Prayer As A Lifestyle in Church Planting
I'm of the opinion that the most needed thing for church planting isn’t money, the ability to teach or the ability to gather people. It is prayer. There are usually no shortage of people who are eager to teach or eager to share the gospel or even gifted in sharing a vision that brings financial support. But how many are eager to see the vision that God has given being made happen through the practice of prayer.
Prayer is a necessity in church planting. Not just for the lead shepherd and planter but for all those who are involved with the budding church. As I studied Nehemiah years ago and felt the calling of church planting the first time, it happened after I noticed a prayer. The book I was studying was Nehemiah … and although his story is most known by his first two prayers which helped him start his might work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah didn’t just pray twice. He had a lifestyle of prayer.
Prayer as a lifestyle
A Lifestyle is a typical rhythm of life for a person or group of people. Lifestyles are like “culture” because many times it helps us identity or group people. Think about the “Rockstar lifestyle” and what all is associated with it. Close your eyes and envision what comes with the lifestyle of “Rich & Famous.” Our minds go to some scary places when we think about the “Gangster” lifestyle. Or what about the lifestyle of a housewife… especially after the reality shows have jazzed them up. Our lifestyle gives indicators for what we hold important and live by. We must create a lifestyle of prayer that prunes our hearts, prepares for provision, and empowers us for people.’
Nehemiah had a lifestyle of prayer and that lifestyle was expanded by his vision-based burden. His vision-based burden was came about when he encountered a kinsmen and learned that the city of his ancestors was unprotected and vulnerable to attack. This was big to him because they had just endured invasion and a remnant had just moved back into the city. His first response to that news was one of mourning that was coupled with prayer and fasting (Neh. 1:4). And in the rest of the book of Nehemiah, we generally see him pray for three different things: Pruning, Provision and People.
Pruning is the cutting away at dead branches to produce maximum fruitfulness. Asking the Lord to cut away the dead, fruitless parts of our lives is the beginning of the practice of repentance. It’s the heart of confession. Telling God what parts of you needs to be removed and refocusing on the parts of him that you’ve lost sight of. Early in Nehemiah’s first prayer, he confesses sin, both his own and the sins of his people. Yet he does so while giving glory to the God who has shown much grace to him and sustained him over the years. He asks God to prune him!
6. let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned. 7. We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses.
Something deep down in Nehemiah knew that his communication with God shouldn’t be riddled with calls for help without first acknowledging the wedge that sin had placed between them. And again, he did not just do that for himself, but for the people of Israel.
Nehemiah needed a lot of help in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, just as we will need a lot of help in planting a church. He was given provision in materials, government backing and people. Most of these things were granted by the king but Nehemiah also received supernatural provision of favor amongst men and strength to complete his tasks
Our prayers of provision must be just as confident and Christ-centered as his. As we pray for resources, both physical and spiritual, we do so with courage and faith. Nehemiah’s prayers didn’t just come out of nowhere, but the consistency that we see throughout his story is that he constantly sought God for these things.
Whether we are seeking a sound system or soundness in our theology. A place to worship or a deeper heart for worship. Financial partners or strength to take on new opportunities to make disciples; we must do so consistently, constantly and focused on the vision-based burden that was given by God.
Prayers for People
When we think of the prayers of Nehemiah, we often neglect the implications of his prayers that center around people. He prayed for people who had a lack of passion, those who were weak and even people who opposed what he was doing.
From all the stories I’ve ever heard about church planting … I have yet to hear any that didn’t involve opposition, people who may struggle or fall away during the process or people who are weak. Let’s be honest. Life happens. Things get rough. People get tired. We won’t be able to change that but what we can do is pray for those things in advance and while they are happening with hopes that the Lord will sustain them and us as we plant.
There are also ways that we can pray for people as we interact with them in our planting. We can focus our hearts on the people of this city; that they may come to know the Lord, live in Him joyfully and give themselves up for his vision and purpose.
Nehemiah sets a great pattern for prayer in his journey to re-establish what had been destroyed in Jerusalem. But we must remember that it was not his sporadic prayers that moved things in his life. It was a lifestyle of prayer. A rhythm of actions that displayed his love for God and his people. As we plant Identity Church, we must build a lifestyle of prayer. Our prayers must be filled with burden, consistent, relevant and purposed.
For a list of all of the prayers of Nehemiah, take a look at this post from Bridgepoint Church here