By Bishop Sunny Emmanuel
If you don’t pray – you don’t deserve to lead! I hope that statement offends you or even better; I hope it makes you angry, angry enough to start you and your church on a significant prayer journey. My intent in this article is not to hold your hand or cheer you on with sweet words of encouragement to a more fulfilling prayer life. My intent however, is to be hardcore and in your face about what you already know you should be doing. I, too, am a pastor, and I know exactly what you’re feeling and for the most part, what you’re facing. I know the pressures, the schedules and the demands of ministry. So let’s not play games about why we don’t pray. Let’s embrace the truth even if it hurts.
The truth is, we don’t pray because we’re too busy, too lazy or we simply don’t care. You and I both know we don’t need just another book on prayer. We’ve read and highlighted most of them already, but still we are not praying. We have prayer books, prayer tapes, prayer calendars, prayer meetings and prayer lunches, yet we still don’t pray.
We are in a prayer crisis in our churches and in our ministries. We have the mechanics of and the blueprint for prayer, but we don’t have a working model. We don’t have a meaningful prayer ministry in our church.
If you, as a pastor are not involved in personal prayer, how can you ever expect to lead God’s people? It’s insane! This article is a wake-up call to all of us. We are shooting ourselves in the foot and blaming the devil for all our problems.
According to “PRAY” magazine, the average pastor in America prays seven minutes a day. “Facts & Trends” magazine found only 16% of protestant ministers are satisfied with their prayer life. Do not think I am Americanized by this, rather if I have the facts about what the average pastors worldwide do I would have included it here. Knowledge they say is power! It’s time to take responsibility for our lack of prayer. There is a leadership principle that states; “most people don’t change because they see light, but because they feel the heat.” Our churches are feeling the heat, the effects of our prayerlessness and our lack of organized prayer.
If you are not teaching your people to pray, you are failing them as a pastor. You are denying them access to the supernatural power of God. It is your responsibility to equip your members to live victoriously. This is done by teaching them to pray and by introducing them to a relationship with a supernatural God.
So, if you are ready to begin this trek into prayer and leading others on this journey with you, lay your feelings aside. If you read something that hurts your feelings; “build a bridge and get over it.”
Answering the Call to Pray
We are so full of ourselves. We love to preach and we love to hear ourselves talk. We think our good preaching, good looks, great personalities, or our leadership skills are what are going to grow our church. We trust more in charisma, than we do in character; trust more in personality, than we do prayer. We couldn’t be more wrong! Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, you are laboring in vain.” Jesus said; “My house shall be called a house of prayer”. Yet, we often think offering up another program will get the job done.
Do you remember when you answered the call to ministry? You were so obsessed with serving God that you really couldn’t see or imagine yourself doing anything else but ministry. Do you remember the emotions, the level of commitment and the desire to fulfill that calling? You probably began some sort of preparation process that included Bible study, reading books, finding a mentor and enrolling in Bible school. The point is this; you began to prepare yourself for the calling on your life.
There is another calling upon your life besides that of a pastor or a leader. It is the call to pray. It is a higher calling than even the call to ministry or to preach the gospel. In prayer you will reach more people, change more lives and be more powerful than you could ever be just standing behind the pulpit preaching.
If you only answer the call to preach and not the call to pray, then you will limit your ministry to half of what is possible. If you preach without praying, your messages will be weak. If you lead without prayer; your leadership will continually lack. If you serve without prayer; you will grow tired and frustrated.
Answer the call to pray then become a student of prayer. The disciples said, “Lord teach us how to pray.” This simply means that prayer can be both taught and learned. You need to do both. You need to learn how to pray and be able to teach others what you know.
As you did for ministry, you will need to prepare for this calling. You need to study the prayers of the Bible. Read books and articles on prayer. Fill yourself up with the knowledge of prayer.
You will not properly direct your ministry or lead with any degree of clarity without an effective prayer life. Prayer is like the headlights of a car. Headlights allow you to see where you are going and to see what may be approaching. Leading without praying, makes about as much sense as driving a car at night without headlights. You are an accident waiting to happen.
Motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale once said to his audience; “If you read 500 books on any subject you will become a world renowned expert on that subject.” If you begin to read and study on the subject of prayer; you will become the ultimate authority in your church. Start praying! If ministry is hard… pray! If your church is struggling… pray! If you need finances… pray! If you hit a barrier… pray. If no one loves you… pray! Stop whining and start praying! If you don’t pray- you don’t deserve to lead. No one wants to follow a leader whose spiritual life is running on empty. You can’t lead people where you haven’t been yourself.
If You Don’t Pray – You Won’t Last
Ministry is too hard and life is too short to try to get through it without prayer! You will not make it. You will burn out, stress out, or strike out. If you are trying to do everything in your own strength, without prayer, you will go down in flames.
Not only that, but on a personal level, if you’re not praying – you’re straying. Every day you continue not to pray is another day you choose to walk just a little further from God. Prayer is the umbilical cord that keeps you attached to God’s presence and influence. You can’t help others get closer to God when you are avoiding Him like the plague yourself. How can you possibly think you could ever be successful without prayer in your life? The fact is; you know I am right (which proves the point you are being lazy)! Ask yourself this question, “Why am I beating my head against the wall by denying myself the power of prayer?” Don’t look at prayer as a last resort but rather as a first response.
*Bishop Sunny Emmanuel is a Senior Pastor with Christian Faith Centre International, Tilburg (Holland). He may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org