I have been thinking of the tremendous importance of prayer in pastoral ministry. It’s easy to lose sight of this in our very professional, technical-savvy world of church ministry these days. But in this thought I am reminded of those timeless words, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is useless…” (Psalm 127:1). We’re inclined to rely more upon our skills and knowledge developed from years of experience and various kinds of education. But the truth is, that no matter how much knowledge and experience we have had for the job, we are not much good without the immediate sense of God’s power at work in and through us.
In working with the church that now occupies much of my time I have become increasingly aware of my need for God’s grace and power in the situation. The work here has been slow and discouraging for many reasons. But there is a substantial population that are in great spiritual need and many are earnestly seeking for the kind of solution that the Gospel can only provide. It’s possible that great numbers of people in this city could come to know the Lord if conditions were right to make it happen. This would include strong vision based on God’s revelation and good leadership. But those things can’t happen without God’s unusual intervention.
Jesus demonstrated that prayer was foundational to his work. Again and again we read in the Gospels of his private times with his Father in heaven. And he often exhorted his followers to prayer because this was the atmosphere in which faith and revelation was able to flourish. How many obstacles in our own lives and work might be more readily overcome if we took this great means of grace more seriously?
I was graphically reminded of this even as I prepared to write this article. I had just begun when suddenly my lap-top began to shut down for no apparent reason. Yesterday I had been alerted to some dangerous viruses that were trying to make their way into my computer system. I thought they had been addressed successfully but now I wondered. Start-up didn’t seem to want to come easily. When it did, it was evident some repair was necessary. For awhile I wondered if all my files had been lost. I prayed. I asked the Lord to resurrect my computer. And He did! It took awhile, but slowly repairs were made and it ran again.
I don’t know what happened but I do know I felt a deep sense of dependence on the Lord and knew I needed to express that in prayer. Another time this week I became very aware of the fact that I was under some kind of spiritual attack. Again, I was forced to recognize my dependence upon God in the spiritual work that I am doing.
We should be careful to consider the extent with which we try to do God’s work in our own strength. So many of our natural resources in ministry turn out to be wasted, I think, because we fail to be existential about gaining access into the presence of God for our needs. Somehow, we need to ensure that prayer is the priority in ministry that God intended.