“My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all Nations.”
Don’t get me wrong. Walnut Hill is, in many respects, a praying church. We have a number of faithful & powerful prayer warriors among our number. Wednesday evenings were set apart for a service of prayer long before I arrived on the scene a little over a year ago. And each Saturday morning the Elders meet at the church at 7:30am to pray for our members and our community. (This is another practice that was already in place before I returned to Tennessee.)
I don’t know how one would gauge such a thing, but I suspect that Walnut Hill would rank among the upper percentiles for prayer among churches in the USA.
But still, that is not what I am hoping for. It is not the same thing. There is a difference between a praying church and a House of Prayer. In fact, Cheryl Sacks, in her book The Prayer Saturated Church, lists several differences:
1. A church that prays may have a limited number of people involved in a prayer ministry; A House of Prayer involves the entire congregation.
2. In a praying church there may be little, or even no, regular emphasis from the pulpit about the ministry of prayer; A House of Prayer regualarly teaches and emphasizes the priority of prayer from the pulpit.
3. In a praying church very little training is offered to people to prepare them for prayer. It may be assumed that prayer is easy, and people already know how to pray. In a House of Prayer it is recognized that prayer can be hard work, and many people feel inadequate about their prayer life. Therefore classes, seminars, and other opportunities for prayer and training in prayer are offered.
4. In a praying church it may be that only a few leaders attend prayer meetings, with no regular commitment. In a House of Prayer ALL leaders, and staff, have a burden for prayer, and have made it a priority in their lives to participate in the prayer meetings.
5. In praying churches groups or committees open with prayer as an item on the docket or agenda. In a House of Prayer groups spend time praying together, pray at regular or spontanious times throughout the meeting, and set times of prayer in addition to regular meetings.
6. In a church that has a prayer ministry, there may still be something that is lacking in the atmosphere because prayer may be feeble. In a House of Prayer there is a fresh flowing of the presence of the Holy Spirit that permeates the atmosphere of the church.
7. In churches that pray members have the freedom to pray; In a House of Prayer there is a natural flow of prayer going on throughout the church.
8 In a church that prays, having a ministry staff person is not recognized as a viable part of the church staff. In a House of Prayer a prayer coordinator is an essential member of the staff, and may even be a paid staff member.
These are just some of the distinctions. Some are subtle, while others are glaring, differences. (Click to read Slacks actual and complete list: God’s Standard.)
Another difference between a church that prays and a House of Prayer is the focus and substance of the prayers offered. Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, makes the distinction between two types of prayer meetings: Maintenance or Frontline. Miller confesses to having led both kinds in churches he had pastored. I will offer more insight about what Miller says about these in another post, but here is the essence of each:
Maintenace prayer meetings focus on perpetuating the status quo. Prayers are offered with little expectancy, and usually from the hosptial list and for some generic ‘blessing’ on the ministries and programs of the church.
Particiapnts in the Frontline prayer meetings expect to encounter God, and to be changed as a result of that encounter. The prayers offered are specific expressions of “Thy Kingdom come. They Will be done…” In other words, the purpose is, by God’s grace and power, to advance Christ’s Kingdom.
There are a number of reasons why many churches are not as effecive in prayer as they might hope to be. Chief among these reasons are probably:
1. Prayer is hard work.
2. People don’t know how to pray.
You might be surprised that I suggest people don’t know how to pray. But you shouldn’t be. This disciples, who were mentored by Jesus, didn’t know how. That’s why thay asked: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11.1) Apparently effective prayer is something that needs to be learned. It takes work.
We want to take some steps toward becoming a House of Prayer.
Beginning Sunday October 5, Walnut Hill Church will participate in 40 Days of Prayer. During these next eight weeks we will coordinate our Sunday School classes with our morning messages; and we will encourage one another to make prayer a more focused part of our daily lives.
While effective prayer will always be hard work, to alleviate some of the practical difficulties that often hinder people from getting started we will: 1) supply church members with some tools to assist them in prayer; 2) introduce new opportunites to pray for our neighbors and community through PrayerWalking. (If this is a new concept to you, click: Practical PrayerWalking, to read a brief introduction by WayMakers. Also click on What is PrayerWalking? and How to PrayerWalk on the WayMakers page.)
If you are a part of the Walnut HIll family, we ask that you join us on this journey. Whether you are part of Walnut Hill or just someone who stumbled on this page, we ask that you pray for us: that God, by his grace, and for his glory, would transform us into a House of Prayer.