Ten Hindrances to Prayer - Part 1
Whatever Happened to the Prayer Meeting?
Once upon a time the New Testament church and churches birthed from New Testament churches had what was known as a prayer meeting. This prehistoric creature invaded the lives of the New Testament church. The churches thrived under its visitation. But much like all dinosaurs, it has all but become extinct in most churches. Would you believe that satan has become very successful at stopping the most powerful event in the life of the church?
In this short series I want to examine the failure of the modern church in the area of prayer, and I want to expose the weaknesses so that they may be strengthened. If you read this hub you will become responsible for making whatever changes the Holy Spirit may show you. These areas concern the corporate prayer meeting, not individual prayer.
It seems that many churches use Wednesday night as a time for prayer, but in reality the day or time does not matter, and in reality, most of the time these meetings are not prayer meetings at all. Call it a mid-week service, but please do not mislead your people by calling what is just another service a prayer meeting.
Singing or Praying?
Usually the night begins with a song or two. That makes a good start as long as there is true praise coming from your lips.It seems sometimes that we just mouth the lyrics to the songs rather than offer true praise to the One who set us free. It may even be that we lie while singing the praises because our heart and words do not match.
The next step quite often is a time of "sharing God's blessings". This also is appropriate if it is coming from a heart of thankfulness. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times. Someone stands and says, "I want to thank God for using me to witness to this person." I want to thank God for allowing me to be used by Him as I reached out to so and so." Wonderful! We should be thankful every time chooses to use us in His work, but it is HIS work. Underneath the praise is a heart filled with pride that speaks louder than the words spoken. Observe how many times a person uses the pronouns, "i", "me", or "my". It is quite telling.
The Famous Bible Study Time
What shows up next on the agenda quite often is the Bible study. Again, there is nothing wrong with Bible study, but its place is not in a prayer meeting. Perhaps the leader could share a verse or two about prayer to help prepare the hearts for a time of seeking God, but remember that this is a prayer meeting, not a Sunday morning service. Use the time to focus on its purpose - prayer.
I have been to many meetings that go something like this: sing for ten minutes; praise and blessings - ten minutes; Thirty minutes of Bible study; prayer for five minutes. This all too familiar formula is all too common in many churches. But the worst thing is that it is called a prayer meeting when in reality it is anything but a prayer meeting. Study the New Testament prayer meetings. You will not find this "order of service" anywhere.
Where is the Holy Spirit?
What if the Holy Spirit says, "Sing for 30 minutes?" What if He says, "Forget the Bible study tonight?" Schedules have no place in a prayer meeting, or for that matter in any service. The Holy Spirit should be free to lead as He desires, not be suffocated by man's traditions and expectations.
You know it is true. In most American churches on any given Sunday or Wednesday night, the Holy Spirit is quenched, is stifled, simply because man does not listen to His voice nor does man care to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. Far too often our "prayer meetings" become nights of entertainment and feel good times. We forget that it is all about the God of the Universe who wants to meet with us. It has nothing to do with our feelings, or even our needs. We have come to seek Him and meet with Him on His terms, not what is convenient for us.
What would you think if your Wednesday night meeting continued for three or more hours in prayer? Are you flexible enough to allow the Holy Spirit that option? This is where revival praying takes place. This is where lives are changed. This is what happens when God has the run of the show instead of a church board. There is nothing that can replace or compare to quantity and quality time with God Himself.
A Prayer Meeting?
I was invited to a "prayer meeting" at a church once. The scenario was similar to the one mentioned above. There was a time of singing. On cue, the song service stopped, and it was time for a "message" from God's Word. For the next 45 minutes we barely scraped the surface of what the Scripture had to say. I must say that ears were tickled though. Everybody felt good because they did their weekly thing.
The teenagers met in another part of the building. Promptly at 8:00 o'clock (exactly one hour after the service started), the preacher stopped preaching and informed us that we had 15 minutes to pray because the youth group would be dismissed at exactly 8:15. Talk about pressure. Some people said their token prayers and were out the door in about five minutes. Others left immediately after the preaching. Please don't keep the youth group waiting!
At another meeting I attended, the playscript was similar. For close to an hour the preacher beat one verse until there was nothing left. I have no clue as to what he spoke about. Then after he was out of breath, he dismissed us for prayer which lasted no more than seven minutes.
I'm not saying these things are bad. I'm just saying whatever happened to the prayer meeting? Whatever happened to the folks who would cry out to God in Heaven-sent anguish on behalf of their lost family and friends? Where have all the tears gone? Are we really too proud to shed a tear because we so desperately need the Lord? Actually, we are probably too proud to admit we need the Lord. We can do it all - or so we think.
The Prayer Meeting Has Been Traded
The truth is very few churches have prayer meetings anymore. You can trade in your prayer meeting for a mid-week service, but that is not where the power is. The New Testament church began from a group of believers uniting themselves in prayer for ten days in an upper room. Later their prayers would open prison doors and shake the very foundations.
Do you know it is still possible to set prisoners free through prayer? It is still possible to rock the foundation of the world? It is still possible to see God do the impossible. This may not be for me to say, but again, maybe it is - your church will never have the power of God on it unless it is bathed in prayer on a regular basis. You need to immerse yourself in prayer seeking God. Your church needs to return to seeking God collectively if it is not doing that right now. Somebody has to stand up and make a difference. It may as well be you. Challenge the people in your group to go deeper with God through corporate prayer. Get the power of God on your life and on your church again.
Time is running out! It is time to get back to basics. In the next installment I will begin to list ten hindrances to the prayer meeting for you to consider.The first thing to consider is, do you have a prayer meeting?
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