Today's 'thought' has to do with prayer in the contemporary church. It comes from a book entitled: "Dynamics of Spiritual Life -- An Evangelical Theology of Renewal" by Richard Lovelace.
The length (435 pages) may turn the disinterested away. But for those truly interested in renewal, or earnestly concerned for the health and well-being of Christ's Church (from a biblical and historical perspective), it contains a wealth of helpful insights and is well worth whatever time it takes to go through the 400+ pages. These insights deal with that all-important practice we call prayer.
As Lovelace notes: "Ask Evangelicals what the most essential condition of revival is, and they are most likely to point to prayer... [Yet] in both Evangelical and non-Evangelical circles, the place of prayer has become limited and almost vestigial. The proportion of horizontal communication that goes on in the church (in planning, arguing, and expounding) is overwhelmingly greater than that which is vertical (in worship, thanksgiving, confession and intercession)... The old mid-week prayer meetings for revival have vanished from the programs of most churches, or have been transformed into Bible studies ending with minimal prayer."
He's right. In fact, I myself have been guilty here -- as are all who plan apart from prayer. Thus I offer his words as an encouragement to all. Enjoy.
"Why has this [avoidance of earnest prayer for renewal] come about? Perhaps it stems from the deficient teaching and emphasis on God himself throughout the church, and partly from the man-centeredness of much religious activity.
Deficiency in prayer both reflects and reinforces inattention toward God. Then too, the minimal prayer accompanying many projects in the church may indicate that what is being undertaken is simply what human beings can accomplish pretty well by themselves... [This stems from] a failure to comprehend the transforming role the Holy Spirit plays in every redemptive enterprise."
What is another reason for prayerlessness? Lovelace cites: "Imperfect forms or prayer or models of the Christian life which require superhuman bouts of prayer in order to qualify at an acceptable level of saintliness... In such cases prayer is not an expression of faith in God's grace, but a monument erected to attract his attention. Trust is not centered on the God who constantly oversees our paths and knows our needs, but on prayer itself, which must be used as a magical lever to pry answers from an unwilling God. Since there is a great deal of defective Christianity in existence, it follows that there is plenty of defective prayer, and one generation full of it can produce a succeeding generation which hardly prays at all."
Likewise: "In small prayer groups, often the concerns which are shared and prayed about are wholly personal, involved with healing, psychological adjustment, and other immediate burdens. Larger issues which are closely related to the interests of the kingdom of God are ignored. Groups in which this occurs should make a determined effort to engage in kingdom-centered prayer.
The Lord's Prayer is instructive. It is no accident that it begins first with the worship of God himself, moves on to involve the doing of His will on earth and the coming of his kingdom, and only then turns to the immediate personal concerns of supply, forgiveness and spiritual deliverance."
How much praying is enough praying? "Just how much intercessory prayer is normative for a Christian lifestyle today? Oddly enough, the Scripture does not seem to recommend the long formal bouts of prayer favored by the desert fathers, some of the monastic writers, and many Puritans. 'Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 says, 'Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you are on earth, therefore let your words be few.'
Perhaps Jesus had this passage in mind when he cautioned the disciples, 'Do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, who think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask him' (Mt. 6:7-8)...
As one Puritan remarked, 'It is best to pray briefly, but often.' A day interwoven with many such prayers may be part of what Paul meant in advising us to 'pray constantly' (I Thess. 5:17)...
We might say we have interceded enough when we have held before God the major responsibilities which confront us, and any wider burdens which the Holy Spirit may suggest from day to day -- and have exercised faith that he is at work in these. This is not a difficult labor. There may be times when it can be the work of minutes. Whereas too little prayer is an expression of unbelief in God's love and care; so is too much.
If all regenerate church members in Western Chritendom were to intercede daily simply for the most obvious spiritual concerns visible in their homes, their workplaces, their local churches and denominations, their nations, and the world (and the total mission of the body of Christ within it), the transformation which would result would be incalculable."
May God pour out such a spirit of prayer upon His Church, Pastor Jeff