How many churches still have a Prayer Meeting during the week? I am referring to a church-wide assembly where believers of all ages meet to review prayer needs and then pray about those needs.
Prayer Meeting has been replaced by a “mid-week service”, childrens’ ministry, teen ministry, singles ministry, and other activities. Some beneficial programs have perhaps unintentionally split our churches into separate mini-churches, and prayer meeting is often viewed as a lesser ministry, if not explicitly but by omission and substitution. For example, look at many churches’ weekly schedule. You will find prominently listed several different activities for all age groups. Conspicuously absent is any mention of a prayer meeting.
I find it curious that many lament the many divisions in Fundamental Christianity, yet don’t realize that we are adding to the division by some of our ministries. Although the better age-specific ministries attempt to teach the concept and practice of praying and do an excellent job of teaching the Bible to youth, the problem I have noticed is that younger Christians do not know how to worship and pray with Christians who are not of their age group, if they even pray that much with those who are of their age group.
Additionally, some youth-oriented programs emphasize activity and “high-energy” to such an extent that when these youth reach the point of joining the adults in worship, these youth are bored with the worship service. Therefore the adults feel pressure to make the service more “interesting” with jazzier music, drama, a “worship band”, and other entertainment. I have noticed that when families visit our church, their teenage children rarely sing. In fact, even the adults rarely sing. This lack of singing seems to have very little to do with the type of music and more with the “entertainment mentality” that permeates Christian ministry.
Adults, teens, and children are motivated about attending exciting and fun ministries, but are strangely less excited and motivated about attending a simple prayer meeting. What does that tell us about ourselves and our churches? What are we really teaching the next generation?
Teenagers, and even young children, need to be entertained less and learn how to pray by watching and listening to adults pray. Yes, I know that youth-oriented programs have prayer times with the youth. And that emphasis is certainly beneficial. But those prayer times are with others of their own age, which of course is appropriate. Praying with people who are the same age as yourself is helpful. But we also need to pray with people who are older than we are. All of us can benefit from the years of praying experience which older believers bring to prayer time. And older Christians need the experience of praying with those who are younger than they are. Praying with younger believers can give a freshness to our own praying and help us understand their needs.
I suspect that one reason churches have shifted to more activity during the week and less prayer time is the desire to “reach” young people with the gospel and increase numerical attendance. This is certainly a worthwhile goal. But should we sacrifice prayer meeting in order to accomplish this goal?
The next generation of Christians will not know how to pray nor have the same desire to pray as previous generations because we have emphasized activities over prayer time. The future Christian church will be weaker and unprepared for the difficult times ahead.
Yes, many Fundamental churches have large attendance for these mid-week activities. And these ministries have their place. But are we so focused on achieving large numbers and “reaching” young people that we have forgotten one very important ministry: all of us praying together?
As we lament our culture’s rapid movement away from Biblical morality and influence, I find it strange that our churches are praying less. As individuals and small groups have their prayer time, the time for the entire church to pray together is disappearing. The very time we need our churches praying is the very time our churches are not praying.
Wally Morris is the pastor of Charity Baptist Church, Huntington, IN, and blogs at A Moment of Charity.