This weekend CRM staff attended the 6:4 Fellowship Conference in Dallas. The 6:4 Fellowship is a network of pastors and ministry leaders committed to the priorities of the apostles in Acts 6:4 who said they would “give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” These pastors believe these are the two most important priorities personally as they grow in the Lord and corporately as they lead their congregations. I could not agree more.
These are the two “arms” so to speak of a pastor thrown into the sea of ministry. To swim, or at least to swim straight, we have to move both arms. However, we usually have one arm overdeveloped while the other remains weak if not completely atrophied. As a result, we just wind up swimming in circles.
It has been my experience that college pastors and college students are weakest in prayer. It’s our left arm, so to speak (sorry lefties). It may be different in your circles, but in my circles it is fair to say if one of the two gets neglected, it tends to be prayer. This is radically limiting our impact. It must be addressed.
If this is true of you and your ministry, may I encourage you do one or more of the following things.
Exercise Your Left Arm
It’s simple. If you wan to build up your left arm so you can swim straight, you have to exercise it. That means you need to calendar time to pray, personally and corporately. If you are not praying enough personally then you must change your schedule. If your staff team is not praying together, you must stop all of your planning and start praying together.
Almost all of the speakers at this conference referenced a time in their lives when they realized the busyness of ministry snuffed out their time with God. They use to spend time with God daily, or fast weekly, and used to go on prayer retreats but the demands of ministry swallowed up these times. They described how they realized they were drowning and had to make changes – to “do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 3)
It sounds simplistic, but the way to grow in prayer is to actually make time to pray together.
Quit Using Your Right Arm
I used to be an amateur body builder. Most people do not know this, but one of the ways judges score a contest is on “proportion.” If a contestant had overdeveloped chest but underdeveloped biceps they could easily could lose to a guy who was smaller than them but not in better proportion.
To work on proportion, a body builder has to quit doing some exercises and focus on their weakness. If they tried to focus on their weakness while continuing to do the same exercises on their strength they will continue to remain out of proportion. Making changes to your schedule to make time for prayer must include sacrificing some of the priorities that have led to your imbalance.
As heretical as this may sound, study the Bible less (or learn to pray it as you study). Stop meeting for Bible study, fellowship, and or planning and learn to pray together instead. Cut out some of your sermon time and have the congregation pray together instead. You not only need to schedule prayer, you also need to “unschedule” other things or you will continue to remain out of proportion.
Learn From Lefties
One of the best things you can do to grow in prayer is to expose yourself to others who are more experienced and more passionate about prayer. Read books, listen to podcasts, go to conferences and make friends with those who emphasize prayer more than you tend to do. I’m sure you believe other should read your books on missions, evangelism, or church planting. Don’t you think you should read books on prayer and befriend those who emphasize prayer and a means to revival and transformation? This is why CRM believes we need to be in relationships with one another – to learn from one another and grow in humility.
A few months ago I was at another conference that was more focused on missional living. While I enjoyed the conference (given that missional communities is one of CRM’s ventures and is a HUGE part of my life and work), I was bothered by how little time was spent praying and how only two of the dozens of speakers spoke about prayer or the work of the Holy Spirit in missional communities.
BOTTOM LINE: Acts 6:4 teaches us that we need prayer and mission. One will not do without the other! You’ll just end up swimming in circles. We need prayer and we need the word. Mission without prayer is dead. So is prayer without mission.
Which is your weak arm? What can you do to grow where you’re weak?
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.