Whatever Happened to Prayer Meetings?

There is a strange phenomenon which has taken root in much of modern Christendom, bearing poisonous fruit in many churches. This phenomenon has to do with people talking about dependence on God and the importance of prayer, all the while jettisoning prayer and the stressing of it in many congregations. (I will talk about its fruit in a moment)).

Case in point, whatever happened to prayer meetings? Many churches no longer have them. After all, typically prayer meetings were quite low in attendance. And being fair, often such meetings were not truly prayer meetings, but most of the time wasted gossiping and sharing prayer requests instead of actually praying. So instead of fixing the problems within the prayer meetings, such meetings are chucked altogether, to use the time in more “profitable” ways.

Ah, but over time some seeds have been unwittingly planted. Sprouts broke through the ground and their roots began digging deep into the soil. Eventually a trees grew and fruit was born, fruit which was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the [trees were] to be desired to make [us] wise,” (Gen. 3:6) we’ve partaken of the fruit. This fruit has distorted the perception of much of the church, make no mistake. Men and women alike have mistakenly perceived that they can build churches without the help of God. They mistakenly believe they can offer the sacrifices of Cain and still be accepted (Gen. 4:3-4). By their own hands and wisdom, they build and sustain their congregations, believing that the growth in numbers signifies the life and blessing of God—despite any shallowness of faith, mock reverence, disbelieving of the Scriptures, and the void of real intimacy, power, and revelation of God.

Understand, I am not simply being critical. For all our talk on how dependent we are on God, why is there, in many cases, such a deemphasis on prayer? Why do many churches place so much attention on the worship but not prayer? Why have so many churches abandoned expository preaching and replaced it with “topical,” and merely referencing the Bible (which is God’s revelation to us) instead of digging into it? We have within congregations, as well as among churches professing the name of Christ, persons with differing opinions on crucial issues like sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, etc. Be very clear on this—there is no division within the Godhead on these issues, nor within His revelation. No, but the poisonous fruit of the trees we have planted have poisoned the mind and distorted the perception.

Too often churches and individuals already have the course of action they intend to take, in accordance with their own understanding. Instead of truly seeking the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and direction, we lay our plans and strategies before Him and ask Him to bless them. We consider this a “prayer of dependence.” E. M. Bounds is right when he says, “We do more of everything else than of praying. As poor as our giving is, our contributions of money exceed our offerings of prayer.” Can most churches and individuals really argue against Bound’s assessment?

Where are the prayer meetings? Where was the emphases on prayer and our need for God’s power? When was the last time we and our churches have truly cried out to God for a genuine and mighty move of His Spirit and power? Oh sure, we might occasionally toss up a prayer for revival, but do we sincerely desire moves of God and revival? These do not come without a cost. Not only do these require the time for seeking and asking of these, but also surrender. A. W. Tozer asks,

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late [I dare say, not much in our day]—and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying [in our case, we tend to substitute both praying and obeying for our own ingenuity], and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience.”

All around me I hear people or see what they post on social media what a mess our world is in—even from Christians. Strangely, for all the complaining and anxieties, I do not hear the stressing of prayer and crying out to God. Why is this? We say we depend on God and prayer is so important, but are we not liars? Do we think God is indifferent to the condition of our world, He who declares that He takes no delight in the death of anyone (Eze. 18:32)? Is He who created the universe by the sheer power of His command impotent in bringing revival? He “who desires all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), will He say, “Absolutely not!” if His people genuinely repent of their own wickedness and plead on behalf of those who are perishing?

How have we become so content with mediocrity and spiritualized excrement? How have we gotten to believe we are some kind of miniature saviors, feeding others crumbs from our own ponderings? Pastors, teachers, I don’t care a wit about our degrees or certificates. I don’t care about any personal skills of leadership. All of it is mere rubbish if not infused by the power of God. All of it! I don’t care how good at preaching or teaching any of us are. Jesus tells us explicitly, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis added). We must ask ourselves, do we truly believe this? Truly?

If we genuinely believe that we can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ and Him in us (for this is what the Master tells us), then we must reestablish the prayer meetings. We must lift our requests to God rather than sharing them with one another. We must cry out to God and ask Him to uproot these trees with poisonous fruit which we have planted and maintained. Oh, that God would grow the fruit of repentance in our hearts and lives. Oh, that we would turn from our wicked ways. No doubt we are guilty as the people of Jeremiah’s day:

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” ~ Jeremiah 2:13  

Oh, that we would reestablish the prayer meetings and rebuild our altars! I close with words from Bounds: “But not all praying is true praying. The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause, must be God Himself. ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not’ (Jer. 33:3).”

Let Us Reason Together 

Our world, our nations, and our communities are becoming increasingly confounded and divided. Politicians continue giving empty promises with ulterior motives, and every side seems to be slow to listen but quick to anger and speak. 

Washington, Hollywood, the United Nations, universities, and the like often criticize Christianity, some even going so far to say Christians are the problem. But this seems highly unlikely, considering godless people have the most influence in our schools,world affairs, media, and pop culture. The more our nations and communities scorn Christ and indulge in vices and behaviors that break down the family and community structures, the chaotic our world becomes. This is not to be blamed on Christianity. The teachings of Christ clearly discern between right and wrong, but we are living in a time reflecting the days of Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

Understand, this blame shifting is nothing new. The godly have always  been accused of “cramping” other’s styles, then blamed further when godless living faces consequences. In fact, Augustine’s, City of God, is largely a response to those of the day who blamed Christianity for Rome’s fall (of course people’s decadence and rulers’ corruption couldn’t have had a part).

Nevertheless, despite the world’s (and many churches) growing scorn, hostility, and unbelief of the Bible and the God it represents, God is not indifferent or callous towards people. While He has every right to tell us, “You made your bed, now lay in it,” He does not have this attitude.  He is not aloof to our increasing guilt, shame, anxiety, or fear. Rather, what does He say?

When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 1:15-20

No doubt Jesus says of the nations today as He did of Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” ~ Matthew 23:37-38

Some time ago I came across an event being promoted called, “Give Christianity the Middle Finger,” and elsewhere saw pictures of some young girls at a protest rally, holding placards which read, “We’re going to hell and proud of it.” While I won’t deny that some who profess Christ are blowhards, but what offense has God committed? Despite the behaviors of people, God remains consistent with His character and nature. And He tells us,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8

Yet, our world applauds and defends injustice, delights in strife, arguing, and division, and walks proudly without God or thoughts of Him. Indeed, God is not the problem, but we are. If we would yield to Him and His ways, so many problems would seem to take care of themselves. People would look after one another and care for one another. Still, God invites us to “come, and reason together.” It is our sins that are as scarlet and staining, not His. But He can wash us and heal us. But we must first be willing to reason. Can we do this?

This article is not simply intended for the “godless,” but is just as much for modern churchgoers. Many churches and their leaders are running in various directions other than the direction Christ directs us. This is just as evil as anyone else’s resistance (Jer. 2:13).

Let us be reasonable and approach the Lord with humility. Whether we want to acknowledge the truth or not, the further we get away from Christ the more dark and turbulent our world becomes. And we only have ourselves to blame.