It is easy for church leaders to get so caught up in the work of ministry that they forget to be dependent on God in prayer. But keeping this posture of dependence is essential, as pastor and author J.D. Greear shared in a recent interview on the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast.
“Look at Jesus’ life,” said Greear. “Look how dependent he was himself on prayer…we may feel like we’re capable leaders, but we’re not going to get past where Jesus was in his dependence.”
Greear, who pastors The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., expounds on this idea in his book, “Just Ask: The Joy of Confident, Bold, Patient, Relentless, Shameless, Dependent, Grateful, Powerful, Expectant Prayer,” released in August 2021. Our prayer lives are extremely significant to ministry and how we view God, says Greear, who stated, “Prayerlessness at its core is a gospel problem.”
You can listen to the full podcast interview at the following link: J.D. Greear: Prayer Does Not Just Support the Ministry—It Is the Ministry
J.D. Greear: Prayer Is Like Breathing
It is crucial for ministry leaders to do the work God has called them to do while relying on God in prayer in the same way they rely on oxygen to survive. “Paul says pray without ceasing,” said J.D. Greear, alluding to 1 Thessalonians 5:17. “The least disciplined person listening to this podcast does not have an accountability partner for breathing…you do it because your body craves air.”
Our need for prayer should be the same as our need for air, says Greear. “When the gospel has shaped your soul to crave God, then you will pray instinctively. Not because you have to, but because you couldn’t imagine going an hour a day without spending that time.”
Shifting our perspective on prayer from seeing it as something we add to our lives to something we do constantly will likely require us to change how we pray. “I do think we have to get out of some of the more traditional ways of thinking about prayer,” said Greear. “If prayer really is something we’re doing without ceasing, then there are multiple moments where I am leaning on God for some kind of wisdom, where I’m leaning on his power to do something that may not come out as a verbal prayer, but that is a kind of prayer.”
But why are some ministries seemingly fruitful without their leaders relying on prayer in this way? Greear emphasized that if leaders are truly fruitful without depending on prayer, that success is a sign of God’s grace—but they should beware of taking that grace for granted.
“If God has sustained you and held you up without you having found that place of desperation and prayer,” said Greear, “I would say that’s God’s mercy to you. But you should expect that at some point whom the Lord loves he chastens.” The pastor shared that he has experienced God revealing just how merciful he has been when Greear himself has relied on his own strength instead of being in “that desperation point on prayer.”
Greear also said that prayer is a crucial factor in whether or not the work that church leaders are doing will last for eternity. “There’s going to be a lot of things that look so impressive in the Kingdom of God,” he said, “but they’re going to turn out to just be wood and stubble and not gold refined by fire….[and] prayer, according to Jesus, is going to make one of the biggest differences.”