CALL TO PRAYER: A plea for 'spiritual presence'

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.

CHARLESTON, Tenn. (BP) -- Does your life have a "spiritual presence"? What about your family? Your ministry? Your church?

We rarely pray for the very things that we say need prayer. We deliver and hear sermons and devotions that give us no opportunity for digestion or response. "We must keep moving with our agenda, our order of worship, our plan." That may be our greatest problem.

Our greatest need is to cultivate "spiritual presence" by spending time with the Father in prayer. Everywhere Jesus went, His spiritual presence filled the space, whether a room, a synagogue, a boat or the wide open spaces of the countryside. Seeing this, His disciples asked Him, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

In so many of our ministries, there is a definite lack of seeking God, acknowledging His sovereign ability to meet our needs. This should change. Perhaps when we get desperate enough, it will.

We cannot expect God to do anything with our efforts if we, as leaders, will not do what we are asking the churches to do. It is an old principle I first learned in the 101st Airborne Division when I was in the Army, and a principle that I discovered later is in the Bible -- "Lead by example."

If our greatest need is God, then let's pray together (not just individually) and invite Him into our work, over our work, to guide our work. Let's cry out to Him for our churches, our denomination, our nation and our world. As I attend denominational meetings, people often say that we put our trust in our programs and our abilities more than in God.

But when someone suggests that we commit time in every meeting to corporate prayer, those pleas often go unheeded. Have we grown so far away from God that some in leadership positions have grown uncomfortable with shepherding times of corporate prayer?

Or perhaps we think, "We don't need to pray here because we are all praying away from here." Or perhaps the power of personalities present seems too staggering to waste their valuable time in corporate prayer. Or, could it be that such times of prayer are not happening in our churches or entity staff meetings either? Could it be that prolonged periods of God-seeking prayer are not a part of our normal routine?

When we gather for our church or denominational committee meetings, do we not have 10 to 15 minutes we can give to corporate prayer? We don't have time for prayer? What does that say to God?

We preachers have told our people, "If you want to know your priorities, look at your checkbook or look at your daily planner; those are your priorities." A similar rule applies to the church, the association, the state convention, the SBC and its entities: "You want to know what our priorities are? Look at our meetings; watch what we do."

When seeking God is a priority in our private lives, corporate prayer is a natural expression of that in our public lives. A lack of prayer communicates loudly that we are more about getting on with business than we are with seeking God.

Someone may think this focus on prayer is really old school, that we need to get caught up with a more sophisticated way of doing things in the 21st century. But I hope I never become that sophisticated. I need God every single moment. I have seen Him do more in our church and in my life as a result of prayer than as a result of any business meeting we have ever had.

Pastors, church workers, denominational leaders, I urge you to do everything in your power from your seat of influence to bring seeking the Lord back to everything you do. Simply put, we need God!


Jamie Work is pastor of Candies Creek Baptist Church in Charleston, Tenn., and serves on the SBC Executive Committee. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).