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Many years ago before I ever pastored a church, the senior minister was away on vacation and the elders asked Walford Thompson to fill the pulpit. He did far more than that, at least for me. This dear brother was not ordained by the PCA but he was most definitely anointed by the Holy Spirit. His preaching was powerful and bold, yet gracious and kind. As he stood in the entrance greeting people after the service, I stood off to the side observing. The Holy Spirit intruded upon my thoughts and He said to me, “You need to get with that man. He can teach you how to pray.” Obviously I’ve never forgotten those words and I’ve never forgotten my subsequent times of prayer with this godly man from the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. How I loved to hear him speak to the Father with the familiarity that only comes through many conversations and untold answers to prayer. He taught me what it means to have a passionate conversation with God. To this day, Walford remains my preeminent example of prayer outside of those we meet in Scripture, such as Daniel or the Apostle Paul.
A decade or more later the Lord brought Dr. Archie Parrish into my life. He has taught me most of what I know about the practice and necessity of prayer. His emphasis (which is nothing more or less than the biblical emphasis) is on “Kingdom-focused prayer,” wherein we orient all of our prayer life to the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth. This was revolutionary when he first exposed me to such a concept. Archie also taught me what it means to become a part of a “fire-team.” Borrowed from the Marine Corps concept, a “fire-team” is comprised of four men who cover one another’s backs and, at the same time, all the points of the compass; north, south, east and west. They don’t put out fires, they start them, at least in terms of advancing the gospel and pushing back the kingdom of darkness.
Then there was the late Dr. Stephen Olford who was like a fiery Puritan preacher resurrected from the pages of history. I was only able to hear Dr. Olford preach on one occasion, but I shall never forget it. Small in stature, but a giant of the faith, Dr. Olford ministered the Word of God as I’ve never experienced it before or since. At a Maximum Man conference in Raleigh, N.C., I heard him quote an old Scottish seminary professor of his. He related the words of that professor when discussing the issue of prayer. It was so profound that Dr. Olford never forgot exactly what he said in class that particular day; “Pray when you feel like it. Pray when you don’t feel like it. And pray until you do feel like it.” Simple, pithy and memorable. Oh, that every Christian in America knew those words and practiced their content.
I, along with our elders, am convinced that God is calling our congregation to a fresh emphasis and practice of prayer. Some of you have expressed your own heart in this matter, for which we are thankful. If our church is to make any real progress spiritually, functionally, and statistically, it must be upon our knees. We must get real, get focused and get going. We Christians are adept when it comes to talking about prayer, but we are often not too swift when it comes to actually praying. We desire to see this dramatically change. Our elders on sabbatical and our current executive board of elders has called for intensive times of prayer among ourselves. Most churches never grow beyond their leaders. If we are to be a praying church then prayer must begin with our pastoral staff, elders and deacons. We must pray “when we feel like it, when we don’t feel like it and until we do feel like it.” I am thankful to say that we are praying as we’ve not done since I have been at WPC. We are confessing our own sins and neediness. We are being open and vulnerable with one another. We are seeking the face of our God and it is most refreshing and encouraging.
Now we are calling God’s people to prayer. The first Sunday evening of each month our service will be devoted primarily to praying far more than we have in the past. There will be the singing of songs, hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord. There will be opportunities for you to share what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through you for our mutual edification and encouragement. There will also be a brief meditation on the theme of prayer but most of all we want to devote a significant amount of time to actually praying with and for one another and so much more. It is our deep desire (and prayer) that this service will be well attended because you are also sensing God’s call for us, as a body of believers, to seek Him in prayer. Bring with you someone who doesn’t normally attend the evening services. Come! Let us praise His name together. Let us call unto Him who is able to do far more than we can ask or think. Let us seek the Lord, our Maker, Redeemer, Father and Friend of sinners. Come, let us pray together. I hope to see you the first Sunday evening of each month beginning at 6:00 p.m.