“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart” (John Bunyan).
As pastors we are called upon to pray frequently. We pray to open and close services. We pray for the sick and bereaved. We pray for the lost and the saved. In the midst of these activities, we can be tempted to merely go through the motions. We must guard against the temptation at all costs. Prayer must not become a formality or empty ritual.
Anytime we read of Christians from history who were used of God in mighty ways, prayer has always been a foundational element of their lives. Spurgeon was, “ever a man of prayer. Not that he spent any long periods of time in prayer but he lived in the spirit of communion with God” (Arnold Dalimore).1 Prayer was such a priority in his life as evidenced by Dr. Wayland Hoyt’s description of one of Spurgeon’s impromptu prayers, “The prayer was no parenthesis interjected, it was something that belonged as much to the habit of his mind as breathing did to the habit of his body.”2 Brothers, what an example of communion with the Lord!
I am continually convicted of my natural inclination toward self-sufficiency in my own life and ministry. I should be fully aware of my lack of sufficiency because of repeated corroborating evidence. Why do we so frequently live as though we are the captains of our own destinies? An extensive list could be compiled, I suppose. Ultimately it boils down to our practical theology. How do we view God? Do we view Him accurately? Secondly, how do we view ourselves? Now, I recognize that the majority of us have formal theological training, but it is very possible to have theological knowledge that is not implemented in daily living. We can know things deeply and still fail to practice them. “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25a). But, this biblical truth does not negate our propensity to disobey truth we know cognitively.
Recently, there were a number of articles written on the recent firing of a prominent pastor. He was fired because of character issues. The Scriptural truth he knew was not being implemented in his everyday life. In writing about the situation, Barnabas Piper listed the following offenses, “Domineering over those in his charge,” “misuse of power/authority,” and “history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms.”3 Mike Leake commented, “If you look at some of the celebrity pastors who have recently fallen you can see a pattern. They have obvious talents and gifts and passion, but there were a few questions about character. But we let some of those character issues slide in the hopes that character would eventually catch up with the talents.”4
What if we preach inspiring messages, are people magnets, are visionary leaders, and our churches are outwardly growing, but we have not been communing with our God in prayer? How do we view prayerlessness? Most prayer takes place in silent moments apart from the ears of other people, but the question remains, are our hearts invested in our prayers? As ironic as it sounds, let us pray about our own prayer lives and the prayer lives of our brother pastors. By the grace of God, may we be men whose lives and ministries are saturated by consistent times of heartfelt prayer.