(By John Burton) I regularly hear from people who are passionate about prayer—yet they don’t know how to see that passion develop into an explosive culture of prayer in their lives, their churches and their regions. They crave a continual, intimate encounter with God, and they are zealous for this in the lives of others as well.
God has clearly called us to nurture a lifestyle of never-ending prayer that results in intimacy with Him and impact in our world. Yet it’s rare to find a people who have embraced this most elementary of instructions. Some are apathetic. Others are resistant. A growing number are ready. This article is for them—the ready remnant.
“… pray without ceasing …” (1 Thess. 5:17).
In another article titled, “5 Major Changes Coming to the Church” I brought attention to the role that prayer will be playing in the church:
“Services will become more like prayer meetings. One of the greatest indictments on the church today is that prayer is not the driving force. Today, people tend to choose churches based on the appeal of the teaching and the worship instead of the fervency of prayer. If the church was a house of teaching or a house of worship, that would make sense, but it’s not. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. Every person in the church will function as a burning intercessor and the services will be marked by this unified groan of fiery prayer.”
Like it or not, Scripture does make it clear that the church is a house of prayer for all nations. That’s its foundational identity, yet prayer is rare in the church, especially in the Sunday morning service. The Western church seems to be everything but a house of prayer, as other activities and focuses tend to take precedence.
“And He taught them, and said, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'” (Mark 11:17).
I’ve often said we’d be much closer to the biblical model of the church if we gathered together and did little else than pray for two hours on a Sunday morning. Add in some instrumental worship over the top of the prayer, some Spirit-driven exhortations and decrees of Scripture and we’d have a furnace of intercession that would transform entire cities! Just imagine if every church in a city did this!
Developing a Culture of Prayer
A culture of prayer can be developed in most any context, such as our homes or our personal lives as we move from place to place throughout the day. Probably the most obvious context in which a culture of prayer can be nurtured is the local church.
We’ll use the local church as our focus as I share some keys to seeing prayer grow and bring the impact it was designed to.
As we do this, keep in mind that the ultimate goal of prayer expanding in the local church is not the growth and impact of that church. The goal is the establishment of a Holy Spirit-fueled culture of prayer in the city. Biblically, the church isn’t defined by the local expressions in individual buildings, but rather simply by the region it is in.
Revival isn’t revival until it spreads through an entire region and the church of that region is gathering together in prayer and ministry on a large-scale level. This is why I believe stadiums are going to be full in the coming years. I see the thousands of people who make up the city church in a particular region coming together regularly to groan in intercession. Can you imagine the multitudes in one place on their faces contending in faith-driven, Spirit-empowered prayer for hours every single week? That’s the goal! Keep that in mind as you develop a prayer culture, whether it’s in your personal life, in your home or in your local church.
Senior Leaders Need to Get Involved
In the context of the local church, it’s imperative that senior leadership fully buys in, owns the vision and leads the people into the culture of prayer.
I’ll never forget the time I was waiting to talk with a well-known national church leader after a luncheon. An elderly couple was just in front of me and they were excitedly sharing their vision of seeing harp and bowl intercession and worship established in the churches there. They were sharing their vision and explaining how they were going into churches to hold workshops that taught people how to develop intercession there.
As they were talking, the leader they were talking to interrupted and simply said, “It will never work.”
I felt so bad for that couple! The life ebbed out of their faces and they were shocked that such a thing would be said. They sheepishly asked, “Why not?”
The leader revealed the truth behind his curt statement, “If senior leadership doesn’t have that vision burning in their veins they will not embrace it. It will not be supported and it will give way to what the pastor chooses is more appropriate to give time and energy to in the church.”
He was right.
If senior leadership doesn’t believe prayer is the main thing, it will be relegated to an off night in an unused room in the church. It will be treated as an extracurricular activity instead of the foundational purpose of the church even existing.
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 20 years and is a sought-after teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. He has authored nine books, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and is currently directing a prayer- and revival-focused ministry school in Detroit called theLab University. John also has a web- and graphic-design business and is continually developing new and exciting ventures. He and his beautiful wife, Amy, have five children and live in the Detroit area. He can be reached via his website at johnburton.net.