Conference challenges believers to make prayer priorityby C. Walter Overman
North Carolina Baptists from across the state came together Jan. 10-11 at Ridgecrest Conference Center for a prayer retreat and conference to learn how to be empowered in order to impact the world for Jesus Christ.
During plenary and dialogue sessions, attendees prayed for one another and learned how to be empowered by seeking God through prayer, praise and His Word.
Empowered through prayer
Although Christians believe in prayer and the power of prayer, not all Christians are prayer warriors. As some pray only when they are in need or when they find the time, learning how to change prayer habits within the church was a point of emphasis during the conference.
James Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., spoke about the need to change the “culture of prayer” in many churches. He said prayer meetings that focus more on the needs of parishioners than on the mission of the church is a hindrance to empowerment.
Walker told pastors the prayer culture in their churches must change if they sense a lack of Kingdom-focused prayer. Pastors can do so by teaching on prayer, modeling prayer, and organizing the church to pray specifically for the mission of the church in the community and around the world.
Speaking on individual prayer, John Franklin reminded the audience that two motivations drive people to pray: desperation and need, and encountering Jesus. The second motivation is what should be the driving force behind prayer, Franklin said.
Franklin, president of John Franklin Ministries, explained that God wants His people to pray out of a relationship rather than an activity. When Christians approach prayer as a means to encounter God, their walk with God is strengthened and God becomes a believer’s joy and source of power to impact people around them. Franklin warned that if the prayer culture does not change, God will make the church “really desperate in the coming days.”
Empowered through praise
In the “rut and routine” of life, Franklin said Christ-followers sometimes find it easy to forego daily prayer time in favor of meeting worldly demands. It’s a common problem many struggle to overcome.
One remedy to reclaim daily prayer time is to begin each day with personal praise and worship directed toward God. Franklin told the audience to focus on the great things God has done in their lives when they struggle to spend time in prayer. He said that is why Scripture routinely commands believers to declare the works of the Lord, adding that Christ-followers become empowered when they “remember the works of God.”
Franklin challenged believers to count the blessings God has provided in their lives and to remember how God delivered them through various trials and circumstances. He said when Christians reflect on the greatness of God in this way, they will be more likely to live empowered by a total dependence upon the Lord.
While praise is a mighty weapon when believers encounter spiritual warfare, Richard Owen Roberts, president of International Awakening Ministries, told the audience that too often believers credit Satan with too much power.
Roberts said spiritual attacks can be defeated with one word of praise directed toward God. “One hundred billion words spoken of Satan cannot defeat one acclamation of God,” he said.
Empowered through God’s Word
As important as prayer is to a Christian’s life, hearing the truths of God’s Word and putting those truths into practice is just as important. This requires effort from pastors and laypersons. Those who preach have a responsibility to present the whole counsel of God’s Word, and those who listen cannot pick and choose which parts to obey. When both sides do their part, the church becomes a powerful agent of lives changed by the Gospel.
When asked if there is a “famine of hearing the Word,” Roberts responded with a tough critique of modern preaching. He said too many sermons are aimed at the head, and not at the heart, of listeners. According to Roberts, the church must purge itself of “all the nonsense” it calls preaching and return to the New Testament model of preaching; a model that included a mix of sound doctrine and exposition of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the Word of God is used properly it will make incredible differences in individual lives, in the life of the church, and in society, Roberts said. True preaching should be an experience with God where believers “meet the Lord in His Word.”
Such an encounter will impact and change lives. That type of Spirit-filled preaching will empower the church to fulfill its mandate to reach the nations with the gospel.
For more information about prayer and prayer resources, visit the BSCNC Office of Prayer.