Just to give you a chance to bail out right now: (1) This blog post is about prayer, and (2) I’m going to offend you.
In every church I’ve ever attended or been associated with, the least-attended gathering is the prayer meeting. Guaranteed. When the pastor says, “We’re going to gather just to prayer,” people stay away. Want to hear something else painful? Jim Cymbala nailed it in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:
“You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night. You can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.”
Jesus knew this, too. When He had a prayer meeting with His followers, they couldn’t even stay awake!
Here are four reasons why I think this is true:
1. Prayer has no entertainment value. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we go to church to be entertained, but there is a certain element of that in a typical church service: we listen to good music, laugh at a humorous video, engage with an effective sermon. We’re largely passive, just absorbing what’s going on.
2. Prayer is hard work. We’re doing spiritual battle, and everything in our flesh is going to fight against this. Prayer requires physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. It’s draining work.
3. We want immediate visible results. In our microwave, cellular phone, on-the-go world, we want everything faster and faster. Something is happening when we pray, but we may not see the results of our prayers immediately.
4. Prayer is naked communication. We’re talking to the All-Knowing Creator of the Universe. There is a certain level of discomfort when we come into God’s presence. Adam and Eve hid when they knew their sins would be seen by God, and we have a tendency to avoid God’s presence for the same reason.
Perhaps this is why Jesus said if just two of us come together in prayer He would be right there with us. I think Jesus knew that prayer meetings wouldn’t attract the large crowds of a concert or even a Sunday morning church service. So if just two people got together who wanted to do the hard work of praying, He would be right there.
If your church, like ours, is kicking off this new year with a time of prayer, don’t become discouraged by the lack of attendance. Keep on praying—Jesus is right there with you.