Our Greatest Failing
August 7, 2008
Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

The following is by Pastor Buddy Smith of Malanda, Queensland, Australia --

It was in a missions conference almost forty years ago that a dear old missionary planted a seed in my heart that has grown into a very fruitful tree. In fact the older it gets the more fruit it bears. He told all of us young preachers about a question he asked every preacher he met. He asked it of pastors, and missionaries, and evangelists, and mission board directors and college professors, and retired pastors. He asked them all the same question. And he got the same answer every time. If I didn't know him to be a godly and honest man, I would question his results. I think he told me the truth.

The question? It went like this, “In your opinion, what is your greatest failing? What aspect of your life as a Christian is most in need of improvement?”

The answer? Time and time again, his preacher friends would search the archives of their hearts and then a look of great solemnity would come over their faces. And they would confess their universal failure, “My greatest shortcoming is my prayer life. That is where I am most inconsistent.”

I feel I must add my vote to theirs. Read my Bible? Witness to others? Study God's Word? Preach the truth? Live a clean life? All of these poll well. But my prayer life? It's a nice day today, isn't it?

Say, I wonder how our churches would answer if it were possible to ask them this question? If we could obtain an accurate answer to that question, what would it be? Would it be, “We don't pray enough. We don't pray with power. We don't storm the gates of Hell on our knees. We don't rattle the gates of Heaven with our prayers. We don't intercede for our missionaries and bring their burdens to the throne of grace.”

Take the average Wednesday night prayer meeting for an example. We sing too many songs. We read no missionary letters. We preach too long. We listen to a list of Who's Who In the Hospital. And then Pastor calls on one or two men to pray. And we call it a prayer meeting. For shame. We could be sued for false advertising. Call it Sunday Nite Lite, but don't call it a prayer meeting.

I suspect that we are not aware of the weakness of our churches' prayer ministries. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy this wise counsel, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:1-4).

The apostles knew that prayer is priority! “First of all!” First of all...pray!

We suppose we pray enough, but we do not. We pretend we are rich and increased in our petitions and have no need of change, and know not the poverty of our prayerlessness. What if we were to add up all the manhours of real praying we do in our churches in one week (or should we call it ladyminutes?). Would all the prayers offered in all our meetings add up to an hour a week? Two hours? Three, if we speak evangelistically?

Charles Spurgeon once advised his students not to pray for more than 15 minutes in the prayer before the sermon. 15 minutes! Today it is more like 15 seconds! He once took Moody down to the basement to show him a group of several hundred prayer warriors who met each Sunday to intercede for their pastor WHILE HE PREACHED UPSTAIRS!

And what about the old fashioned all night prayer meetings we used to have? Where did that idea ever come from? Ahem, have you ever read Acts 12:5? “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Prayer was a priority for the churches in the book of Acts.

No church knows everything there is to know about prayer. But every pastor can implement changes in the prayer life of his church. Like what?

Well, we can have men's prayer breakfasts, and when your men get blest with them, change it to Men's Prayer Fasts and leave off the food. That'll sort the men from the boys.

And we can set aside enough time between Sunday School and Church to have a time of prayer.

And we can meet half an hour before church on Sunday night to pray for the service.

And set aside some Wednesday nights to do nothing but pray. And read all the missionary letters and be sure every request gets prayed for.

And stop being afraid of what people will think if Pastor kneels with a brother to pray for his needs in the middle of the congregation before or after a service.

In closing, let me share with you a letter I received the other day about the prayers of a brand new Christian. Here's what his mum relayed to me after talking to him on the phone:

“But the thing he was MOST excited about was their all-night prayer meeting on Friday night. The young adults prayed from 10:00pm - 3:00 am. He said he realized for the first time how important it is to pray as the Spirit directs you. He had several things on his list to pray about but could not see how he could have enough to pray about for 5 hours. He said that he just kept thinking of more and more things to pray for and by 3:00am he realized he needed MORE time to pray for all the things that the Lord had brought to his mind. He commented that it was the Holy Spirit directing him to pray for things that he had not previously thought about, things just kept popping into his mind!”

Ah yes, there is hope for the man who prays. And for the church which prays.

First, pray!

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