Prayer is essential to fulfill the Great Commission, Page says at prayer conference

Communications Staff — March 20, 2008

Weak prayer lives among God’s people has led to spiritual decline in churches across America, Frank Page said at the Great Commission Prayer Conference: The Greater Work, March 15 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the story of a grandmother who forgot to insert a check in Christmas cards to her grandchildren in which she wrote “buy your own present” to illustrate the attitude of Christians in America toward non-believers.

“By living a weak, anemic, prayerless, lethargic Christian life in front of the world, in essence, what we have said to them is: we love you, but go buy your own present,” said Page, who also serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.

“Find your own way, figure it out on your own (is what we have said). Because of that our nation is lost. Our churches are dying. Our young people are leaving in massive numbers, saying ‘I’m not so sure I don’t like Jesus, but I know I don’t like the church.’ We are in periless days.”

Donald Whitney, senior associate dean of the School of Theology and associate professor of biblical spirituality at Southern Seminary; and noted author and speaker T.W. Hunt, (“The Mind of Christ,” “The Life Changing Power of Prayer” and “Disciple’s Prayer Life”) joined Page as presenters at the conference, which was jointly sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Southern.

Whitney, who has pastored for 24 years and is the author of “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” said many genuine believers struggle with a sense of boredom in their prayer lives.

“Everyone who has the Holy Spirit desires to pray, whether they are nine or 99,” he said. “However, for most of us prayer is boring. We know that true Christians pray. And we know that we can’t stop praying. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, giving us this desire to pray. If there is no known sin in your life that you are not seeking to deal with, then the problem is not with you. The problem is with your methods.”

Whitney said most people pray about the same things: family, future, finances, work or school, church or ministry and the current crisis in their lives, be it good or bad. However, Whitney said prayer becomes boring because people “pray the same old things about the same old things.”

Whitney said the solution to this problem is fundamentally simple, because God calls all of His people to pray. The solution is to let the Bible enliven our prayer lives, Whitney said, by reading through a passage and letting Scripture shape our prayers.

“There is nothing that kindles my cold heart more than praying through Scripture,” he said. “It is not just that these words are fresh and different [from what we normally pray], it is that they are supernatural words inspired by God and we are simply praying them back to God about the things going on in our lives.”

Whitney said the Psalms are particularly good for praying through because they express a broad range of human emotions on a wide variety of topics.

“Someone once said ‘there is a Psalm for every sigh of the soul,’” he said. “From exhilaration to great discouragement, from anger at enemies to feeling the love of God, from guilt to forgiveness, from contentment to anticipation. It is uncanny how if you consistently pray through the Psalms, you will be able to give expression to something that has been looking for expression in your
heart.”

Whitney said using Scripture as the starting point for prayer enlivens prayer, while also assuring that one is praying according to the will of God.

“To pray through a passage of Scripture, we take words that have already originated in the heart and mind of God and we are circulating them through our hearts and minds back to God so that His words become the wings of our prayers,” he said.

“You are freed from the burden of thinking up everything that you are going to pray God. You let God initiate the conversation, you let God direct the conversation and then you respond to what God says in His Word through prayer.”

Focusing on the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Hunt said that to see great revival the members of its churches must be obedient to pray.

“Are you willing in these crucial, crucial days to be obedient? It (being obedient) will involve Bible study, prayer, witnessing and sharing one another’s burdens,” he said. “The only way to win Kentucky is to be obedient to God, no matter what He says, no matter where He wants you to go.

“You are not going to win Kentucky with courses, or great buildings or preaching and I love all of these things. But we can only win Kentucky if God does the work. To win Kentucky, you must pray.”

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