When we personally or as a church face life transitions, we often begin to plan before we pray. Then we ask God to bless our plans. Praying for renewal and revitalization is often the missing part of strategic planning in the church.
Evaluating what are the needs is a good first step, but unless preceded and followed up by prayer we have missed the divine order. Throughout the book of Acts, we see examples of where prayer preceded the major manifestations of God’s power. Other times prayer was the place of confirmation. Prayer was the first step in sending out Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey. The early church knew and practiced the priority of prayer.
Jesus gave us the outline for prayer in “The Disciples Prayer” (Matthew 6). This outline is not only a personal outline but can be applied to the church seeking revitalization. The opening points should be our first concern in seeking to discover God’s plan.
- RELATIONSHIP is where prayer begins. This outline first calls us to remember the importance of our personal relationship with God as our Father. The invitation to pray or come into God’s presence is a family event. The first point is that we must be part of His family as adopted children through Jesus Christ. A second note is that the prayer is more collective than private. The pronoun is “our.” When we come to Christ we enter into a family relationship. Therefore prayer should reflect the family relationship rather than being self-focused appeal.
Relating this to church renewal, we need to call the body of believers to build their relationship in prayer with God based on the grace of God leading to salvation. This gives us the access to God. Remembering Him as Father should lead us to pray for others to come to faith and share in our relationship through faith. Building our relationship with God the Father strengthens the whole body, the church.
- REVERENCE is directly related to our relationship. If God is “Our Father” then our prayer should seek to “Hallow His Name.” To hallow means to declare Holy. The ultimate priority of the church should be to declare God’s holiness and character for His glory. The church or leader who seeks his own glory cannot be seeking God’s glory.
One of the biggest dangers in church leadership is pride. When we are used by God we need to be diligent to examine our motives. The first motive should always be “hallowed be His Name.” A danger in seeking revitalization is seeking it for the wrong reasons. Often our reasons are more related to personal interest then desiring to glorify God. We want to preserve “our church” as it is or as it was at a time. We want a church that is comfortable to us. The right reason must be defined and preserved as “to God be the glory.”
Our relationship to God begins in prayer recognizing Him as a loving Father who offered us forgiveness and adoption as children of God. Growing in maturity we learn our dependence on God.
The problem is we often begin to think we can solve our problems. The result is rather than coming to God as Our Father we seek or even expect God to confirm our ideas. Prayer often becomes a missing step in personal planning. Likewise in church renewal, we can do assessments and explore what God is using today but fail to become passionate about prayer. Strategic planning in life and ministry should begin with, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.(Matt. 6:9)