National P astors' P rayer N etwork

 

Connecting Leaders for Prayer and City Transformation
 

   Inner~Views  #046

 

   Phil Miglioratti interviewed Liberty Professor, Dr. David Earley, author of a new book on prayer ...


   Phil ~ Dave, what prompted you to write a book on prayer specifically for leaders?

   Dave ~ After thirty years of studying, practicing, teaching, and writing about the subjects of prayer, leadership,

   and ministry a convergence of experiences prompted me to write this book. Let me explain.

   Early last fall, I was teaching the principles and practices of spiritual formation to a room full of eager seminarians. I was repeatedly struck with the notion that if I could help these future pastors develop a prioritized, passionate prayer life, they would have a foundation for better navigating through the problems they will encounter in ministry.

Later in the fall, I was training missionaries to Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. We were talking about church planting. We discussed the book of Acts and the prayer meeting leading up to the first church planted on Planet Earth. In doing do, I was overwhelmed with the reality that without a vibrant prayer life, these missionaries were doomed to frustration and failure.

A few weeks later, a long time friend of mine and a very gifted leader resigned his ministry because of immorality. A marriage, a family, a church, and a community were facing terrible turmoil because of his sin. Neglecting his prayer life played a big role in his costly downfall.

Early last winter, I taught several dozen veteran pastors the tools needed to lead healthy, growing, multiplying churches in our changing culture. Of the thirty separate lectures and discussions we shared, the majority of the students agreed that the most life-changing session was the one on the importance of prayer in the life of the leaders. Again I was overcome with the sense that if these leaders could only master one leadership skill on which the rest would build, it had to be prayer.

            I spent several weeks reviewing the lives of the great leaders of the Bible to confirm my belief. As expected, I found that a vibrant prayer life was central in the leadership skill-sets of Jesus, Moses, David, Daniel, and Paul, among others. Then I cracked open my works of church history and saw the church fathers and other high impact leaders through the centuries leading out in the area of prayer. In pulling down my forty plus biographies of modern day Christian leaders, I again noted the common denominator of prayer.


Phil ~  What process did you use to identify the "nine prayer disciplines" and what is the connection to "high impact leaders"?


Dave ~ As I studied the lives of these 75 leaders I began to see patterns and similarities reappearing.  I noted several of them and then wrote them up into chapters of similar lengths. There ended up being nine chapters.


Phil ~ I have discovered many Christian leaders hesitate to become a champion for prayer because their personal prayer life is weak and, in some cases, their skill at leading prayer is also undeveloped. What steps would you recommend for a pastor or leader who struggles in this department?

Dave ~ Read this book! Seriously, I would suggest investing time doing two things: First, recognize how little you can truly accomplish in your own strength. Second, spend time praying with a person or a group of people who know how to pray. This is why prayer summits are valuable. 


Phil ~ You employ a creative juxtaposition of historical and scriptural examples to explain each principle. Give us a sample of a leader from scripture and from history that have made an impact on your prayer life...

Dave ~

Scripture Jesus. Like all spiritual leaders, Jesus found ministry to sometimes be draining and stress-filled. Mark's Gospel records a sample twenty-four hour time period in the life of Jesus. It's a day that nearly rivals one of Jack Bauer's days spent saving the world from terrorists. In the span of twenty-four hours, Jesus gave an amazing teaching at the synagogue (Mark 1:21-22), cast a violent, belligerent demon out of a man (Mark 1:23- 28), healed Simon-Peter's mother so she can fix Jesus and the disciples lunch (Mark 1:29-31), then spend the rest of the day and late into the night healing sick people and casting demons out of the terrorized (Mark 1:32-34).

I cannot imagine a more draining day. If He was like most of us, after such a draining day of ministry, the next morning would have been spent sleeping in and chilling out. But Jesus lived and led at a different level than most. He had a deep capacity for ministry because He practiced a few holy habits that yielded powerful results.

Was Jesus sleeping in the next day? No. Mark 1:35 is very clear. It reads, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35).

It strikes me that if Jesus needed to start His day in prayer, how much more must I!

History - Martin Luther. Luther was of course, the very active and influential pastor, professor, author, and father of the Protestant Reformation. Like most of the people in my book, he truly understood the power of prayer to save time and effort. When asked of his plans for the coming week, Martin Luther mentioned that he generally spent two hours a day in prayer, but his coming week was extra busy. Therefore he said, "Work, work from early till late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer."


Phil ~ How did your pastoral experience influence your passion for prayer?

Dave ~ When it comes to our church's prayer ministry, there are several things I am happy about.

1. We used to block out time every year to focus strategically on prayer. We usually called it Eight Great Days of Prayer and Fasting. After one such period we concluded with a Bring a Friend and Sunday and 50 adults gave their lives to Christ that morning.


2. When I was a pastor, we saw a definite change in the spiritual climate of our city when we began to institute several forms of "prayer walks. First, I began to drive the perimeter of the city several nights a week, claiming it for God. I would drive by churches and pray for the pastors, and the schools and pray for the kids.

Second, I organized the evangelical pastors in our town to pray in each other's churches once a month. We started with only three, but within a few years, God had moved the theologically liberal, spiritually cold pastors out of the churches in town, one by one. Within a few years, twelve pastors were faithfully meeting each month to pray for revival in our town. A few years later these pastors worked together to deliver a copy of the Jesus video to every home in our town in one day!

            Third, I loaded up our church bus once a month to pray in the parking lot of every church, school, and bar in town. When we started our late night prayer drives, our schools were in terrible shake. The new superintendent, among other things, had been aggressively hiring lesbians to fill every open principal and teacher position he could. One Halloween a group of about forty of us got off our church bus, held hands and began praying at the school board. We fervently prayed that God would change the superintendent one way or another. We prayed that God would give us a godly superintendent.

We did not know that at the exact time the school board was meeting to discuss all of the problems with the new superintendent. The next day, I discovered that at the very time we were outside praying, that inside the school board members voted to fire the superintendent. A few months late they replaced him with a godly Christian man who served as an elder in his church!

One of our small group leaders prayer-walked her neighborhood daily, interceding for the salvation of each family. She also served her neighbors and took an interest in their children. As a result she spiritually impacted her neighbors.

One day she asked if she could use one of the large classrooms at the church after the next week's worship service. When asked why she said, "Nearly a dozen of my neighbors and their children are being baptized here next week. We wanted to throw a party in their favor."

3. As a pastor, I developed a team of 12 men to pray for me daily. I asked them to make a one-year commitment to:

  Pray for our church, themselves, and their family every day. 

  Take a few minutes of extra time to pray for me one day a week.

  Take a few minutes every Saturday night to pray for me.

All twelve agreed!  Every two weeks, I met with them for Bible study and prayer. I would also share my prayer requests for the next two weeks. We would pray for one another.

That year went amazingly well. Our church grew more and baptized more people than the previous year. My health improved, as did my marriage and time with God.

The next year, I recruited a team of 50 men to make a one-year commitment to pray for me daily. Several of them served as teams who would pray for the worship services every Sunday.  The impact the prayers of those men had on our church was huge.


Phil ~ Recently, in my opinion, you did something extraordinary - You brought your seminary class to the National Pastors' Prayer Summit; you even participated with your students! Why did you take this step and how valuable was their experience?

Dave ~ The simplest and most effective way to teach people to pray is to pray. Most people are not familiar with worship-based prayer and it is positively stretching to spend three full days in worship-based prayer. Also, my students are mostly Millennials who learn more through experience than through reading or lectures. A prayer summit is a life changing experience. It also was a good opportunity for our students to interact with veteran pastors in a positive, spiritual setting.

My students were profoundly impacted by the experience and we are planning on doing it again next summer.


Phil ~ Dave, please write a prayer for pastors who know they need to live and lead more in prayer . . .

Dave ~ Lord,

I long for you. You are my dearest treasure, greatest advisor, closest friend, and glorious king. I hunger to know you more and grow deeper in my relationship with you.

I need you. I yearn for all of your power to impact my ministry. 

Forgive me for proudly living as though I can do it myself. Forgive me for neglecting this most vital aspect of my life and ministry. Please give me the desire and the discipline to seek you early, often, and passionately.

As you transform me, revolutionize my prayers. As you rekindle the flame of my prayer life, revitalize my ministry. Amen

DR. DAVE  EARLEY   
Director of the Lovett Center for Ministry Training
Director and Chair of Pastoral Leadership and Church Planting
LIBERTY  THEOLOGICAL  SEMINARY /  LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
CN 2500 1971 University Blvd. Lynchburg, VA 24502-2269
OFFICE: 434.592.4161  FAX: 434.522.0415
www.daveearley.com

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