The most urgent need of the Christian is to experience unceasing communion with God. His or her most urgent need is to learn to pray and to do so without ceasing.
That being said, the most urgent need of the Christian community — the local church — is to glorify and enjoy God by becoming a “House of Prayer.”
Therefore it follows that the most urgent need of ministers, elders, shepherds, and leaders is to practice, teach, and encourage God’s children to pray.
Sure, biblical education, systematic theology, church history, personal purity, leadership development, spiritual gift discernment, stewardship, personal evangelism, corporate fellowship, mercy ministry, global missions and many other practices are vital, but all of these activities are to be practiced by worshipers engaged in prayerful communion with God.
Preaching without prayer is just the giving of a good speech.
Theological study without prayer becomes the mere puffing up of one’s intellect.
Evangelism without prayer is just the practice of religious salesmanship or a Christian fraternal rush.
The giving of tithes and offerings without prayer becomes only the raising of funds, paying of ecclesiastical taxes, or submitting of one’s required membership dues.
However, as we pray, our personal Bible reading and study comes alive, our preacher’s expositional preaching transitions to become Spirit-filled and prophetic, our individual hearts become freshly arrested by God’s revelation, our love of God is excited, our character and conduct morph to show forth greater conformity to Christ, our giving becomes sacrificial joy, and our various ministerial works become acts of worship to God. Through prayer, our religious activities grow in both sweetness and success .
But listen to the needed and hard words of D.A. Carson,
What is surprising and depressing is the sheer prayerlessness that characterizes so much of the Western church.
It is surprising and depressing because such “churchiness” is out of step with the Bible.
It is surprising and depressing because it leaves the church without its power source.
It is surprising and depressing because it proves man thinks far too highly of himself.
It is surprising and depressing because it shows the folly of the church and churchman who seeks to do spiritual work without the Holy Spirit.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne declared, “What a man is alone and on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.”
J.I. Packer said, “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face.”
Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” He also said, “With me, all things are possible.”
Elders, repent! Christians, repent! Jesus is standing at the door, and he is knocking. He is on the verge of coming in and enjoying communion with you. Fresh vitality is ahead as you hit your knees. Repent and walk in the Spirit today. Repent and practice praying without ceasing. Go and worship differently, more appropriately, more joyfully, and more successfully. Prayer is powerful and effective. Wouldn’t you be more powerful and effective today? Well then, prove it.
[I borrowed some of this material from the introduction to D.A. Carson’s book, “Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation}