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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Prayer: The More The Better?

I had a great conversation the other day with a colleague about prayer. As missionaries, we know that prayer is vital to our work, and consider raising prayer support a major part of our work. I think that if you asked any of us on the field how many people we wanted praying for us, most of us would say, "As many as possible!"

But our conversation got me thinking about prayer in our missions endeavors. We say that prayer is important, but why is it important? We say that we need all the prayer support that we can get, but what does that mean?

I recently read an article about Church Planting Movements. In it, the author outlined the "12 reasons we aren't seeing church planting movements in Western Europe." At the top of the list was "lack of prayer." If we had more prayer, he reasoned, we might really see God move.

So how many people do we need to pray, and how often? Where do we get the idea that more praying is better? Yes, I know that the purpose of prayer is to change our mind, not God's,
but why is it better to have five thousand people praying than to have five hundred? Where do we get the idea that more is better?

13 comments:

Watchman said...

why do people say the purpose of prayer is to change our minds, not God's? Did all that end at Aijalon, the day the sun stood still, the day the Lord listened to a man? The text says there has never been a day like it before or since.

Why can't God change his mind anymore? We see him relenting in the Old Testament. Is that dispensation over? Somewhere it seems we picked up the idea that God cannot change His mind or direction, cetainly not because of His children. That would indicate some kind of weakness on His part.

If all we've got is a Father who wants us to straighten up and get in line, I'm not sure I got in the right queue.

Debbie said...

Prayer gives us the privilege of being a part of what God is doing. He uses it as a ordained mode to do what He is going to do. When someone feels burdened to pray, I believe it is God who puts that burden there.

Romans 12:12. Acts 1:14,Acts 2:42, Acts 6:4, Col. 4:2 all speak of devotion to prayer.

I believe it is also for the comfort of the person we are praying for, one praying is all that is needed but the more that pray, the more comfort it is to the one being prayed for. One person can only pray for so long but many can pray at different times. What you do as a missionary is of utmost importance.

I believe God acts when we pray. He can do what I cannot do and many times faster. What I could do in several years, God can do in seconds.

Paul preached to the church to be devoted to prayer. I find that whenever something is in the Bible many times, I am to realize the importance of that. All the Bible of course is important, but things the Bible speaks of more than once seems to demand my utmost attention and prayer or praying is spoken of more than 700 times.

gea3 said...

One praying seems better than a distribution list of thousands. It seems we are touching on the mystery of communicating with an all-knowing God. How does it work? Who knows? Only God.

Trey Atkins
Croatia

cafeaddict said...

where does "the more the better" come from? are you serious stepchild? aren't you an american?

okay now seriously. i agree and disagree with that statement for these reasons. one, i disagree with watchmen that we can change god's mind. however that is a discussion of open theism and that isn't the point of your post. if our objective is to get more people to pray so that god will respond in a certain way, then i have to say that "the more the better" idea of prayer is way off. god is sovereign and will act as he will regardless of the number of prayers. we cannot coerce him by our sheer numbers.

two, i agree with the statement "the more the better" if approached from the direction debbie mentioned. god is at work. he burdens people to pray for things he has already decided he is going to do. when we pray, we acknowledge that he alone can do it. by joining him through prayer, we get a front row seat to his works. as a result, we are amazed, he is glorified, lives are changed and faith is strengthened. for this reason and this reason alone, "the more is the better."

ewinwe said...

more is better is a very american thing to say (or should i say it's a "'MERICAN thang t'say")

i, for one, am a fan of wide distribution lists, not because i really think that mo' is betta', but because i know the 80/20 rule ... and i know most folks seem to live by that one ... so if i have 20% of my distribution list actively yarping for us 80% of the time, that's better than having 100% just reading the most recent 'pretter'* and saying "aw, ain't that nice, the m's are working on something".

*pretter - pr***r + letter - oh how cool, i've coined a new m-phrase!!! woo hoo!!!

Watchman said...

Maybe the idea of "more is better" comes from the thinking that if I ask 200 people to pray, maybe I can find someone out of that number who will actually pray with some kind of authority, not be so faithless in their petition and come up with one who believes their requests actually mean something to the Father. Maybe 1 in 200 believes that Jesus really did give us authority and that we should exercise that authority in advancing His Kingdom.

A few years ago I began to examine how I pray. One, I found I never really asked the Father for anything. Two, I didn't really expect God to do anything. I think I was part of the 199. I approach prayer very differently now.

stepchild said...

I think the "more is better" mentality is pretty American, but I also think it's rooted in some sort of "ten more and we can get God to do what we want" mentality. I hope it isn't.

Prayer has always been a mystery to me. I think I've seen it misused for so long that I'm wary of all the prayer tactics and models out there. I prefer to think of it a just "talking to God." That's the best way for me to keep a perspective that prayer is important and involves as much (more?) listening than talking.

If we're using prayer as a way to involve more people in our ministries, I can see how that would be a good thing. More people means more resources, more attention, and, at least in theory, more encouragement and support. I know I can always use that.

Watchman, you'll notice that I haven't addressed your comment yet...

Strider said...

Prayer is a major offensive weapon in our arsenal. I don't know about 'changing' God's mind. That is biblical- God literally changed his mind in reaction to Moses' prayer. I hate open theism with a great hate so we will assume some kind of middle ground here.
God invites us to pray to Him. Some have said he does nothing but in answer to prayer- not quite true but a good Kingdom principle none the less.
Here's my thing on the 'more' issue. We are at war. The troops are arranged by the Lord of Hosts. He gives us each different gifts and insights into who He is and what He is up to. He purposely makes us dependent on each other. I need lots of people praying for me, my family, and the work He has us about because different people will pray in different ways as they each have their own understanding of what He is up to. It is more than just 'getting 100 people on board so that at least two will actually pray'. It is the King getting the resources needed for the battle lined up. The charge goes forward. The enemy is stymied because he is hemmed in by the focused attention that the King himself has orchestrated. Someone asks for health, another for opportunities to share, another for protection against temptation and sin, another for the veils to be lifted from the eyes of those we serve. You get the idea.
When we fail to live this way we see... well we see what we too often see. Good initiatives fail. People whom we were sure had a key role to play get sick and go home. Key friends turn apostate. Love grows cold.
We need a lot of folks to play their parts if we are going to take a stronghold such as Middle Earth, or Western Europe or home town USA.
Now you guys can attack me for sounding too much like Peter Wagner but honestly, I don't read him. I believe what I just lined out is found in Jesus' parables, in Paul's letters, and in my and your experiences.
Let's keep challenging each other to pray faithfully. Our ministries, our families, and our lives depend on it.

stepchild said...

Come on, Strider! You should know by now that the only one who gets attacked on this blog is the author!

I agree with what you say about spiritual warfare, and the "coverage" that we get from having many prayer partners.

Where I'm not convinced is the idea that we aren't seeing success because we don't have enough people praying.

Stay tuned, I'm preparing a post that explores this further.

ewinwe said...

chiming in again ...

having become so accustomed to the american expression (at least in churchy circles) of "i'll be praying for you", i must admit that i've become just a leetle, teeninsee bit jaded with it. yeah, i think it would be fantastic to have 100 people earnestly praying for me and my family ... that would make my day! and if everyone who used the expression above actually did it? wow!

then the reality sets in and i look back a moment and think, "whoa, hold on ... assume for a moment that they are all actually praying for you, are you also praying for them? enough???" and a little bit of guilt sets in. when we first arrived in western europe, we used our prayer-card book (where we put all the cards of our friends from training - at least those who had one) as a resource to remember others in our daily times of devotion. life in WE has moved pretty quickly, and we have not had the book out for several weeks ... not good!!! yeah, we have prayed for our family back home, and the neighbours in our village as well as those others who are in the same line of work as we are, but taking the time to look at names, faces, places, verses ... ja - it takes time, doch!
since i am not where the book is at the moment, i'll have to use my skype list as my prayerlist - to make sure i cover all my friends and co-workers this morning. gotta get my own house in order, ya know? and i'll be sure to add a few folks from here ... at least the ones who need it ...

Strider said...

Stepchild, your agreeing with me is attack enough for me:)

Watchman said...

I'm not erudite enough to know what open theism is.

The biggest gap I see in our understanding of prayer is missing the point that we are at war. Take the enemy out of the picture and all that's left is you and God. That must be where we come up with these tepid, innocuous notions that prayer is just about me changing my mind, that the real work of prayer is internal, not outward and tangible.

I'm with strider, except i've read peter wagner. at least the guy believes something and is willing to pray like it.

As you may be able to tell, i can get very worked up over this subject. (I've deleted all the swear words in my post) I have to admit that I swear now in prayer. Maybe this is part of my prayer language :), but to come to a point of all out freedom in doing warfare has been a good thing for me.

Perry McCall said...

ewinwe,

That is why I love to hear and I love to tell others...."Iwas praying for you.." or "I prayed for you yesterday!"