By Carl Stagner
On Sunday, September 11, congregations across the Church of God and beyond will set aside their Sunday schedules for a focused time of prayer. Like the solemn, sacred assemblies held during the time of the Prophet Joel, we will humbly seek God’s forgiveness and restoration as we commit to re-engage in his divine purposes (Joel l:13–14). Recent escalating tensions around the globe and in our own backyard have only served as a wake-up call to the imminent need for a united plea to our God for hope, for answers, and for healing.
Charles Wright, Kansas Ministries regional pastor, experienced a similar solemn assembly earlier this year. He stresses the overwhelming need for the Church of God to renew the prominence of prayer in personal and congregational life. “I pray the church recovers the emphasis the Bible gives to prayer,” he explains. “For example, Matthew 12:13 states, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer…’ It seems much of the evangelical world has made our gatherings a house of singing and preaching/teaching, rather than prayer. Not that prayer isn’t offered, but in most cases time allotted to it is much less that singing and preaching. If we really desire to put first things first, we need to heed Paul’s admonition—‘First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NRSV; emphasis added).
With an emphasis on the practical, Charles offers some clues to help the local church reignite a passion for prayer. “Anytime we begin to focus more on prayer, it’s a good thing. However, I find people need structure that teaches them better how to pray. In recent discussions with pastors, we have agreed most attempts to form prayer groups have fizzled with time. I think one of the reasons is that we have lost the early church practice of praying the Scriptures, particularly the Psalms. I, another pastor, and his church have been practicing for several months the Daily Prayer from the Church of England website. It has been transformative for the two of us and this congregation. Rather than a fizzling prayer group, it has grown and remains steady. The comments we’ve heard say the structure helps them to know better how to pray. Therefore, I sense God is leading us to create communities of prayer in our congregations.”
Charles Wright also recommends the following resources to help their Cry Out to the Lord experience be more than a one-time prayer rally, but also a launch pad to reclaim the prominence of prayer in personal and church life: The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential, by N.T. Wright; Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, by Eugene Peterson; and Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
May the Lord incline his ear to us as we approach the throne of grace together on Sunday, September 11. Let us know you’ll be participating with us by signing up at www.jesusisthesubject.org/cryout, where you’ll also find downloadable resources available for free.