Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Ten Myths Pastors Believe About Prayer (Part 2)

Ten Myths Pastors Believe About Prayer (Part 2)


In a follow up from Part 1, Daniel Henderson offers five more myths about leading in prayer and how to faithfully combat these natural errors.

Myth #6: Because it is prayer, my methods will always be effective.

Some may assume that a desire to produce a prayer-oriented church means that anything done to pursue this goal will work. Any kind of prayer will work, some think, since it is prayer the church is trying to improve. Just because you have your eyes on the finish line does not mean that anything you do will get you there. Like Jesus pointed out with the pagans, making repetitious phrases in a pious fashion will not achieve much of anything. Likewise, as a pastor, you need to make sure your methods in desiring to cultivate a praying church are realistic and sound.

I really believe in learning how to lead biblically-balanced prayer meetings. What I mean by “biblically-balanced” is that everyone present understands the concepts of prayer found in Scripture. An example of a prayer meeting that is not biblically-balanced is if the pastor says something like, “Let’s all just pray as we feel led.” This is a scary concept. The pastor assumes everyone even understands the leadership of the Spirit, and that they will indeed be led by him instead of their heartburn or their financial crisis.

I’ve heard people say, “My theory when I go to prayer meetings is to get my issues on the table before anybody else prays because if I don’t hurry up, I won’t get a word in edgewise.” What is prayer, a competition among the churchgoers to get their voice heard? People simply want to have time to talk because everybody likes to talk.

Conversely, the best prayer meetings are the ones that start in the Word of God. Every Sunday morning I lead a prayer meeting at 6:15 a.m. While this is very early, I feel this works for everyone. We just go through the Psalms in order one at a time. Then I ask a simple question: What does this Psalm tell you about God and his character? We do not get into hypothetical or technical matters; we simply worship God based on what the Psalm says. For the next fifteen minutes, we do not ask God anything. We just give him what he is worthy of receiving: attention and praise.

There is a fourfold pattern of prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer I like to use: upward, downward, inward, and outward. … Finally, there is the outward focus of readiness for the battle ahead, paralleled by the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”

There are various places for many types of prayer in the church. Sometimes requests are needed to bring everyone up to speed. Small groups can work, and so can everyone at once. Sometimes I advise everyone to pray aloud at the same time, which is quite interesting to witness.

Myth #7: Because it is prayer, my motives will always be pure.

Over the years, I have had a journey in motivation. In my younger years, I prayed out of guilt and approval. But when I finished college and seminary, my motive was church growth. I said to myself, “If I pray, God will bless me and my church will grow. If my church grows, the chancellor of the seminary will have me back to speak. All my peers will respect me.” But I learned a long time ago that God is not going to reduce prayer to my next ego-fed church growth tactic.

One time at a conference, a pastor asked everyone the following question: “If God promised you two things—that you will go to heaven when you die, and that he will never use you in the ministry again, would you still pray?” That pierced my heart. I was using God for me in prayer, when I should have been asking God to use me for him.

I decided after that conference that revival is the key to prayer. At another conference, however, some guy had the audacity to bust my balloon (he didn’t know he was doing this, of course). He said there’s a difference between seeking revival from God and seeking God for revival. We all want revival. We just want to make sure it starts in our denomination. And what if revival does come? Are we still going to be praying with the same passion and intensity?

I’ve had these “aha” moments about prayer throughout my life of ministry. I lead a Monday morning men’s prayer time at 6 a.m., which is one of the hardest times to have a prayer meeting. There were many times about 5 a.m. on Mondays  when I would get up and ask, “Lord, why am I doing this?” I don’t hear voices, but what God told me is something like this: My motive has to be rooted in something that will never change. It can’t be the size of the crowd, the answers to prayer, or revival.

I learned a long time ago that the only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought. That never changes. We need to seek after God when we pray. This can be done in a big group or a small group. And we may not get answers to our prayer. But still, God is worthy to be sought. It is so easy to lose sight of this motive, like when the Pharisees prayed only to be seen by men, or when gossip takes over a prayer meeting.

Myth #8: Additional prayer leaders will naturally arise.

As we begin to pray more, we may still ask requests of God that are good but unrealistic in how they will come to fruition. For example, we may ask God for more prayer leaders without having any kind of training going on in the church. If the pastor does not reproduce in others the ability to have a vision for prayer, to understand corporate prayer, and to know how to lead a prayer meeting, the prayer ministry will never grow beyond the pastor’s ability to show up. The pastor is still the leader by example, but that does not mean he has to manage every prayer meeting and be at everything that goes on. Others need to be trained and equipped to lead for the future. One of the marks of a good leader is if he has a good replacement.

For a long time a man named Gary was my right-hand man in the prayer ministry. He would help me out so much, I didn’t even pick the facilitators anymore, nor did I train them. Gary did all of this. We had more than we could even use to help lead prayer summits. I would just show up at training sessions and lead the big group time. The men we trained were just dialed in to their job. That’s what this ministry is all about: equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.

It’s a myth that everybody’s just going to learn to pray. I am telling all you pastors that you must give time and attention to the training process. Pick and train your leaders well. You will not be alive forever. This may be a harsh way of looking at it, but it’s a reality any leader needs to keep in the back of his mind. If he wants his legacy to live on past him, he must train a replacement.

Myth #9: People will flock to prayer if I just lead the way.

Even if pastors start right and get passionate about prayer (which I hope they do!), the congregation may not come the first time. In other words, prayer might be a hard sell.

Before I was voted in at Grace Church, where I am ______, I said to the people that I will not let them vote on me unless I led them in a Fresh Encounter on a Sunday night. Out of the church of 4-5,000 people, about 1,000 showed up the first night. Now we average about a couple hundred weekly. Pastors, you must ask yourselves if this is about numbers or about what you know is right and the kind of leadership your church needs. Biblically-balanced prayer does change the culture of the church over time. It brings a supernatural aspect into the ministry that no one can describe.

The late pastor and author A.W. Tozer once said not to expect a big crowd when God is the only attraction. Grace Church is probably the primary facility for hosting citywide concerts in Eaton Prairie because we’ve got such a big place. We might have a sell-out crowd when a popular artist comes and sings his songs. People pay money for this. But when you announce a prayer meeting, the people stay away in droves. That must grieve the heart of the Lord. People are usually more interested in the creature than they are in the Creator. We are kind of missing the point here. We need a reality check. Christianity is an all-out battle against the devil and the forces of evil. It is not a prayerless faith. Without Christ we can do nothing. We need to pray for the power of God daily.

Myth #10: Prayer ministry will always be easy and enjoyable.

Sometimes we think that if we just start obeying the commands of Scripture, bliss and joy will rush in and usher us along a path of easy fellowship with God and fellow believers. While the road of Christianity is often joyful, it is also often difficult. So it is with prayer ministry. Think less of a stroll down a warm, breezy road and more of a fierce battle.

There are many characteristics of prayer. It is the ultimate antidote for anxiety because prayer is the act of lifting up requests, needs, and temperaments to God. It is the great alternative to ministering in the flesh. It can be a great relief to talk to God after having a tough time of ministering among fallen, sinful humanity. It is the spectacular avenue for intimacy with God. It is also the key to a daily experience of the glory of God.

But prayer is also warfare. In Ephesians 6 Paul urges the church to put on the armor of God. In verse 18 he also tells them to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Four times in this chapter he says the word “all,” the idea being “y’all praying together.” So prayer is an integral part of the Christian’s arsenal. Prayer is also agonizing. In Romans 15:30, Paul beseeches his church to “strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” It is like lifting weights. It hurts, but it stretches the spiritual muscles to new potential. Finally, prayer is not a quick fix; rather, it is a lifelong commitment. Once you decide to lead a church of prayer, you are in it for the long haul. I conclude with this picture: dream of dying on your knees.

This article originally appeared here.

Previous articleBeyond Celebrity Pastors: Why Your Leadership Influence Matters Now
Next articleHow to Make Teenagers Care About Their Faith
As a lead pastor for nearly three decades, Daniel Henderson helped several congregations experience transformation and renewal through an extraordinary commitment to prayer. Daniel now serves as founder and president of Strategic Renewal and is the national director for The 6.4 Fellowship. As a “pastor to pastors,“ he leads renewal experiences in local churches, speaks in a variety of leadership conferences, and coaches pastors across North America and beyond. Daniel is the author of over a dozen books, including, Old Paths, New Power: Awakening Your Church Through Prayer and the Ministry of The Word, Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face, Transforming Presence: How The Holy Spirit Changes Everything - From The Inside Out, and Glorious Finish: Keeping Your Eye on the Prize of Eternity in a Time of Pastoral Failings.