The Forgotten Altar - Part 6 - All God's People Want to Pray
Isn't it amazing how you can read a familiar passage in the Bible a hundred times, and then one day it jumps off the page, grabs you by the throat, and turns your life in a different direction.
Some good reasons to begin your e-book library today for only 99c:
Hearing God Speak
The Last Ocean
by Lowell Snow
Isn't it amazing how you can read a familiar passage in the Bible a hundred times, and then one day it jumps off the page, grabs you by the throat, and turns your life in a different direction. That happened to me as I was preparing a sermon on Luke 19:46 where Jesus says…'It is written, My house is the house of prayer"... I realized that I didn't really know what a 'house of prayer' was. I did know that our church wasn't.
As I pleaded with the Lord for direction, He convicted me about my attitudes toward Pentecostal and Catholic services I’d attended as a teenager. He pressed on my heart that He liked the congregational prayer they were doing a whole lot more than the nothing I was doing.
We had prayers during our worship, but they were all monologue prayers. I tried everything I knew to bring congregational prayer to life. I built prayer benches at the front of the auditorium, preached a series of sermons on prayer, and expanded our prayer ministry, but nothing changed in the worship service. The pew sitters were still sitting right where they always had, doing just what they had always done: watching and listening.
About that time, the church graciously gave me a two-month sabbatical. I traveled the country attending great churches. One of my goals was to see how these famous congregations did congregational prayer. I was disappointed. They had wonderful worship and great preaching, but no congregational prayer. Don't misunderstand; these were great praying churches with hundreds of people involved in their prayer ministries. However, the people in the pew were not being led to pray any more than the folks in my church.
Did you get what I just said? This is a huge issue. Congregations are not being led to pray and the great pastors and leaders of the evangelical church in America seem oblivious to the problem. They preach about prayer. They write books about prayer. They believe in prayer. They just don't lead their congregations to do it during worship.
I returned from the sabbatical refreshed, but God was still breaking my heart for my congregation. I had to find a way to help them all encounter God through prayer. The door began to open when the Heavenly Father finally got a simple truth through to me.
God's people want to pray.
I was really confused by this revelation because I’d been struggling to get folks to pray. It was like pulling teeth. They wanted to do everything but pray. What was God saying? Here's what the Lord explained to me. Followers of Christ want to talk to their heavenly Father, but most of them are afraid to speak in public and they all hate being bored.
Most public prayer boils down to those two things, one person making a spiritual speech, while everyone else is bored.
When I started looking out across my congregation with the assurance that they wanted to talk with the Lord, I began to see congregational prayer in a whole different light.
I didn't have to make them pray, but I did need to give them some guidance.
I quickly realized that my Sunday morning pastoral prayer was a hindrance. The congregation wasn’t praying with me. I began to experiment. I tried lots of things, but wasn’t making much headway. Then one Sunday I made a surprising discovery: I’d been having an effective congregational prayer time for years without even realizing it. It was the invitation.
After my sermon, with music playing softly, I would have the congregation bow, then guide them through a time of reflection. I would suggest issues they might need to talk with God about. Then, just before I presented the altar call, I would guide them through a silent prayer of repentance and surrender to the will of Christ.
I began to apply these same techniques to my pastoral prayer. It took a while to sort out what did and didn't work in our laid back Baptist church, but a new chapter had begun in my pulpit ministry and the prayer life of our congregation. It was a dream come true, a passion fulfilled.
I’ll never forget the Sunday one of the young fathers stopped as he shook my hand on his way out of the sanctuary. He looked at me real serious and said, “Brother Lowell, I don’t listen to your pastoral prayer anymore.” You can imagine that he had my full attention as he smiled and continued, “You get me started talking to the Lord and I just don’t hear anything else you say.”
“Hallelujah!” I knew at that moment, God had taught me something dear to His heart.
We are trying to get into the e-book market and you can help us in two ways.
Why buy an e-book? Years ago, I received a letter from a fellow minister saying, "If you don't have a computer; you need to get one." He went on to explain how I could get free Bible concordance software that would do a word search of the whole Bible in a mater of seconds. If you can remember spending an hour with a magnifying glass searching the tiny print in a three inch thick Strong's Concordance; you know why he was so excited.
E-books may not be as radical a change as the early Bible study software, but they are the future. Here are some reasons to consider making this leap:
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