Why Western Churches Don't Pray...Much
Two Sundays ago I promised to post a link to John Piper’s 1995 comprehensive list of the things for which the New Testament Church prayed. Here it is: JOHN PIPER’S LIST.
Prayer is one of those topics about which all Christians seem to agree, yet not all Christians practice with the same ferocity. In fact, many Christians have little or no manifestation of prayer in their lives, save the formal settings of life (meal times, bed times, church settings). In light of the New Testament’s description of the church’s commitment to prayer, we have a couple things to think about regarding prayer and God’s power in the church.
Some have wondered why the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit isn’t more tangible in the western Christian Church. What I mean is that while the Holy Spirit is obviously at work (people can’t become Christians or grow as Christians apart from His influence), there does seem to be a descriptive difference between the presence of the miraculous in the New Testament church by comparison to the times since the era of enlightenment (1685-1815) and during our post-enlightenment era (our present generation that is actually defying the “Age of Reason”).
The conclusion I have come to is that many of us in our era are delusionally self-dependent. Those who claim to be “self-made” are often in denial about the assistance they received along the way or the seemingly random “breaks” they got (referring to fate or chance or some holding to some sense of pride about “luck favoring the prepared” - Edna, The Incredibles). Either way, we don’t really focus on the reality that we can’t reach our goals without the help of others.
Oddly, Christians and non-believers are in agreement that humans can’t perform the miraculous (i.e., supernaturally heal others or see medical miracles by their own strength). It’s just that those who don’t believe in God don’t think miracles are possible at all. So, we as a culture are united in our understanding of humankind’s limitations. Yet, the western Christian has a dilemma on their hands in that they logically believe that God can do the miraculous, but lack the will or faith to make praying for the miracle part of their lives.
Perhaps its that we often have to wait for our miracles that makes the impatient of us not ask for them in the first place. It could be that we wonder whether or not God really does answer prayers, because in the past we’ve asked and he either said no or seemed silent. In either event, what we wanted to transpire so we gave up on the practice of really putting our needs before Him.
Perhaps deep down inside you doubt that God really does exist and that he answers those who pray to Him? This would be an impediment to the miraculous taking place in your life. What is certain is that if you’re an affluent Christian who never prays for the miraculous, you’re unlikely to see it.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” - HEBREWS 11:6
Prism Church intentionally places prayer in the place of prominence on our church calendar because we know that we can’t accomplish any part of our Mission without the Lord’s power. As a church we will continue to step out in faith, putting the congregation in a position to have to trust God, because that is how we grow in our faith.
In the end, our comfort in safe places and lack of prayer for the miraculous go a long way to explaining the seeming gap between the contemporary western church and the one described in the New Testament.