Frequently, as I speak in conferences and seminars, I am approached by an attendee with a pertinent question. Each inquirer comments up front on their deep appreciation for their pastor. They typically extol their pastor’s preaching, administrative skills, shepherding focus, and personality. Then they ask, “Why doesn’t he lead our church in prayer?”
From my personal struggles as a pastor for almost 30 years and through interactions with many peers, I have discovered seven basic reasons why pastors are reluctant to lead the way to a dynamic prayer culture in the local church:
1. Many grew up in a prayerless church environment
A Brazilian proverb states, “The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen.” Today’s pastors often lack first-hand experience of what a dynamic prayer-energized church looks like.
Many of us recall sparsely-attended prayer meetings we’ve attended in the past. These prayer meetings involved prolonged grocery-lists of physical needs and personal woes. A handful of faithful saints attended each week. However, a church where the majority of the people gather in dynamic, transformational prayer does not register on most of our radar screens.
2. Most were trained in a prayerless educational process
I received seven years of formal undergraduate and graduate-level theological education. While grateful for all the fine classes and grand truths, I never had a professor or pastor personally influence me in the area of prayer. I heard great sermons on prayer and studied theological truths about prayer, but no one took me aside and taught me to pray by praying with me on a regular basis. As pastors, we commonly receive many years of instruction about the ministry of the word while practical mentoring on the prayer ministry in the local church is neglected completely.
3. Some are not sure how to lead effective and life-changing prayer experiences
This lack of experience and training causes pastors to feel unsure and inadequate about the nature of a truly life-giving prayer experience. Since most us were not trained in the dynamics of biblical, balanced prayer times, we struggle to lead prayer gatherings that are transformational and attractive to the congregation.
4. All minister in a prayerless, success-oriented culture
In many churches, “man of prayer” no longer ranks high on the list of desirable leadership traits for the local church. Instead, churches search for a CEO or manager for the many programs and funding needs of the church. Our American society tends to value strong, natural leadership, dynamic programming, entertaining services, and impressive technology. The idea of a pastor locked away in extended prayer does not strike the average churchgoer as a mark of effective leadership. Some church members think it wastes time if the pastor spends energy attending prayer meetings. Realizing this, we are tempted to decide not to go against the grain.