About a year or so ago, our church seemed to desire a re-emphasis on prayer. We watched some dvd's from Brooklyn Tabernacle. We were encouraged to read books on prayer. Times of prayer were scheduled, etc. It was talked about that we needed to be a "praying church", and that quite possibly through that path - something similar to what broke out at Brooklyn Tab could happen in our neck of the woods.
Over time, the excitement and zeal over this thing called "prayer" died down a bit. Sure, we're still people who believe in prayer. Sure, we still pray. The expectation is that everyone is praying, and may even be praying more than before the re-emphasis. But we don't do a whole lot of it together.
Why is that?
I can't speak to the church as a whole. But I do know in youth ministry, the temptation is simple. I get paid to do ministry. I get paid to lead and talk and "minister". When I come to a Sunday or Wednesday, the temptation is to "prove" somehow that I'm worth what I'm being paid. To show off what I've studied. To establish myself as someone who has book learnin'. To poke my head into the world of church elders and assert that I am so much more than a pizza party and flip flops.
I also approach prayer as routine. Why? Because it's been a routine. Maybe I do it quietly in a closet where no one is near. Maybe I do it in a group, reciting familiar words and phrases. I do believe in prayer. I don't understand it completely, but I believe God is up to something in and through and from it.
Earlier this year, my wife and I experienced something that I think renewed the desire to pray in both of us. We were led through several guided prayer exercises (experiments). The Free Methodist Church paid a lot of money for an incredible speaker to come and give us guided times of silence. He was well worth the money.
Ever since, I've begun experimenting in the realm of youth ministry. I think it has been working well. I believe whatever may be lacking between the praying church we are, and the praying church we could be....involves guided prayer experiences that remind us that prayer can be MORE than routine...can be EXPERIENCES once again. Containing life and transformation and hope and renewal and....God. :)
My advice? Even if you're not in "youth ministry". If you want to know more about experiments in experiencing guided prayer....check out "Downtime" and go where that points you. :) Family devotions....Sunday School....personal time......etc. So many great opportunities for renewal....
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