Summary: Prayer is the powerhouse of the believer.
Empowered By Prayer!
The Church is gasping for air. She is losing her power as her life slowly ebbs away. The ICU unit is filled to overflowing with scores of churches whose glory days were a generation ago, but who today are surviving only on a ventilator of determination to see another Sunday. Because of her lack of oxygen she has become single-minded in getting her next breath, in merely staying alive.
All over this country there are congregations who are dying a slow death. They have no vision because they are solely focused on paying their next bill and trying to maintain their membership. They have no passion for those who do not know of God's goodness and grace, they simply want to make sure they are happy and secure. They have no mission other than to keep their doors open. They have no God-sized plans because their plans are only as large as what they can handle and manage. They have no power because they have convinced themselves that if it is going to get done -- they must do it. They have forgotten that God is their Strength and their Redeemer! As a result, they are dying, dwindling, and declining in purpose, passion, and power.
Along with these dying churches are another group of churches who are dying a slow death and do not even know it. Like a cancer patient who does not know that his body is eaten up with cancer cells are these churches that carry on unaware that their very souls are being eaten by something far more deadly than cancer. These churches are in the most deadly of all situations because there are no outward signs that anything is wrong. New people are joining most every Sunday. There is more money than they can seem to spend. New programs are popping up like flowers in the Spring. When you look at what is happening you would be a fool to draw any other conclusion than "all is well," and yet, Jesus said of such a church,
14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:14-18 NIV)
While my family lived in Plano, Texas we saw congregation after congregation that flourished and grew by the thousands and are today a shell of their glory days. They drew large crowds and boasted of bulging budgets, but they neglected to lay a firm foundation that would sustain their mission and ministry for generations to come. They had preachers who were full of charisma and charm, who could hold a crowd in the palm of their hand, but they forgot to lay hold of the Master's hand. They had entire committees who gave themselves to "marketing" their church, making sure they had a TV presence, and were media savvy, but they neglected the one thing that could insure their power for the years to come.
What is lacking in both instances? What is it that causes a long established congregation who has lost its way to close its doors and see its ministry come to an end? What is it that eats away at a seemingly thriving congregation growing in membership and money, popularity and power in the public affairs of life, and prevents it from seeing God's power manifest over the long run? Quite simply put, it is the neglect of prayer. Prayerlessness is powerlessness. You can build a church on other things than fervent, ardent, impassioned prayer meetings, but you cannot sustain a church on any other food than the food of prayer.
If you look around today and take stock of Christianity in America what do you see? I see people seeking charismatic leaders, while God is looking for people who will seek Him on their knees. I see TV audiences made up of celluloid saints who prefer to be entertained, while God is seeking men and women who will labor in prayer. I see a Body of Christ that has grown fat and lazy while continuously crying out, "Bless me Lord, Bless me Lord," while God is seeking men and women who cry out, "Father, make me a blessing to some suffering soul."