November 22, 2016

Prayer and Performance

Larry Steller

The lead pastor of a mega church once said, “I can’t get by on less than four hours a day in prayer!” That was intimidating to me, to say the least, and it still is!
Unfortunately, the scoreboard on pastors and personal prayer is not at times very impressive. A recent study discovered that only 47% are somewhat satisfied with their prayer life. Another study found that in a particular ministerial group the average pastor spent about five minutes in prayer, not per day, but per week! And, in my own experience, when I ask pastors and their spouses if they pray with and for each other, many of them can’t remember when that last happened.
And the pastor who couldn’t get by on less than four hours a day in prayer? At the time of this writing, that pastor is serving time in prison having been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from his congregation. Did it happen because prayer didn’t work? Of course not! I believe that man was just one of many pastors who fell into the temptation to use the spiritual disciplines to fulfill the needs of his natural disciplines. He got his spiritual disciplines mixed up with performance.
Discipline is not just a Christian virtue alone. Many of the extreme athletes of today are certainly disciplined in their sport but are not necessarily believers. Many musicians practice six or more hours a day and become great performers, but are not necessarily Christian performers.
Os Guinness in his book The Call says, “A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others- the Audience of One.”
Author Jerry Bridges advises, “I strongly urge overly busy pastors to cut down other ministry activities by an hour every day; then spend that first hour with God during which the pastor forgets sermons and people and prays, ‘Lord, here I am. What do You have to say to me today?’”
Effective ministry to people grows out of intimate experiences with God. Consequently, relationship with God energizes and informs all phases of ministry. A healthy pastor has a healthy prayer life!
Question: If my spiritual health and ministry to others depends on a more intimate relationship with Christ, how would I change the practice of prayer in my own life?
Great resources on prayer:
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman

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