking forward to all God will do.” Clearly, every church prays, but we have become a praying church, and the difference is foundational.
Prayer is woven through Scripture; the Bible contains about 650 of them! In addition, some of history’s most remarkable moments are answers to prayer. In the early church, when the leaders of the Jerusalem church were challenged about their failing compassion ministry for Greek widows, they took care of the problem, but defended the importance of their focus on prayer.
So how do we continually cultivate a praying church?
First, we pray, preach, and believe the prayer promises in Scripture. Jesus’ words are stunning: six times he tells us we can pray for anything. Those prayer promises are as close to a blank check as God gives us. “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance,” it’s been said, “[but] laying hold of his highest willingness.”
Second, we pray boldly. One mistake we’ve made is to pray for things that, if we worked really hard, we could accomplish. Not anymore! We now pray for answers that make it clear that God acted! Max Lucado said, “Nothing pleases Jesus as much as being audaciously trusted.”
Third, we pray together consistently. Prayer time is intentionally woven into our small group program, our leadership meetings, and even daily prayer meetings. (Yes, a small number of us come and pray together every day at 7 a.m., with at least one elder always present.) Our church fights daily for biblical truth, surprising grace, and compelling holiness in our community. Like Moses, Aaron, and Hur at the battle with the Amalekites, we as leaders stand together and pray fervently because we realize life transformation is won in prayer, not programs. It’s been said, “When we work, we work; when we pray, God works.”
Our desire at Journey isn’t to see what we can accomplish, but to clearly show all that God can accomplish. I urge your church to transition from a congregation that prays into a praying church—it makes all the difference.
Derek Dickinson is the founding pastor-elder of Journey Christian Church (http://journeyalaska.org) in Fairbanks, Alaska. He has served there for 13 years.
Adapted from the “e2: effective elders . . . equipping elders to lead” newsletter, July 21, 2017. Used by permission.