"Can we become a people of prayer?" asked B.U.V. General Superintendent, Rev John Simpson in his address to 1992 Annual Assembly. It seems the type of question that ought not be necessary to ask of a church, much less a denomination. And yet the cry is poignant because it reflects the general state of prayerlessness in the church, which is perhaps reflected in the decreasing esteem and influence of the church in the world today.
Prayer meetings in the church are usually the poorest attended of all meetings. A great many christians mourn the lack of prayer in their own lives and seem to be able to do little to turn it around. Some theologies seem to indicate that prayer is not really important because God will achieve his purposes in spite of our prayer, or we ought to be more into action than prayer.
E.M.Bounds writes "Prayer does not stand alone. It is not an isolated duty and independent principle. It lives in association with other christian duties, is wedded to other principles, is a partner with other graces. But to faith, prayer is indissolubly joined." In other words, a christian life apart from prayer is at best weak, and at worst, barely even christian.
What has caused this decline in prayer in the church? Part of the cause is the style of life today. Most of us are caught up in a rapid pace of activities. For many, even the energy to work consumes most of the available strength. Returning home at night to face family pressures and demands leaves little energy for God. At the same time, prayer has less obvious results in many cases. Whereas I can sit at the computer and produce a printed page at the end, what is there to show for the work of prayer?
And yet the very fabric of the church depends on our ability and discipline in spending time searching the heart of God. It was in prayer that the church was born. It was through prayer that Jesus faced Calvary, even sustained His whole ministry. It is in prayer that our own walk with God is nurtured, sustained and grown.
Can we become a people of prayer? How do we begin to become a people of prayer? The greatest journeys only ever begun with one small simple step. Can we begin the journey by spending five minutes each day praying for the church? for our families and friends? for our neighbours? When we seek God's hand on our lives, the consequences might be amazing!