CHURCH GROWTH THROUGH PRAYER AND WORSHIP
By: Reverend Marshall Boudreaux
I. PRAYER CLICHES
We have all heard and repeated the old cliches: a praying church is a growing church; there is power through prayer; the family that prays together stays together; prayer changes things. And we do pray. We pray over our food. We pray before we retire at night. We pray before leaving on a vacation. We pray when it is needful, when it is expedient, when it is expected of us to pray.
It is amazing that we feel the need to practice musical instruments or job skills until we become proficient. Yet we sometimes blunder blindly through our prayers, never taking time to practice praying until we discover the secret of powerful praying. Prayerlessness deprives the church of the glories and blessings that are rightfully hers.
II. POWERFUL PRAYING
The privilege of prayer is meant to be practiced. It is an access to God Himself that should be treasured and cherished. The power of your prayers are in direct proportion to the size of faith behind those prayers, The deeper our consecration, the cleaner our lives, the purer our motives, the fuller our commitment to God, the greater our power in prayer. Power in prayer is predicated upon the intensity and the earnestness of that prayer, James 5:16 – “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The law of reaping and sowing applies to prayer. Skimpy praying produces skimpy harvest. Abundant praying means an abundant reaping. Can it be that we are trying to reap where we have not sown?
Power in prayer depends on our ability to pray in the Spirit. You never waste time when you pray….but your time will be better spent if you will pray in the Spirit. It is much easier to pray when the Holy Ghost gives the unction. It is more enjoyable to pray when the Holy Ghost is present to refresh you. It is more effective to pray in the Spirit. When we pray in the Spirit for the will of God in our church for revival at any cost, this means self-will, personal ambition, carnal desires and future plans go right out the window.
Prayer has delivered men from the fire, from the flood, from the mouth of lions, from the bonds of prison, from the clutches of a wicked queen, from the stones of an angry mob. Is it too much to believe that prayer can resurrect a dead congregation and bring vibrant life to empty altars? When the resources are there and they have never been tapped, isn’t this an indictment against us?
God help us to remember that if we neglect to pray, our power and effectiveness will ebb away, the blessings and fruitfulness of our walk with God will disappear.
The preacher and church who are ready to grow are the preacher and church on their knees.
III. PRAYER CHANGES YOU
If Jesus had a need to withdraw and pray during His earthly ministry, then so much the more do we have the same need. Martin Luther, the monk who shook Europe, is reported to have said that he found his life so intensively busy he could not afford to spend less than four hours a day in communion with God.
The Bible tells us that the “Countenance of Jesus was altered as He prayed”, Also, people took notice that the disciples had “been with Jesus”. Something happens to you personally when you pray. That perpetual contact with and exposure to the presence of the Lord in prayer has an effect.
When Jesus was baptized in Jordan, He prayed and the Spirit descended upon Him. Let us preachers and saints keep in the forefront of our minds that the Spirit comes upon praying people. Revival comes to praying churches and revival brings growth.
Prayer changes you….from a busy, preoccupied, carnal-minded person to an attentive, compassionate, concerned servant, It transposes you from an earthly plane to a heavenly sphere. Only in prayer can God inscribe upon your soul the laws of divine principles.
Prayer cleanses you, empties you, refreshes you, strengthens you, and fortifies you. Only in prayer and supplication can a man pour out all of his frustrations, doubts, heartbreak, and bitterness of soul.
Generally, a minister cannot talk to church members about the things that bother him. Often even a fellow minister can seem aloof and unconcerned. Tell it to Jesus in Prayer. Bathe your soul in the hot tears of agonizing prayer. Pour out all your misgivings, your failures, your inadequacies, your hopes, and your plans. Tell Him, He understands. He can change things or He can change you, whichever is better. Jacob never had great power with God until he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and prevailed. That experience changed him, it altered him, it made him a new man with new goals, and it gave him a new name.
We must give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word if we expect God to add to our churches. The Baptism of the Holy Ghost is no substitute for time spent in prayer and waiting on God. If we analyzed the time we spend praying to find out how much of our praying is for ourselves, our needs, our desires, our goals, we would be ashamed at how selfish we are in our praying. This could be the reason our growth and our effectiveness is so restricted.
IV. PRAYER CHANGES YOUR CONGREGATION
Prayer and prayer alone will change a whining, whimpering, fault- finding church member into a joyful, determined, compassionate soulwinner. Teach your people to pray frequently, fervently, feverishly, and you will see lazy, unconcerned, complacent bench- warmers transformed into voluntary laborers in the vineyard.
Programs, positions, and personal praise will never alter your congregation like prayer will. Oh, God! Let us raise up an army of wet-eyed intercessors for this dark hour….for only God-transformed personalities can change the moral fiber of those who will visit our services.
It has been said, “If our churches had as many agonizers as it has advisors, what a revival we could see.” But we have substituted organization for agonizing and equipment for endowment. When Israel had backslidden into the worship of Baal, God raised up a man. A man not to preach, not to prophesy but a man to pray, Elijah prayed with a volcano in his heart and a thunderstorm in his voice. He “heard a voice, saw a vision, tasted a power, measured an enemy and with God as his partner wrought a victory through prayer.” Is your church grovelling in the dust of defeat? If the church is to live victoriously, it must fight prayerfully.
True, it is a wonderful thing when Almighty God lays hold on a man, but this generation can know an even greater thing. That is, through prayer, man can lay hold on God and change the course of events, rechart the destiny of souls and even change the mind of God. Brethren, we have the capacity to save ourselves and the entire world around us. All “through prayer!
V. PRAYER CHANGES YOUR RESULTS
How often have we watched in frustration when people with obvious needs visit our services, sit dry-eyed through the singing and preaching and then leave unmoved and unconverted.
We dissect the service….to find the fault. The singing was better than usual. The preaching was really top-drawer material. What went wrong? So often little or no prayer backed up the songs and the sermon.
One of the most common, most serious sins in Christian living is the sin of prayerlessness. I’m afraid the reason Satan has not been defeated and overcome as he should have been is too many of us are guilty of the sin of prayerlessness. It is entirely possible that the greatest sinners in the sight of God could be those who are guilty of the sin of not praying.
God is bypassing many of our churches today not because we are ignorant but because we are too self-sufficient. We feel so capable within ourselves. Dear God!! Our abilities have become our handicaps and our talents have become our stumbling blocks. Instead of ever- learning we need to be ever-learning. Leaning on Him in prayer.
You may have lived in relative obscurity in your little town and gathered a comparatively small following. You may have lived a spotless, separated, undefiled, holy but harmless life. It is time for you to move out of the shadows and shake your church and your city with intercessory prayer.
God is looking for men to stand in the gap and make up the hedge in this battle for the soul of man. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds of the enemy.” We are warring the unseen. Brother, we battle the spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.
A farmer can lose a crop and a doctor can lose a patient, but we preachers cannot afford to lose our grip on God and on this generation by neglecting to pray. My brother, you will never be more effective in the pulpit than you are in the prayer closet. Our God seeks individuals who are constantly prepared through a prayer life to arise to the need of the hour and battle the prince of the powers of the air, hypocrisy, carnality, and false doctrine.
Prayer is not a heroic act of self-sacrifice for the preacher and the church, but it is a hot line to glory. A praying church IS a growing church. When we pray, we are putting God at our disposal. How? By obligating God to us and our congregation for growth and for revival. The Bible plainly states… “you have not because you ask not.” The closing hour of this generation is certainly no time for pussy-footing (being cautious and timid) about prayer.
God longs to baptize His blood-bought church with a baptism of fire and power that the world might know that God is still alive and available to all mankind.
Each of us lives in a circle of friends, relatives, neighbors, schoolmates, fellow workers, colleagues…all with great needs and little knowledge of Him. And THEY HAVE NOT because WE ASK NOT. How deprived we all are simply because we do not pray.
VI. THE PASTOR’S EXAMPLE OF PRAYER
Generally speaking, like pastor like church. If the pastor is spiritual, his congregation will also be spiritual. If he is prayerful and dedicated the congregation will usually follow his example. If, on the other hand, the pastor is worldly, prayerless, and powerless, his congregation will be a carbon copy of him. Easy-going preachers produce easy-going believers. So often we have more star preachers than scarred preachers; scarred from battles fought and victories won because they prevailed in prayer. This battle for church growth and new converts is a perpetual warfare. There can be no truce with the enemy. There can be no peaceful coexistence with the devil. We must pray and in praying surrender to the will of Almighty God so that we will never surrender to the devil. When we begin to desire growth in our churches, and we fall on our faces in prayer; we can expect the onslaught of Satan with all kinds of discouragements. Nevertheless, the Lord has equipped us with the sword of the Spirit, power to overcome, faith to move mighty obstacles. When you pray enough, Satan will retreat in defeat.
God expects the minister to set the example of prayer. God knows if you are leading a double life or living a double standard. Whatever we require of our people is also required of us. He KNOWS whether we pray. He is the great bookkeeper who faithfully records our actions and our motives.
The danger of the Pentecostal hour is not gross sin in our churches, The real danger is the lack of prayer and worship which is exceedingly sinful in the sight of Almighty God. To neglect these vital things is a crime against Heaven itself. We never neglect the things that mean something to us….our health, our homes, our children, new cars or our jobs. Let us NOT NEGLECT TO PRAY.
It is always when leadership stands silently by that the cause of God and the church hangs in the balance. If ever we should cry for leadership that will break the silence of this compromising, carnally- minded, prayerless age, it is in this momentous hour. We can hear the Goliaths of our day defying the church, crying “Send me a man.” A man who will not hide in the shadows of neutrality and self-complacency. A man who will pray and stand as a mediator between God and man. As you stand and survey the giants of discouragement in your church or in your city, the devil tells you, “It is impossible. Give up,” Remember, “impossible” is a word found only in the dictionary of fools. If we could somehow, through prayer and consecration, let our faith take wings and just let God be God in our lives and in our churches, we would find a miracle waiting for us. That miracle is PENTECOST RE-ENACTED in our churches, in our towns and in our own hearts.
Your church can grow no matter how long it has been dwarfed and defeated. AND IT WILL GROW, continuously, miraculously, when it is conceived and nourished in prayer.
A church’s greatest glory cannot be calculated by the real estate owned, the equipment installed, or the bank balance boasted. A church’s crowning glory is her converts, the souls of the saints she has won. Don’t be awed by the trappings of elaborate buildings, shiny buses or great crowds. Your success is measured by Almighty God and by the ‘rapture ready’ saints that compose your congregation. Brethren, we do not have to be jealous over another church that is growing. But my God! Let us be jealous enough over the Spirit of the Lord that dwells there to fall on our faces before God and pray so that the same Spirit would be so prevalent in our own churches that it would draw men to repentance.
Jesus gave His all to bring His church into existence. Surely, the Lord requires no less of us today than to give ourselves in prayer and worship. After we have travailed for the souls of men, we have to have something there for them when they come. When you have unexpected guests drop in at your home, you can always run out to the grocery store and buy for them, but when hungry souls visit your church, you must have the table already spread…ready and abundant. You cannot do this if you do not pray. You must be prepared through prayer.
So often people cry today, “Where are the days of revival? Where are the sinner-filled altars? Where is the old-time conviction that once gripped the hearts of men?” In reply to these questions, we ask a question: Where are the callous-kneed prayer warriors that once bombarded Heaven with their heart-rending prayers of travail?
It has been said, “What goes up must come down.” Let us apply this statement to prayer! If our prayers are continually going up, then God’s blessings will continually come down. Lord, let them fall on us in this hour of need. So often we are guilty of wishing that God would give us revival or of waiting for some great event to usher in a great world-wide revival when we need to be on our knees pouring our hearts out to God praying down a revival. In order to receive something FROM God, we have got to give something TO God.
God’s promise in Malachi 3:10 reads: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Fellow ministers, how careful we are (or should be) when it comes to paying but how careless we are when it comes to praying! Most will pay one-tenth of their income to God but few will pray one-tenth of their time to God. Listen! If God will pour out such a blessing upon us for paying our tithes and offerings to Him, how much more will God open the windows of Heaven and pour out to us a Devil-disturbing, hell-shaking, Holy Ghost fired revival if we will pay our prayer debts to Him! But preacher, it must start with you. YOU MUST BE THE FIRST PARTAKER. You must lead the way. You must be the example in prayer and in worship. A prayerless ministry and a stagnant church is a breeding place for compromise, false doctrine, and moral decay. Do not compromise your prayer time….for when you do, the devil is sure to “tie up” your services. The devil knows that without God’s Spirit and power coming into our midst, we can do nothing. He also knows that the only way we contact God is through prayer and worship. So, of course, his most effective weapon is to steal your prayer life in the home, shop or office, He tells us we can pray when we get to church (then he does his best to keep us from coming). It is true that in church we have the most freedom since we obtain help from one another but it is hard to contact God just at service time when we have failed to grasp the opportunities to pray between services. Don’t compromise. Set an example for your congregation in prayer and worship.
VII. PRAYER AND WORSHIP: THE SIAMESE TWINS
Prayer and worship are so closely knit, so woven together that one is never present without the other. They are seen everywhere together. Where prayer is lacking, worship is also absent but where prayer is practiced diligently, sincerely, and continuously, then worship bursts forth like a spring of water… effortlessly, spontaneously and fervently. THE HOLY GHOST MUST HAVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. When we fail to worship the Lord, we grieve His Holy Spirit and stifle His movings. How many of our services have been lost and defeated? How many of the purposes of God have been detoured because we failed to worship and adore Him in our services?
Let us yield ourselves to the sovereign unpredictability of the Holy Ghost because when God takes over His church, anything can happen. Surrender the ownership and operation of your church to Him and the church you pastor will become a very fruitful hill.
Brethren, lovely buildings, plush carpet, padded pews, fine musical instruments, Sunday School buses and church socials will never compensate for the absence of prayer and worship from the pulpit to the last pew. What eternal good is a fancy steeple that cannot win one soul to God? Of what use are padded pews that are never filled or elaborate altars that are never wept on or a beautiful pulpit that hides a compromising preacher. The anointing of God is the important thing. Nothing impresses the sinner more than the great joy and peace he witnesses on the faces of devoted saints worshipping their God.
One pastor I preached a revival for told me, “You are here to have a good time.” Everyday it was, “Let’s go play golf or let’s go fishing or let’s eat out.” It was something different every day. Never did he mention, “Let’s go to the church and pray for the lost and dying souls of men in our town.” I said, “Brother, we are here to have a revival.” He said, “Doc, it has been 10 years since anyone received the Holy Ghost here.” I was shocked! However, after I was there a while, I realized why no one had received the Holy Ghost. No prayer, no worship at all in the church. It was an empty show of empty prayer rooms, empty pews, and empty hearts. That pastor and church were dying because a thick slime of spiritual stagnation had covered them.
God help us to realize that this old world has hit the trail for hell with breakneck speed that makes our fastest jet planes look like a turtle by comparison. Only prayer and worship can turn the tide of judgment-bound souls. Our worship of God needs to be pressed, pursued with an energy that never tires and a persistency that cannot be denied and a courage which never fails. Worship! It must begin at the pulpit and sweep every pew. Without it, we will freeze with spiritual indifference. Is it any wonder that there are so many icicles in the pews when there are polar bears in the pulpits? Decay sets in and the Holy Spirit of God departs when we fall short in our worship. God abides in an abundance of praise and worship and NOTHING will make amends for the want of it. We would be horrified if someone put their new born baby in a deep freeze and yet we expect our new converts to somehow survive in our cold, formal spiritual deep freezes. God never intended His church to be a refrigerator to preserve cold, dormant saints. He intended it to be an incubator hatching forth converts. Holy Ghost fire will thaw out the frigid air of formalism.
If you want your church to grow, be prepared to bear some pain. Childbirth discomfits the mother. A mother will deny herself in the interest of the child she will bear. She will often spend sleepless nights. Brother, you and your congregation will burn the midnight oil in travail and prayer before you can bring forth children in your worship services. Talking about food will not fill a hungry belly. Speaking of knowledge will not make you wise and discussing the power of God will not necessarily bring results. The energy of the Holy Ghost will bring forth children only in a room that has been sanctified through consecrated worship. Surely, “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think.” However, do not stop the verse there. It goes on to conclude that He is “able to do…..according to the power THAT WORKETH IN US.” So we must assume that the channel is blocked and God cannot get through to this age because of a lack of power in the church. His power is released through our worship.
Apostolic worship is not marked by beautiful oratory or harmonious singing or pious praying; it operates in the demonstration of the Spirit and of the power. Our worship is the one thing that defines us and sets us apart from all other denominations. We generally cannot compete with them in their knowledge of classical music, their well-planned programs and their well-financed campaigns, but when it comes to worship we out class them as a thoroughbred out classes a work mule. True worship is a committed, complete and total consecration. It means worshipping when you really do not feel a thing moving in the service. It means worshipping when you are exhausted ar even sick in body. Some might say that is hypocritical but not so. The Bible speaks of offering a “sacrifice of praise.” God’s power and God’s visitation is not dependent upon how we feel. He commands us to “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name.” I Chr. 16:29. Psalms 100:4 – “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His Name.” Worship is not an option….it is absolutely essential to the operation of the Spirit. Powerful preaching will move men, but heart-felt adoring worship will move God. The ugly fact is that the fire of worship is either out entirely or else burning very low in some of our churches.
Your church will have either a revival or a funeral. The decision will be made by the amount of time you and your church put into prayer and worship. Our worship is not a dead ritual. Our worship is a devotion fed by the flame of God’s unreserved love; woe unto us if we neglect to stir up the Gift of God that is within us and the fire burns low. True worship will bring an invasion of the Holy Spirit of God into a body that threatens to become a corpse.
It is sad but true that prayer has become a lost and forgotten art. We have come to depend on personality in the pulpit, special singing, buses, choirs, and Harvestime. To achieve old-fashioned results, we must do an about face to old-time prayer meetings.
Brother, you may not realize it, but your church is a keg of dynamite sitting in the middle of your town. God is just waiting for you to light the fuse. How? You ask. I have already done everything I know to do.
Have you, brethren? Intercessory prayer changes things. Dear God Brethren, if only a holy fear would settle on us and shake us to the realization that we are going to present a bride to Christ someday. Surely that fear would drive us to extremes (for this day and time) like all night prayer meetings, chains of prayer and fasting around the clock. This will bring an attitude of worship we cannot even imagine.
The very thing that makes our churches different is not the name over the door but the Spirit of the Lord that rests mightily there. This can only come when we pray and intercede and entertain the Spirit of the Lord through worship.
Friend, we are living in the power generation. We have seen all kinds of power come on the scene: Satanic power, black power, political power, flower power, love power, atomic power, etc. But not one of these powers can stop the march of sin, crime, loneliness, sickness, divorce, and immorality. None of these powers can change the course or destiny of man. We Pentecostals possess the ability to raise God right up off His throne. When a man of God cries out in the spirit of travail, God will dispatch a host of angels to minister to his needs and the needs of his congregation.
Prayer and worship are the secret to a flourishing church, a wreckless faith, and overwhelming results. It is so profoundly simple and yet so simply profound. Prayer is the fuel that will make the spiritual fire burn. Dear God! Without it, we are all powerless and cold. God forbid that we should drift so far from a constant prayer life and lose the desire to seek Him and appease the hunger to talk with Him, until it is dead and buried.
May God give us wreckless faith: faith that defies logic. We must believe God! Make sure every breath you breathe, every thought you think and every word you speak endorses that faith.
It is our responsibility to bring revival, Holy Ghost revival, devil-chasing revival, to the starving degenerate and degraded society around us. If revival comes to your city, YOU MUST BRING IT! Raise the shades of tradition, open the blind so modernism, throw back the shutters of formalism and let the sunshine of God’s presence flood us all over again. We hold the key, but the door will remain forever locked unless we use it.
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