In chapter two, Pastor Cymbala begins by telling his church that the Tuesday Night prayer meetings would become the new barometer for their church.
"What happens on a Tuesday night will be the gauge by which we will judge success or failure because that will be the measure by which God blesses us"
(p. 27). On a rare occurrence, we gain an interesting insight from an Australian/New Zealand minister, as he shares how the popularity of a church or a pastor/evangelist is measured. He ends by saying, "You can see how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting" (pg 28).
By this measure, would you say churches in America are successful or failing? Is Jesus the most Popular or, are we primarily focused on secondary priorities?
At Brooklyn Tabernacle, broken lives of prostitutes and drug addicts were healed. They were healed not because of polished sermons, or better teaching, but because of the Love of Christ that was birthed through prayer. "Prayer cannot truly be taught by principles and seminars and symposiums. It has to be born out of a whole environment of felt need." (p. 49) People wept and pleaded before God because they knew their need and they were desperate. They just wanted to be encountered by the Almighty. They chose to focus on Love as a priority. They understood that "if we call upon the Lord, he has promised in His word, to answer, to bring the unsaved to himself, to pour out his spirit among us. If we don't call upon the name of the Lord, He has promised nothing-- nothing at all" (pg. 27) (Psalm 120:1).
I believe Cymbala is encouraging and pleading to church in America to "return to prayer." We've all heard, "A church that prays together, stays together!" “Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, ‘We are not New Testament churches if we don’t have a prayer life’” (p 50). Would our prayer meetings be full and alive if we knew the importance of unity and had a hunger to see the "unseen power" released through our prayers? The bible says, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”(Matthew 18:20).
God and Jesus has remained the same all throughout the ages from generation to generation and from culture to culture (Hebrews 13.8) So then how did we change our focus for Him? It has shifted in subtle ways that we may not have even noticed because they are still "good things."
Have we become consumed and occupied by "secondary things" (such as success, speakers, signs and wonders,preaching, programs, principles, etc) more than making the "Primary things" (such as Love, the person of Jesus, and prayer) a priority?
We love to work and accomplish tasks. The secondary things are usually tangible and easier to measure our success because they are visible to the public's eye. We can be rewarded and praised for our "hard work." But, often times, the primary things are immeasurable and therefore can quickly become unpopular. The primary priorities usually take place in hiding or "behind the scenes." They can even take a longer time to achieve since they are building towards our reward in heaven. All in all, its the primary things that are foundational in our faith walk.
In a lot of ways, prayer can look passive but, if we understand all things are possible only because of God, we know that prayer is a Powerful partnering tool with the Almighty God, Himself. Nothing is lost in prayer! Jesus modeled the importance of prayer by not only teaching us how to pray the “Lord’s Prayer” but He was praying without ceasing and giving thanks in all circumstances
(1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18). He prayed when He was giving thanks (right before miracle of feeding 5000), in times of need (at Gethsemane before his Crucifixion), and in times of suffering (enduring the pain on cross). He withdrew many times to spend time with His Father because Jesus knew His need. If Jesus knew His need of the Father, how much more do we need the Father?
"The more we pray, the more we sense our need to pray. And the more we sense a need to pray, the more we want to pray" (pg 50). God says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). We don't have to work for something He already has worked out. He just wants our agreement with His will.
Have you stopped to pray today? Maybe call a friend to pray together or even a prayer Zoom call with a few people?