Before you read this post please understand that I know that more church happens outside of the walls than inside of it. I know that people coming to church is the result of a life change and very rarely the beginning of one. But with that said, these are some of the thoughts that I have about prayer and church attendance.
There is a strange phenomenon of my prayer life that God has been convicting me of lately. I don’t pray for numbers. By that I don’t pray for more people to come to church. My normal prayer is “God bring in the people who need to hear what you have to say tonight through me.” That sounds like a good thing. It sounds spiritual and open and like I am praying inline with God’s will.
But in reality that is just a cop out. It is a prayer that is prayed by a priest to an idol so that no matter what the outcome he can look at his people and say, “see, God answered.”
I’m not saying that everyone who prays that sort of prayer is someone who is just hedging their bets, but what I am saying is that is what I am doing. I am scared to pray for big things because I am terrified of what happens when God doesn’t come through. I am scared of what happens when I pray for people to come and only 4 people show up. I would rather pray insignificant prayers than pray in such a way that actually reveals that God doesn’t answer.
Lately I have become convicted of this and have been praying for God sized things. Here are a few things that most people probably know, but that I am working out.
- When I am praying for more people to come into our youth meetings or our church services I have found that I am more convicted of 1) lackadaisical lesson planning and 2) lack of outreach on my part. When I pray for more people to come in one of the ways that God answers that prayer is by helping me to see what steps I can take to bring more people into the church.
- My prayer of “bring the people who need to hear” isn’t invalid, it just shouldn’t be used as a way to avoid real and risky prayers.
- Sometimes more people show up and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes God answers my prayers in a very visible way and sometimes he reminds silent or straight up denies my requests. That is his prerogative. He is God after all.
- I don’t have to defend God when the things that I pray may not come about. God is big enough to defend himself, even to me and my sometimes doubting heart.
So anyway, lately I have been trying to actually pray for God to reach not only just the few people who come to our church, but our whole community. I am praying that God use me, my students, and just plain old divine intervention to make our church a place where scores of people can hear about the love of God and be transformed. I am tired of praying like someone afraid of a “no”. I am trying to learn to pray like someone who listens to God and knows that God can respond. I am trying to learn to pray like someone who has a connection to the creator of the universe. In short I am trying to learn to pray, really pray, and not just spout random words.
And I am praying that it works.