My personal experience and anecdotal studies have shown that prayer is the most difficult spiritual discipline for many believers. It assumes dependence on God, and we simply don’t default in that direction; we default into independence and self-dependence even when we don’t want to.
Here are some things that happen, though, when we church leaders don’t pray much:
1. We do ministry in our own strength. That’s inevitable when we don’t pray. That’s also inevitable when our prayer life is only reactive, that is, when we pray only out of need and not out of relationship. Eventually, our own strength will run out, however.
2. Our ego grows, especially if others recognize the value of our church work. You see, it’s possible for even seldom-praying church leaders to have some ministry “success” in the world’s eyes. It’s even possible for a denomination to recognize them for their work—and the result is often ego.
3. Our church lacks the power of God on it. The ministry goes on, for sure. The work continues. Activities still abound. Sundays come and go . . . and keep coming. Some attenders may even see some growth in their lives. Overall, though, work done in our own strength lacks God’s power. Almost everything we do is just that: what we do.
4. We become hypocritical leaders. I’m convinced many church members assume their congregation’s leaders are people of prayer. That’s one reason they turn to us when they have personal and family needs—they believe in our prayer lives. When we don’t pray much, though, we don’t correct their wrong impression; we just live as “actors” in this area of our lives.
5. We tend to neglect teaching about prayer. The Bible is filled with stories of prayer. Mandates and teachings about praying continually resound. It’s almost impossible to teach through the Word without facing these stories, in fact. It is possible, though, to hit them only softly or ignore them completely. That’s what we often do when those stories convict us about our own prayerlessness.
6. We don’t enlist and equip workers we deeply need: prayer partners who regularly intercede for us as church leaders. There’s something encouraging and inspiring about knowing we have prayer warriors continually on their knees on our behalf. We trust God more, and we press on in faith knowing we’re not alone. We miss that blessing, however, when we don’t even ask others because we don’t pray much ourselves.
7. We raise the risk of moral failure. That’s because genuine, heartfelt, dependent prayer is built on a foundational relationship with God that matters to us more than anything. Prayerlessness, on the other hand, says, “I can handle life on my own. Failure won’t happen.” That’s trouble. Indeed, I’ve never met a leader who fell who said, “I’m not sure how that happened. My prayer life was vibrant, growing, and powerful.”
So, what do you do if you don’t pray much? It’s simple. Pray a little bit more today—even five minutes more—than yesterday. Get at least one prayer partner to walk with you. Start somewhere!
This article was written by Chuck Lawless and originally published at churchanswers.com on April 12. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.