A Challenge for Church Leaders to Be As Devoted to Prayer As They Are to Scripture

Keith KettenringMinistry Leaders, Prayer & Fasting, The Uncommon Journey

Are you balanced in your commitment to prayer and your commitment to scripture? There’s a very good possibility that you devote more of your time to relating with God through the Bible than to relating with God through prayer.

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I read the sixth chapter of Acts a few days ago. Verse 4 jumped off the page: “But we  [apostles] will devote ourselves to the ministry of prayer and the ministry of the word” (ESV). The Greek reads, “but we to the prayer and to the service of the word will keep.” The apostles were making a statement of their commitment to keep “to the prayer” and “to the service of the word.” I know church leaders try to balance these two aspects of ministry. But, there is no question that prayer gets the short end of the stick.

For the sake of this post, I’m assuming most evangelicals interpret “word” as scripture, though that is probably not what the apostles meant. “The word” probably refers to the word of Christ (what he taught and lived) or the word of the apostles. “The prayer” could also be examined. But not in this post.

From my own experience of 26 years of pastoral ministry, of more than three decades of working with church leaders, and now of reading what church leaders put on Facebook and Twitter, I see them fully committed to scripture but only slightly consenting to prayer. This holds true for Christian college and seminary leadership, too.

Most evangelical doctrinal statements begin with a statement of adherence to scripture but prayer is nowhere to be found. Evangelical colleges and seminaries devote dozens of units of study to the Bible but little, if any, to prayer. Sunday worship is centered on the sermon, often a teaching from the Bible, but there is little time given to prayer. Pastors devote 20 – 25 hours a week preparing sermons but give little time to their soul’s communion with God in prayer. (I know! I’ve been there, done that!) So, where is the commitment to prayer?

I am empathetic to your plight. It’s like you’re trapped. You’ve been trained this way. It’s what you know. You don’t know how to act or think otherwise. You’ve been trained to elevate the Bible in everything. It’s impossible to uphold prayer in the same high regard let alone act on it.

My point is not to pit scripture against prayer. My point is to show that evangelical leaders are unbalanced in their devotion to these two “ministries.” They will fight to the end over the Bible, but shrug their shoulders if prayer is neglected. And that holds true for their own personal lives as well. How can an equal devotion to both prayer and the word of God be developed?

Here’s the challenge and invitation for you, church/Christian leader or not…

  • Begin sincerely asking God what the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach me to pray.” Even if you consider yourself to have a dynamic prayer life, there is room for improvement.
  • When you know you’re acting in an unbalanced way, ask again.
  • Anytime you interact with scripture, ask again.
  • Whenever you read scripture, begin with prayer, something like “Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten my darkened heart.”
  • Place scripture reading and meditation in the context of prayer. Pray first then meditate.
  • Pray scripture.

Similar devotion to prayer and to scripture is the challenge. Examine yourself. In reality, are you committed equally to both?

Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K