Advancing a Culture of Prayer in Your Church

Sept. 21, 2012 Daniel Henderson

Session Transcript

Father, oh we long to continue to seek Your face, to know You, to experience Your glory, and then to see Your glory manifested in our homes and in our churches and across our nation and world. So, Lord, there's a lot of stake as we talk about this subject today in developing cultures of prayer. I pray that each and every one of these women, and men as well, will be encouraged about their role in terms of what they can do to make a difference for the sake of the gospel as Your Church becomes a house of prayer for all nations. And we pray this because of Christ and in His name. Amen.

I want to begin with a confession, very briefly, and this may help you. I'm not a natural prayer guy. You say, "What? Man, we watch you up there, leading prayer, blah, blah, blah." And I always think, God must laugh when He sees that, because I am not a natural prayer guy.

I've met some of those natural prayer people. They're very contemplative, and it's like their eyes are fire. They look like they've been wearing their robe and swinging their incense, and they glow in the dark and drip Shekinah juice. They're just amazing people. That's not me.

I'm actually fiercely independent by nature, and prayer is depending on God. In fact, I always say it this way: Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God. Say that with me: Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God, and I get that.

It's very easy to get up every day and go on Christian autopilot. And I say, "Lord, if I have a crisis, I'll give You a call." So for me to even have anything to say about prayer is almost comical. It's the grace of God, but it gives you hope. Because if I can learn, I know that you're well ahead of me in terms of that process.

I only say that because in my own journey, God has really helped me to learn to pray—I would just say through the school of hard knocks. When I came out of seminary, I already mentioned this, I found that verse, Acts 6:4, and it said prayer and the ministry of the Word were the priorities of early church leaders. And I said, "Lord, You know, I've had seven years of training in the Word—hermeneutics, homiletics, hamartiology, soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology—all the ologies, schisms, and spasms of biblical learning. I've got all that down."

I'm still growing, but I've got that training. But no one ever personally influenced me in the arena of prayer. They preached on prayer. We read books on prayer. But that's not how you learn to pray. I never had a pastor or a seminary prof come and say, "Hey, let me show you guys how to pray."

So when I came across this verse, I said, "Lord, I'm drawing blanks here. I mean, I'm struggling in my own prayer life. I really don't know how to lead a church in prayer. I don't even know how to lead prayer times. Prayer times I lead, people fall asleep and snore. Those things aren't life-giving."

So I said, "Lord, would You teach me to be a praying pastor?"

Well, now, let's be honest. That's like saying, "Lord, teach me patience." Because the only way you become a praying person is through desperation. We heard that last night, didn't we?

So, again, God said, "All right. If you're serious about this, hang on." And I did. And, again, the three churches I pastored—two of which were significant congregations after a moral failure that if we didn't pray, we were in all kinds of trouble. One church had a $25 million lawsuit that I inherited. The other one had an $18 million debt along with a $10 million cash shortfall. Their pastor had just moved them into a brand-new building, and then they found out that he was having an affair. So those situations will teach you to pray.

In between those two, for eleven years, I was at a church where I followed the only pastor they'd had for forty years. So that's pain of a different flavor. The phrase du jour is "we've never done it that way before." Anybody ever hear that in your church? Yeah, oh, man. I could have engraved that on the walls, I heard it so many times.

But before long, God launched these prayer summits and all other kinds of prayer experiences. Every week we had a gathering called Fresh Encounter. I had 600 to 800 people who came every Thursday night—totally transformed the life of that church. The church grew significantly, more than doubled, planted three daughter churches. It was a wonderful chapter. But, again, all of that came out of the desperation of saying, "God, if You don't do something, we're in trouble." So God allowed me to go through that path and to see how prayer can transform the life of a church.

In 2004 I was pastoring a church in Minnesota, in fact Michelle Cho's here somewhere—she and her husband were in a leadership class of mine. They were there, and I basically announced that I was moving from being a senior pastor to a full-time spiritual pyromaniac, as I said last night, going to missionary status. I left this very large church, started raising support so that I could be free to begin to help other churches and pastors do this.

So that's been just a wonderful, wonderful journey for me. So what I talk to you about is really not theory, it's not "I went up to a monastery and wanted to write a great book on prayer." It just comes out of the laboratory of the local church, and it's left me with a vision. You don't have to write this down—your pen will smoke. It's a vision for pastor-led, local-church-oriented movements of Christ-exalting, worship-based prayer leading to a full-scale revival, supernatural evangelism, and cultural transformation. That's what wakes me up every day.

Thank you for laughing, by the way, a few of you, because John Maxwell says, "If they don't laugh, it's not big enough," and that's about as big as I can dream right there. But the bottom line is to see pastors leading their churches in worship-based prayer that is all about the exaltation of Christ, based in local churches, such that at an organic level, five years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now, the norm will be praying churches again. And as we do that, we can't manipulate God for revival. But we certainly can have our sails set so that thousands and scores of thousands of churches all across America are really praying churches, and God might be pleased at that point to bring a revival that wouldn't exalt any program or any activity but simply exalt Christ because His churches became praying churches again—and resulting in a full-scale revival, supernatural evangelism. Because great movements of evangelism have not occurred after we wrote new curriculum. They've occurred because we have been revived—and cultural transformation.

I would say there's not a problem in America that cannot be solved by the revival of the Church. And the problem's not the darkness. It's the failure of the light, isn't it? So we need that light to fill us.

I often joke—I just wrote an e-devotion . . . in fact, it was last Monday . . . called "Don't just pray for the elections. Pray for the elect." I'm glad there's more prayer, but really the problem—whatever happens on November 6—I don't mean to seem crass about it, but it's not the point of transformation in our culture. The elect are the key—those who know Christ are the key. Politicians are going to come and go. Laws are going to change, change back, change again. But the Church—a revived Church—is the hope of America. We need to be praying for us.

I always say—kind of tongue-in-cheek—the problem out there isn't Osama, Obama, or your mama. You can blame anybody you want for the problems in the culture. "It's the terrorists. It's the politicians. My mama dropped me on the head, told me I was a loser." Well, I'm sorry about all that, but the real issue is we need revival, don't we? When that begins to occur, everything can change. That's why I do what I do, and that's what motivates me day after day, to see the next great awakening in this generation.

My real dream—some of you will appreciate this—is some day to be around the throne of heaven at the feet of Jesus, worshiping with the angels and all the saints. And some angel comes, taps me on the shoulder, and says, "Brother Henderson, I'm sorry to interrupt your worship here, but I just thought I'd let you know. You know that revival you were praying for down there—all those years you spent training pastors and churches? Well, I just wanted you to know, it's happening, and your kids are in on it, and your grandkids are in on it." And I'll say, "Hallelujah!" And then I'll go back to worshiping. I don't know, I kind of want to be in heaven when it happens so there's no chance of me or anyone else getting the credit. It just happens for the glory of Christ. But that's kind of a dream. I know you share the same thing.

So let's talk now about what could happen. Imagine these headlines—and I love this: "Five Jewish priests lead their synagogues to worship in a Christian church after a dramatic conversion." Wouldn't that be awesome?

And then you'd read also in The New York Times: "Three mullahs and other Islamic leaders denounce their faith to join the Christian movement." Wow!

And then The Miami Herald: "Local Buddhist priests cause a stir by declaring that Jesus Christ is God." Something's going on!

And then the The Seattle Times: "Survey shows that the sale of Bibles is up 200 percent in the last few weeks."

And then the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Bestselling author and skeptic Sam Harris apologizes to Christians after a dramatic change of heart." Maybe you don't know Sam Harris, so how about "Bill Mar is born again." Wouldn't that be a great headline?

And then in The Dallas Morning News: "Local bars and adult bookstores see dramatic downturn in business as religion booms in the region."

And another news story: "Churches throughout the area grow in unprecedented fashion. Leaders cannot explain why."

Could that ever happen? Of course it could—and it did. And we're not going to take a lot of time on this, but, again, the passage I've already referred to that so motivates me is very simply in Acts 6. The church was going through a season of potential division and distraction with the widow-feeding program breaking down. The leaders said, "It's not fit that we would leave the Word of God and serve tables, so you pick them and we're going to give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word."

What do you call that? That's a culture of prayer, isn't it? They were saying, "This is how Jesus told us to do it. It started after ten days of prayer. Everything we've been doing so far has come out of prayer, so we're going to keep on praying, and we're just going to encounter the heart of God as we lead."

So it tells us, again, we're going to move quickly, but they picked these men full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, with a good reputation, and in verse 5 it said, "It pleased the whole multitude." So they chose Stephen (you remember him) and Philip, who we know as the evangelist. And then (these other guys we don't know much about at all) Philip, Prochorus, Nicotine, Timon, Parmesan, Nicolas, some of those other guys from Antioch (it's close enough, they don't care)—whom they set before the apostles.

Now, read aloud with me verse 7. Okay, now, here's the deal: I'm into revival. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care about revival. And I hear a lot of great revival sermons out of the Old Testament, and that's a good thing. But this is my favorite New Testament revival text. Let's read it together. Are you ready? "Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."

Did you catch that? The Word of God spread—as if it hadn't been already? But in a way it has not even yet spread, it's spreading more, and the number of the disciples was—notice these two words—multiplied greatly.

Back in verse 1 of chapter 6 they were multiplying. John MacArthur believes the church was maybe 20,000 at that point. That was six verses ago. What is it now? Who knows. It was adding, then it multiplied, and now it's multiplying greatly. But catch that last line—who's getting converted? The priests. How many? A great many.

That's amazing. Have you ever thought about that? What's being said right there? These are the ones who were telling Peter and John to stop preaching just days earlier. These are the ones who conspired to put Christ on the cross, and now a great many of them are being converted.

Now, I don't care how you slice that, ladies, that is revival, isn't it? And how did it happen? There's no three-point formula. There's no ten-point outline. It was an environment and a culture that invited the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through leaders and a church that continued to be engaged in radical, passionate dependence on God.

That's what we want. How many of you want more of that in your church? Anybody? All right, you're in the right place. If you're dysfunctional, some of those other ones are still available. All right? No, I'm totally teasing. Don't tell my other seminar leaders I said that; they'll throw me out. I'm borderline anyway.

So let's look at some of the keys to a culture of prayer. We're going to unpack these briefly but hopefully in a profitable and helpful way.

Number one: A prayer culture is not a prayer program. I'm speaking from the school of hard knocks on this as well. I have the privilege of traveling quite often with Pastor Jim Cymbala. Some of you know Jim. We do one-day events for pastors. We're doing one in Minneapolis next month on the 18th. I have been to the Brooklyn Tabernacle a lot of times, and he and I talk about this. So many pastors will go there, and they'll come home, and you can almost guess what they want to do next—start a Tuesday night prayer meeting. Why? Because Jim Cymbala is doing a Tuesday night prayer meeting.

They're thinking, Well, it works for him; it will work for us. Let's go start a Tuesday night prayer meeting. So they get all jazzed up. They have all their leaders read Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. They say, "We're going to be a praying church, and starting on Tuesday, October"—whatever it is—"we're going to start having a Tuesday night prayer meeting." The first night maybe 20 percent of the church comes out. The next week 10 percent of the church comes out. A month later, it's the pastor's wife and the dog. And the next week it's the dog and a few fleas and that's it, and he gave up.

Because he thought prayer was a program—it's an activity we schedule. And that happens in so many churches. They think, Well, we're going to start a prayer meeting, or we're going to start a new prayer initiative.

I'll tell you what happens, is it doesn't impact the bulk of the church. What it does do is it just mobilizes that small handful of prayer fanatics who just kind of rotate around from prayer group to prayer group. By the way, that's a good thing, but that's not going to transform the life of the church, is it?

So there's a difference between a prayer program and a prayer culture. Let me give you this illustration: In many churches you have kind of the core of the leadership—it might be the staff, the elders, and the deacons—and then you have all the activities that kind of come out of that. One of those "departments" might be prayer. The leaders get together and say, "Oh, we need a prayer ministry. Ask Aunt Matilda. She just resigned, and she's got nothing else to do. She can recruit the left-handed senior ladies' knitting society to join her, and then there's the retired Harley guys. They might jump in on it. And so they can start a prayer program." And it never flies, does it? Those who participate might get blessed, but it really doesn't change the culture of the church at all.

I always say it this way, and you've heard it before: There's a difference between a church that prays and a praying church. Every church prays. We do the zipper prayer. We open in prayer, and we close in prayer on Sundays. Zip—zip. We get together, and we have our organ recital—Peter's pancreas, Billy's bile duct. We've covered all the internal organs there.

We have different kinds of prayer. We pray for the potluck, "Lord, thank You for the food we got. Let us get to it while it's hot, and help us not get sick."

But a praying church is different, and this next diagram, I think, really illustrates, what that looks like and that is where prayer is at the centerpiece of the leadership. It begins in their own hearts in terms of how they do ministry, how they plan ministry, how they connect with one another. And it's not viewed as a silo or a program or a department or a brochure, but it is viewed as essential to the fabric of the life of the church as biblical teaching is.

You don't have a Bible-teaching department. The pastor doesn't say, "Well, I don't have time for that, but we've got a guy over there who teaches the Bible." That would not fly. No, the Scripture is embedded in every part of the life of the church, isn't it? Well, likewise, prayer needs to be the same, and again, it needs to be life-giving and powerful.

So that leads us to the next point, and I think it will be very, very helpful. That is this—that a prayer culture always emanates from the epicenter of church leadership. And that's the obvious, kind of the next statement after that diagram you saw.

About a year and a half ago, I began to change the focus of my ministry. Our board really felt like this was wise. Instead of going to thirty-five places a year for a weekend or a conference, we decided we would select five churches a year, and I would pour my life into those five churches—about five trips every year, three or four days, five days at a time—training their leadership, bringing them into prayer experiences, showing them how to lead effective prayer experiences, and just seeing prayer ministry imbedded into everything they do. And then at the end of the year, they become reproducing churches, and they start training other churches. It's a multiplication model.

So one of the first things I do is we do a survey, and we simply ask this question: "What does prayer look like in the leadership gatherings? Is it zipper prayer? Or is it significant prayer?" There's a difference between praying about things and seeking God together. Because I learned in a lot of the leadership groups, they get together, and they go through the list of needs—which is a vital part of prayer—but they don't just seek the Lord together.

They look at Acts 13—it says the leaders in Antioch did what? They came to the Lord with a long list of needs and asked Him to help them out. Is that what they did? No. It says they fasted and ministered to the Lord. That's where the power is found, isn't it? That's when missions started.

And so I asked the leaders: "So how much time do you give to prayer, and what does that praying look like? Are you seeking the Lord together in substantive fashion, or are you just going over the needs that came in that week in some dutiful, perfunctory activity, or is prayer vital to the culture of your leadership team?"

It needs to be. In our church in Sacramento, as our people began to pray more, we felt like we had to pray more. We literally got to the point where every day we spent an hour together in prayer, and it started not, again, with a list of needs—although we got to that—it started by us opening our Bibles and by the aid of the Holy Spirit worshiping God out of the Scripture and then allowing the Holy Spirit to show us what He wanted us to pray about that day, which is a whole different deal than just kind of blowing into His presence and doing my daily dump of what I think He needs to be aware of. So that became a vital part, and it needs to be that.

Now you're saying, "Yeah, but I'm not in the leadership." Well, I would say this. If you're interested in prayer happening among the women, first thing to ask is: "How much time does the women's leadership team spend really encountering God?" Because if we're not doing it, they're not going to do it.

One of the most important things you can begin to do is to pray for your leaders to have a spirit of prayer—whatever that takes. Now, that's a scary prayer, isn't it? Because somewhere down the road, it may take desperation. So maybe you're down the road, and the pastor's going to start talking about all of his problems, and he's going to say, "It's her fault! She prayed that I'd become a praying pastor!" And you go, "Oh, no! It wasn't me!" But the reality is, we want to pray for that.

In the book Fresh Encounters, I talk about five things to do to encourage . . . this happens to me a lot. People come up with tears and say, "Daniel, I love my pastor, and I love my staff, and they do these things so well, but"— and you know what the but is, right? "But they don't lead our church to become a house of prayer. Why?" And in the book Fresh Encounters, I thought about all the reasons why. Many of them have never seen a praying church to start with. They're doing something they've never seen before.

You think about it. Where are those churches today? How many of them are there? What do they look like? Which is why I always took a lot of people to Brooklyn Tabernacle—not the only model, but it's a pretty good one.

When I got to Minnesota, we were in so much trouble, we chartered an airplane of 180 passengers and flew to the Brooklyn Tabernacle. My whole annual salary was on the line. But the eyes cannot taste what the heart has not seen, and they had to have that experience to begin to see that. It's so vital.

Many pastors have never seen that. They weren't trained, so you've got to give them a little break here. The seminary guys didn't know how to do it. They sure didn't know how to teach them how to do it, and everything about our culture presses against that.

You're an unusual group here, but I would guarantee most of the folks in your church want your pastor to be a CEO, a program designer—take care of every need, visit every hospital, this and that and the other. Well no wonder the guy doesn't have time to pray—nobody really cares that he does; they just want him to get the job done. There's a lot of pressures on them, but you need to pray for them, obviously. You need to just start praying and light a candle instead of cursing the darkness and every once in a while give them resources that might be of help to them.

I've told some people to go real crazy and pay for your pastor and his wife to go to New York for a wonderful musical, pay for the music and the hotel, with one condition—he's got to go to the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. That may be a little crazy, but any way you can.

I remember sitting with Jim Cymbala one night, grousing about the other way around—how my people aren't responding to the call of prayer like I wish they could. I'll never forget what he said. He said, "Daniel, you can't ought people to pray. Only the Holy Spirit can draw them."

Let me tell you this about your pastor. You're not going to guilt him into being a praying pastor. You're not going to ought him into being a praying pastor. Only the Holy Spirit can do that in his heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that in the hearts of your leaders. So one of the main things in your prayer time ought to be, "Lord, just make my leaders leaders who seek You and who can help us do the same."

So, again, you may be helpless on some of that, but you certainly are not helpless because of the power of prayer. Number three about a prayer culture is this—a prayer culture is fueled by experience not explanation.

I would say to you, you probably learned more about prayer last night while we prayed than you're going to learn here listening to me drone on. Because the best way to learn to pray is by praying. And so one of the great things that you want to do is just lead life-giving prayer experiences.

I have a pastor friend in California, very large church, and he and I sat down a few years ago. He said, "Daniel, I preached on prayer every Sunday for a year." I'm thinking, Whoa! Man, I'm like a prayer guy, and I don't have fifty-two sermons on prayer. He preached on prayer every Sunday for a year. I said, "Well, how did it go?" He said, "Horrible." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "It didn't increase the prayer life of our church a flip. In fact," he said, "I think it just increased the gap between our learning and our doing. They learned all these great concepts of prayer but because they didn't pray, I think they are almost anesthetized now."

He said, "But I've changed that. About six months ago I just said, 'I'm just going to start praying, and I'm going to invite you to join me.'" He said, "It started slow, then it started to grow, but it has transformed the culture of our church because we're praying."

Again, it's just the Nike-philosophy of prayer—just do it. Just start. A lot of times pastors say, "Well, you know, my prayer life's not very strong, and I want our people to pray, but I feel like a hypocrite." And I say, "Now, who's giving you that input? The devil's giving you that input, isn't he? 'Aw, your prayer life stinks, and you're going to lead prayer?'" I said, "The best way to shut him up is to start. That's right—just start praying. And by the way, when you pray with others, that counts—that's prayer. And so now they start praying more, you start praying more, and you've muted him a little bit so he can't be whispering condemnation in your ear, and then you're on your way."

So the best thing to do is not go home and print up a brochure and design some clever program. Just pick a time and start, but make sure it's a life-giving prayer experience. I think that's so vital as you think about prayer—making sure that it is indeed something that's exciting.

Now, I would just suggest to you one of the things I mentioned last night that is so important is really praying biblically. I'm concerned that so much of our praying is just so painful. Like I said before, I've been in prayer meetings where people have snored, snorted. I literally watched a guy drool on himself one time in a prayer meeting. It was an early Monday morning, he fell asleep, and down it came. I prayed with the men of our church for twenty years every Monday morning at 6:00 a.m.—and that was not my pick, believe me. In fact, at one prayer summit, I watched a guy fall out of his chair, and he was not slain in the Spirit. He was out like a light.

So you don't want to lead prayer times like that. You want them to be life-giving, and the fundamental principle—one of the ladies asked if I could show you the format we did last night and usually my formats aren't as scripted as it was last night. It had to be, though, because you had so many moving parts going on with the technical guys, but I'd be glad to share that with anybody who would want it—just as a tool. But the fundamental principle of every prayer time I lead is Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer. I said that twice last night, I'll say it again: Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer.

Every time I pray, the first comment is not: "Does anybody have any prayer requests?" It's "Let's open our Bible." That's the first thing I say. Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based. So the first element of every prayer meeting is "Let's open our Bible." Because the best way to pray is from God's own Word, and God always has better ideas than I do in terms of what I should pray.

And it begs a question: What's the purpose of prayer? Should I start the conversation, or should God?

Well, there's a sense in which it's an ongoing conversation. But when I'm going to sit down and pray, all right, is prayer about me doing the day up with God so He can order the universe today according to my specifications that I might live a comfortable and happy life? Well, if that's the case, then I'll start the conversation—fill Him in, give Him some instruction.

But if the purpose of prayer is for me to know God, get on His wavelength, be conformed to Christ, fulfill His purposes for His glory, then I'm going to let Him start the conversation. And that's why I always want to open our Bible. Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer is impossible apart from the Holy Sprit. Yielding to the Spirit early on, letting the Spirit give you insight and instruction in your praying—and He does that, by the way, corporately through other people as they're praying as well, and it just fuels an exciting prayer time, and that's a whole other seminar for another day. But worship-based, again, always beginning with His face and in His hand.

That's why Jesus said you start with the first part of the Lord's Prayer is "Give us this day our daily bread." No, it's not. I do have that wrong. It starts out with "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name." I said it last night, I'll say it again: If all you ever do is seek God's hand, you may miss His face. But if you seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand. And that is the idea that makes prayer life-giving. That is the experience that grows.

I can tell you, I've had the joy of leading thousands of people in prayer summits who have gone away for two days, three days, giving God their undivided attention. That's how they've learned to pray. And if you want to see prayer grow in your church . . . seminars are good, workbooks are okay, preaching sermons are fine, but just starting to pray in life-giving ways is so, so powerful in terms of spreading. It spreads by infection not information. And that's what you've got to realize about a culture of prayer. You just begin to do it in life-giving ways.

Number four: A prayer culture is rooted in clarity and conviction about community. I want to park on this just for a couple of minutes. People ask me all the time, "Which is more important—corporate prayer or private prayer?" My answer is, "Yes." It's like asking, "Which leg do you need to walk on more—your right leg or your left leg?"

Well, let me tell you what's happening in the American culture. We have fundamentally amputated our corporate prayer leg, and most of us are laying on our private prayer leg as a result. It takes both.

I remember one of my elders said to me one day, "Daniel, I'm not coming to those prayer meetings." I said, "Why not, Bob?" He said, "Well, two reasons. Number one, the Bible says, 'Don't pray to be seen by men,' and if I were to come, I would be coming to be seen by men." He said, "Secondly, the Bible says, 'Pray in your closet.' So I'm going to stay home and pray on my own." I said, "Okay, Bob. Would you like some feedback?" I had to be nice. He could have suggested my termination at the next meeting if I wasn't. I said, "Would you like some feedback?" He said, "Sure." I said, "Well, why don't you change your motive and come? You can do that. There are a lot of other reasons besides being seen by men that can motivate you to pray." And then I said, "And secondly, Bob, we need to work on your closet, 'cuz that baby is way too small."

Now that's an interesting comment, but I said, "Bob, your closet is way too small." Now, let me just unpack this very briefly. It's in the book Fresh Encounters in depth. But Gene Getz who's a renown professor at Dallas Seminary, said, "I'm so grateful for everything we've taught on individual prayer, but why have we neglected the fundamental New Testament emphasis on corporate prayer? Because all the commands to pray in the New Testament Scripture were primarily commands to pray together and then individually. We've reversed that process, and we never have gotten to the second one by and large. The reason is we actually reinterpret those passages through our lens of rugged individualism. The hallmark of Western civilization is rugged individualism, and we make those individual applications when in reality they were primarily community applications."

Think about this—until the advent of the printing press, the only way to receive truth was together, with someone else. It was in community. Now, I'm grateful for my own copy of the Scripture. It's a wonderful thing to be able to have that, but we have lost something in the process, and that is we have almost totally individualized some elements that were primarily meant to be community.

In fact, I would again suggest this to you: If you study the New Testament epistles and commands to pray, you will find the pronouns are entirely plural, because they were given to a plurality of people. The only way to receive truth in Paul's day was to be there. The only way to receive truth in the New Testament times was to show up. You couldn't go to and go, "Oh, I love Peter. He's my favorite teacher.", "Oh, I love Nancy." No, the only way to get it is to be there. You had to show up.

For example—let me just kind of blow your circuits with this one—you think of 1 Thessalonians 5: "Pray without ceasing." Now, you read that verse, and your immediate application is—and I guarantee the first word out of your mouth is going to be I—"I should always have an attitude of prayer." And, by the way, you should—that's called walking in the Spirit.

Now, this is a little radical, so just hang on. Here's what the Thessalonians heard when that letter was read—and, by the way, he didn't stop by Kinko's and make copies for everybody. Here's what they heard: "Ya'll"—for the ladies from the South—"don't stop praying together." Think about that. "Pray without ceasing." In community and context, what Paul was really telling them was, "Don't stop praying together."

I teach part-time at Liberty University—we have a lot of students there from South Korea in the seminary. They'll often come up to the U.S. students and ask them, "Why do you guys pray by yourselves? Why do you do that?" That just sounds so radical to us, doesn't it? "Well, I'm going in my closet. That's why I'm praying by myself." "No, why do you pray by yourself? In Korea we pray together—at five o'clock every morning, we pray together. We go to church, we pray together. We pray together, pray together." You say, "Does that mean the Koreans never pray on their own?" No. I tell you what it does mean—their personal prayer life probably outpaces most of ours by miles, because they're learning to pray out of community and now they're effective.

My son Jordan last night, up there playing worship—you know how he got that burden, that passion? He went out into a field, he stood under a tree, and a worship apple fell on his head. Is that where he got that burden? Of course not. Where did he get that passion? With you. Worshiping with God's people and seeing what worship did in their hearts. He said, "I want to learn that on my own."

That's how people get a passion to study the Bible. That's how they get a passion to worship. That's also how they get a passion to pray, and the fact that life-giving prayer isn't happening in most of our churches is why most of us don't have a passion to pray—we never learned.

You say, "What about that closet thing?" Well, I'm glad you asked, and since you asked, let's bring that up real quick—quick summary. Context: He's doing group instruction—Sermon on the Mount. Targeting His disciples, He gets to prayer, and He starts doing some group instruction. He says, "Ya'll"—in the Greek, check it out. He says, "Ya'll, when ya'll pray, don't pray like those guys, the Pharisees; they have the wrong motives. And don't pray like those guys, the pagans; they have the wrong method. But ya'll"—in the Greek it's plural—"when ya'll pray," and then He says, "go into your tamion"—that's the Greek word. It's used four times in the New Testament, usually referenced to a storehouse or referenced to an inner room.

By the way, the only modern version that uses the word closet is the old King Jimmy 1611, and most of us were raised on that, so that's why we think closet. But it literally is in your room or your inner room. And there are some singular pronouns in there—I won't unpack all that—because in Jewish thought, praying together and making it very intimate wasn't mutually exclusive. In fact, sometimes they would pull a shawl over their heads in the middle of community, so it was at both ends for them.

He says, "Go into your tamion and when you pray now—wherever this place is—pray this way." What's the first word? It's not "my"? It's "our." Funny, there's not a single singular pronoun in that prayer. They're all plural. Why? Because Jesus was envisioning them praying in community. And when the Day of Pentecost came, what does it say? They were all in little prayer closets, scattered throughout Jerusalem, but they heard a mighty rushing wind so they ran to the room real quick. No. Where were they? They were in their tamion, weren't they? They were in their Upper Room.

Fast little sidebar—I took my wife to Scotland for her fortieth birthday—that's my roots, Scottish. We were touring some of the palaces and castles, and we came to the Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh—maybe you've been there before. But at the end of Princess Street, they have this big sign about what you're going to see. The king and queen of England still come over. And it says, "You're going to see the king's closet and the queen's closet."

Well, dumb American, I turn to my wife and go, "Pffft, why we looking in their closets?" Is she showing off her robe or her crown or maybe she has more shoes than Imelda Marcos. I don't know, but we'll go look at it.

So we go through the tour, and about halfway through, we come to this beautifully decorated room, sofas and chairs, and sitting areas, about forty by forty feet, and the tour guide says, "This is the king's closet." He said it was a real privilege to be called to the king's closet. In his closet, the king would meet with friends and dignitaries and royalty and family. I thought, Wow. That's different.

We went next door, another room, same size, better furnishings—you know whose closet that was. Yes—the queen's closet. Same speech. So finally, I can't stand it any longer, and I raised my hand and said, "I'm sorry. You mean to tell me that back in the day, the spouses built a closet that was a meeting room?" He said, "Yes, that was exactly the primary meeting room." Had I been a cartoon character—poing! All of a sudden it all makes sense why we're praying a plural prayer in a little closet. No, we're praying a plural prayer in a gathering.

In fact, here's one other nuance—the same king who authorized the King James Version was the exact king who built Holyroodhouse Palace and named those rooms—what?—closets. Yes. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

But here's what the devil has done. He's played us. You're never going to have a culture in prayer until your people have conviction that we've got to pray together. I'm not saying that you don't pray alone. I'm just saying it's right leg/left leg, and we've moved the pendulum so individualistically that we have lost our conviction about praying together. But until we are able to overcome that stronghold of thought, we're going to struggle, aren't we?

Because we say, "Oh, that's for the people with a prayer gift." Pffft. Prayer gift? Where in the world did you get that? We're called to pray. Nobody has a prayer gift. That's who we are. That's what we do. That's what the church is supposed to be. We're all in this together. "Well, that's just for those people who are unemployed." What? "Well, that's just for the Seniors." Are you kidding? This is a house of prayer. We have to pray together.

I wrote an e-devotion recently and said, "If I were the devil"—my wife walked up and saw me writing, and she said, "Some days I think you are." And I said, "Well, get thee behind me, Satan." But what I said was, "If I were the devil, I'd do everything in my power to keep Christians from praying together. Because I as the devil would know that the greatest advancements against my kingdom of darkness came during seasons of revival, all of which were rooted in movements of united prayer. So I'm going to sell them a bill of goods about this closet thing and just keep them praying on their own, struggling by themselves—happy as can be, but failing all over the place. I don't want them to know that they're really actually supposed to get serious about praying together."

Boy, we need to confront those things, don't we? If we want a culture of prayer, we have to be serious about that in our own lives.

Okay, number five. I'll just make this very simple. The culture has to be sustained by the right motive. It can't be guilt or obligation or even church growth. It can't even be revival, as great as that is, because there's a difference between seeking revival from God and seeking God for revival.

I'll tell you my aha moment: One Monday morning . . . I'd been praying with the men of our church, oh, for about five years at this point at 6:00 a.m.—I didn't pick it. You can imagine, after being up at an early morning prayer meeting at 6:30 on Sundays, preaching all day, meeting, Sunday night service, I did not feel like getting up at 5:00 in the morning. So one morning I said, "Lord, why am I doing this prayer thing?" Well, the Lord's always glad to help you out on questions like that. I didn't hear a voice. I didn't see any handwriting on the wall. But the Lord impressed me, and the Lord said, "Daniel, your motives are rooted in things that change right now—like who comes, how exciting the prayer meeting is, whether the weather's good, whether you feel good, etc." He said, "Until your motive is rooted in something that never changes, you're not going to be a man of prayer, and you're not going to see a culture of prayer."

What I have learned is that the only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought. That never changes—never changes. If you want to see a culture of prayer, you've just got to be captivated with that. God's worthy. No matter who comes, if they're moving slow, moving fast, if it's hard, if it's easy—God is worthy to be sought.

By the way, that's the idea of worship-based prayer again, isn't it? And when you get to heaven, the only kind of prayer you'll be doing is worship-based prayer. You won't be praying for the grocery list of physical needs. You won't be doing spiritual warfare. You won't be praying for evangelism. You will be saying—what? "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." So we might as well get in practice now. That has to be the motive of the culture of prayer.

Number six: A prayer culture is a key to the supernatural mission achievement. You've got to believe that unless we pray, the supernatural is not really going to happen.

I'll be honest with you, we can do a whole lot of things in this American culture irrespective of the supernatural. I had one pastor build a church of 2,000 in fifteen years. One day he sat down with me, and with tears coming down his face, he said, "Daniel, it had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I've been a prayer-less pastor. I just worked the formula." He said, "Now, God blessed the gospel, but, frankly, Balaam's donkey could preach the gospel and people would get saved. But it was not touched by the supernatural."

What we must have, what we want to have, is that people walk into our churches and they don't say, "What a clever preacher, what great programming, what nice printed material." But they say, "God is truly among you." The manifest presence of Christ always comes out of our experience of His glory. "We all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord."

One last point. The prayer culture is more a crockpot than a microwave. Profound, isn't it? It's just going to take time.

By the way, two things I just want to mention to you. As you get more and more serious about prayer, it may get worse before it gets better. Why? Because you're ticking the devil off. But, ladies, you are called to be praying menaces to the devil. Turn to your neighbor and say, "Be a praying menace." Amen. Now, a couple of you who are hard of hearing are saying, "Why do I want to be a praying mantis?" No, be a praying menace. We're called to warfare, but he's going to counter-punch, so it may get worse before it gets better, but you have to endure.

And people aren't going to respond right away, but as A.W. Tozer said, "Don't expect a big crowd when God is the only attraction." So you have to continue to endure. He's worthy. Let's trust Him. It will take time.

One last illustration I'll share with you. Another Monday morning I woke up at five o'clock—I had a different question this time. I said, "All right, Lord, now how long do I have to keep doing this prayer thing? I mean, it's really hard. It's warfare. Can't You give me an assignment as a cruise ship chaplain or something?"

Again, I didn't hear voices, but here's what the Lord kind of did to me. He said, "Well, Daniel, how long are you going to get up, take a shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair"—that obviously was a few years ago—"put on deodorant, eat breakfast? How long are you going to do that?"

"Well, until the day I die."

He said, "Well, why would you ask a question like that about something so important as leading My people into My presence?"

You see, somewhere along the line, I settled it in terms of brushing my teeth, eating breakfast, combing my hair. Any of you really upset that you had to take a shower this morning? No? Any of you bitter because you had to put on deodorant? No? Any of you bitter because the person next to you apparently forgot? No, we settled that, didn't we? That's what we do.

Ladies, I want to tell you, you've just got to settle it. It's going to take time. It's going to be a journey. It's going to be a battle. But the glory of Christ is worth it. This is how He's told us to do life and how we do ministry. We're motivated because He's worthy. We have a conviction that this isn't just something I do on my own, but we do it together. It's going to be the supernatural element of the accomplishment of our mission, and I'm going to pray for our leaders that God would enable them, out of the epicenter of who they are and how they do leadership to be all that God wants them to be. And we're going to see it happen by experience, not by announcements or printed brochures or mere activities. And we're going to taste and see that the Lord is good and the infection is going to grow. Amen? That's what we want.

Well, we have one minute. So is there one question that someone is dying to ask?

Audience question: What do you do about time issue, like when you have a worship-led prayer time? It can go on and on and on, especially with women and children and having to get up the next morning. And the second part of that question would be, how do you really do that?

Daniel: Sure, great question. The time issue and then how do you really do that? Let me just answer that as simply as I can. One of the principles I teach at these churches I work with is that you need to build prayer sidewalks where the footpaths already exist. Now, let me unpack that.

Build a prayer sidewalk where a footpath already exists. In other words, don't say, "Well, I'm going to pave a prayer sidewalk. We're going to go off here in the woods. We're going to have a prayer meeting, and then we're going to go over here to Timbuktu and pray, and then we're going to call people away from that and the other." They've got busy lives, don't they?

So one of the most significant things you can do is build prayer sidewalks where the footpaths already exist. In other words, wherever people already gather, infuse life-giving prayer into that instead of starting separate gatherings. Does that make sense?

So one of the things I do a lot is I train the small group leaders in these churches I work with. If you have five minutes, how do you make that life-giving prayer time?

I have a whole thing with the Lord's Prayer, it's called the "Four-Four Pattern" and all that. But fundamentally, you look at a passage, and you have two ways to pray out of it. He's worthy, and we're needy. So we're going to take five minutes, or we're going to take the first three minutes, and out of this passage, we're going to tell Him why He's so worthy to worship Him, and the last two minutes, we're just going to tell Him how much we need Him. That's five minutes. If you have an hour to pray, well, here's how you do that.

So that's one of the time-sensitive realities. But again, prayer's not always measured in how long you pray. I mean our corporate prayer meetings would go about an hour and fifteen minutes every week. The early morning would be fifty minutes, forty-five minutes. It's not so much the amount of time; it's the substance of what you're doing when you do it.

Which leads to your second question in terms of training people to lead prayer. Again, that would be another workshop for another day. But one of the things I teach all these staff members in churches is: How do you lead a life-giving prayer time? In fact, I think—I just did a webinar on that two weeks, and I think it's still accessible. Let me give you an email address—I think we can give you this. It's kind of all of that in about fifty minutes, but it's Just ask us about how to lead life-giving prayer, and I think we can make that available to you or send you the link.

That's the other part. You've got time issues, but then how do you make sure it's life-giving? How do you facilitate it in a way that people are going to want to come back? Good question. I'll stick around. I've got to honor your time. Thank you so much for this. May the Lord bless you. Let me pray quick, final prayer. Stand with me.

Father, now we ask You once again to teach us, teach us, teach us, teach us, teach us to pray. Help us to seek Your face, because You're worthy to be sought, and empower each and every one of these women to be influencers in prayer in Christ-honoring ways. In Jesus' name.

Before we close, I want you to turn to the lady next to you and simply say, "Tag, you're it." Whose job is it to lead a culture of prayer? Tag, you're it. May God be with you as you go forth and do so. Thank you so much.