The Power of Prayer

Posted: Oct 23, 2023

“I know of no better thermometer to your spiritual temperature than this, the measure of the intensity of your prayer.”
– Charles Spurgeon

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. The way fruit remains firm is through prayer, but remember that it is prayer based on the agony of Christ in redemption, not on my own agony. We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a “wise” man does not (see Matthew 11:25). Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are.
– Oswald Chambers

“The world has yet to see a Christlike, victorious, and fruitful believer who was not a person of considerable prayer.”
– Jim Cymbala

Jim Cymbala stepped into the role of senior pastor for the Brooklyn Tabernacle in 1971. At the time, the church was made up of around 20 persons meeting in a beat up building in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.

Jim had been to neither Bible College nor seminary. He made prayer a top priority at their church. As Jim wrote in his book Breakthrough Prayer, “As we stood in that rundown building, tears flowing freely and our voices lifted in prayer, we knew that we faced problems that only God could defeat.” They continued to make fervent prayer a part of their ministry, which included breaking up the flock into small groups to share and pray for each other during their weekend church services and holding weeknight prayer services.

Today the Brooklyn Tabernacle is attended by thousands; God has radically changed the lives of many who have come off the streets living desperate lives in drug or alcohol addiction, prostitution, gangs, or other problems and come to Christ. Rather than dumb down his messages to make the church attractive to the unchurched, Cymbala built the church on prayer, holiness, and the unshackled truth of God’s word.

In Breakthrough Prayer, which was written 20 years ago, Jim shared the following story:

“I know of a unique ministry who goal is to restore and encourage pastors and missionaries who have been forced out of the ministry for various moral lapses. I learned an interesting fact from this organization’s interviews with hundreds of clergymen. In not one case was the minister at the time of failure experiencing a daily meaningful prayer life. The problem was not God’s refusal to give grace but rather man’s refusal to ask God for the strength to withstand sin’s onslaught.”

It’s stunning that so many in leadership positions in ministry would lack a consistent prayer life. There are multiple implications here… seminaries aren’t teaching pastors how to have an effective prayer life or equipping them for the intense spiritual battles they will face, or pastors are too busy or so overwhelmed with the needs of their flock that they allow their prayer life to be quenched. Or, prayer doesn’t mean much to them and they don’t think they need it.

Most if not all of those fallen ministers would have attended to Bible College or need seminary education. Many would have known the original Greek and Hebrew texts and spent hours studying the Bible and memorizing Scripture. Some would have a collection of degrees (I’ve met pastors who had upwards of 5 degrees and a set of letters after their name). No matter how much head knowledge a believer may have, there is no spiritual power without prayer, let alone a vibrant love relationship with God.

Most (90%+) of the men who come to us for help, including pastors, youth ministers and worship leaders, have little in the way of an effective prayer life. When asked when they last had an hour alone with God in silence, the usual response is “never” or “it’s been a long time.” We often mentor men and women on how to have an effective prayer life and engage in spiritual warfare.

Prayer is the spiritual life-blood of the believer. The book of Psalms is jammed with prayers. Stories abound throughout the Bible of men and women who received mercy, forgiveness, healing, and victory after crying out to God in fervent, heaven-rending prayer. Jesus modeled a life of prayer during his frequent visits to desolate places where He would spend hours in prayer. The early church began with seven days straight of prayer meetings; throughout the book of Acts we see the early church meeting for prayer. That prayer-powered church was so powerful that they exploded in growth, were persecuted as a result, then scattered and grew even more. Scripture calls the church “a house of prayer,” (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13), not a house of teaching, doctrine, or worship, as powerful and needed as those are.

Paul wrote of being in fervent prayer often, to the point of tears:

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Philippians 3:18

“I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.”
2 Timothy 1:3-4

Jesus modeled passionate prayer for us:
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”
Hebrews 5:7

And who can forget the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed with such intensity that He sweated blood?

“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great
drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Luke 22:44

That night in Gethsemane must have been the setting of one of the most intense spiritual battles in all of history. Jesus told His sleepy disciples to focus on the most powerful spiritual weapon in their arsenal:

”And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour?’ Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:40-41

They were all about to be attacked with fear, doubt, and other temptations of the flesh. None of the apostles prayed that we know of. All were scattered except Peter and John, and Peter’s flesh-driven attempt to follow Jesus into the warzone ended in the massive failure of denying Christ three time, even with cursing.

If prayer is so critical, why has the modern church allowed the prayer meeting to become extinct when it should be front and center?

Not long ago I attended what was promoted as an all-day prayer summit put on by another ministry. I was looking forward to it, and imagined spending hours in prayer, with periods of silence, confession of sin, and intercession mixed in.

They kicked the “prayer summit” off with a worship band playing at full tilt. The rest of the day was sprinkled with speakers, touches of prayer, more of the worship band, and a dash of fellowship. In other words, it was a typical American praise and worship service. There was fruit from it, but nothing like what it could have been if we were all on our knees crying out to God.

We visited a church recently that had several minutes of silence that was meant for a time of prayer. The problem was that the worship band was playing during the entire time, which made it hard to focus and listen to the Spirit.

We’re afraid of, and conditioned to avoid silence by many of our churches. You can’t have an effective prayer meeting with distractions.

Then there’s this:

Screens. Entertainment. We’re spending thousands of hours hypnotized by them each year. Jesus coming to the disciples and finding them sleeping comes to mind, only it’s the screen that has sedated us. The glazed look in the eyes of the guy in this picture says it all.

We’re too busy, worn out, burnt out, or comfortable to pray. Reading the Bible is easy; prayer takes emotional energy, consistent effort, and can trigger warfare. We don’t know how to pray, or worse, we see prayer as something “good Christians are supposed to do” and pray because we should, not because we want to. We’re knowledge-driven (or addicted to it?) and prefer to bury our head in doctrine or theology. God isn’t the priority we say He is… we don’t want to pray.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), known as the Prince of Preachers, has been called one of the greatest preachers of all time. The Metropolitan Tabernacle where he taught attracted thousands and had worldwide influence. When asked for the secret behind his success, Spurgeon replied “My people pray for me.” They had prayer meetings all through the week that were attended by hundreds.

Spurgeon attended neither Bible College nor Seminary, and refused to be ordained.

“I am afraid that when we hear a minister, we like his delivery to be excellent and find fault unless he shows some degree of talent. I wonder whether that is not a sin? I am half inclined to think it is. I think we should look less every day to talent and more to the matter of the gospel that is preached. If a minister is blessed with eloquent speech, are we more profited by him or might it be our weakness? I sometimes wonder whether we should return to the days of fishermen and give no ministers any education whatsoever.”
– Charles Spurgeon

With no degrees in his portfolio, Spurgeon would be rejected by many of our modern churches of today, especially with sharp words such as these:

“It is utterly impossible that you should have a large measure of grace unless it prompts you to use it to influence others. If your soul has grace at all, and you are not a mighty intercessor, that grace must be but as a grain of mustard seed—a shriveled, puny thing.”

Prayer is a gift of power. In prayer we ask for and receive God’s wisdom (James 1:5). Prayer shatters strongholds and breaks the power of lies. I bring prayer into counseling with others frequently and have used it to do the same in my life as God shows me areas that need healing.

Prayer is the doorway to the throne room of grace, with all of God’s forgiveness, holiness, power, mercy and love. Bring God into your temptations the moment they hit and don’t stop praying until the battle is won. When you sin, confess it to the Lord quickly that you may receive grace and forgiveness and keep moving forward in the battles and eternal purpose He’s given you.

Prayer is your spiritual nuclear weapon and is critical for spiritual warfare. Strive for at least an hour of prayer every day; you must become a prayer warrior.

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Colossians 1:9-12

Ask! If you want to know His will, ask Him, wait for His answer, and keep asking if needed. Prayer is the only thing we’re commanded to do without ceasing. Bring God into your decisions, the direction of your life, marriage, family, business, temptations, and ministry every day. I ask Him to align me with His will often, sometimes multiple times a day. I also ask Him to align my prayers with His heart and desires as I want His wisdom and anointing for what I pray for.

“Pray without ceasing.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
Colossians 4:2

Pray with and for others, often, at least once a week at minimum. Prayer meetings are supposed to be a way of life for every believer. A prayer meeting takes place when two or more praying believers are present. Pray often with your spouse and family members, and if possible, your co-workers.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
James 5:16

Jim Cymbala writes:
“Each month I am flooded by emails and letters from people who want to escape a life of spiritual barrenness. People want to see more prayer in their churches, but the deacon board or pastor squelches the idea. When it comes to de-emphasizing prayer and the prayer meeting in churches across the land, where are the spiritual results that prove we have found a better way?… So often we seem content with the status quo rather than reaching out for more of God. Because of this we seem to have little effect on the world around us. Instead, we grieve over large numbers of wayward children, a growing tide of divorce, and increased addiction to pornography. All these afflict the church itself—yet even this host of ills can’t seem to stir us up enough so that we cry out to God… Passionate, desperate prayer is definitely out of vogue today.”

We must make our churches houses of prayer. This means breaking up into groups to pray on Sunday morning and firing up prayer meetings during the week. If I was pastoring a church, I would run prayer meetings 7 days a week. If two people show up, that’s enough.

Prostitution in California

A few days ago, Fox News posted an article titled “G-string-clad prostitutes prowl San Diego streets; families, businesses forced to scramble.”

California passed a law that allows solicitation for sex while simultaneously keeping prostitution illegal. In reality, prostitution is technically legal in California; law enforcement offices are saying it’s now extremely difficult to enforce the law in this area now.

From the Fox News Report:

“The law took effect in January this year, which a business owner argued emboldened prostitutes and pimps to prowl city streets for johns with few repercussions. “It makes me still blush at times. These are some very confident women. … They are wearing G-strings. …. Their breasts are completely exposed. There was one that was wearing a Letterman’s jacket and nothing else,” the business owner said. “It’s the residents that are feeling the most of this. There’s children that are having to step over byproducts. Parents are having to explain to children why, at 7:30 in the morning, when they’re going to school, that there’s two women in G-strings shaking their butts and showing their breasts and trying to stop vehicles,” the business owner said.

California, with its 40 million residents, has long been labeled a trend setter for the country “As goes California so goes the nation”.

How much more ground will Satan have to take before our churches hit their knees in fervent prayer, and openly talk about the tidal wave of sexual sin that continues to overwhelm the church and the nation?