Recently, a former parishioner asked me to pray for her grandmother who had sustained a debilitating stroke. The granddaughter said, “My grandmother has taken a bad turn. I’m at a loss. I wish I could help her, but I can’t even see her. I pray for her, but why doesn’t that feel like enough?” I imagine that is the sentiment shared by many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions imposed upon all of us, including those with loved ones hospitalized who cannot be visited in person, are doubly hard on the patient and the family, causing us to feel as though our prayers are not enough.
My response to that desperate granddaughter led me to contemplate how we view prayer. Often times, we look at prayer as a last resort, rather than a first response. Yet, for the believer, prayer really should be our first response. In his book, Quiet Talks on Prayer, S. D. Gordon says, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”1 Dr. Doug Small, President of Project Pray, says, “Sadly, prayer is now seen as passé. It is the most underutilized privilege afforded believers. The average American Christian prays only four minutes a day.”2
The Apostle John extols the power of prayer as a first response in 1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV): “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
John encourages us to regard prayer as a matter of first response because of the confidence we have in God. The word confidence carries the idea of “freedom of speech.” We can have boldness when we come before God in prayer.
John further explains that our confidence is conditional. He adds, “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” The first fundamental of prayer is that we must ask according to God’s will as revealed in His Word. This is precisely how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
When we ask in confidence according to His conditions, we may have courage that He hears us, whatever we ask. Understanding these truths embolden us to regard prayer as a first response and not a last resort.
As a teenage boy, I remember praying with other believers at a weekly cottage prayer meeting held in the home of Mrs. Ethelyn Rumley. That weekly prayer meeting in Greenville, NC, taught me that prayer, a personal and individual discipline, is simultaneously a corporate expression. Offered in small groups, God meets with His people as we call on His name (see Matthew 18:20). Indeed, God would meet with us, convicting, challenging, and comforting us with the clear sense of His presence, power, and glory.
Following my years at Holmes Bible College, my next assignment was in London, England, serving on a team of 12 college students from Holmes and Emmanuel. We were called SAM (Summer Action Ministry) workers. We never left home base without first gathering to bathe our day in prayer, asking for divine appointments, the presence of the risen Christ, and the manifest power of the Holy Spirit to be with us. I witnessed many amazing answers to prayer in those formative years of my young adult life.
Early in my pastoral ministry, I recognized the need for prayer partners. Any success I had as a pastor came without doubt from the faithful intercession of God's people who sought the Lord for His divine favor. Men's Ministries offers an excellent resource for pastors to implement pastor’s prayer partners in the local church. It can be downloaded here at the Men’s Ministries webpage.
My late wife’s illness of four and a half years became a poignant reminder of the beauty, privilege, and power of faithful, praying people. We were encouraged daily by the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We witnessed many answers to prayer. Rhonda's promotion on Tuesday, April 26, 2016, reinforced the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:14-15: "I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”
I am encouraged in my current role as the Director of IPHC Men’s Ministries when I see brothers in Christ praying together as a “band of men whose hearts God has touched” (1 Samuel 10:26). In the words of Sidlow Baxter, “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers."3 Let us, therefore, embrace prayer as a first response. In these difficult times of heart-wrenching divisiveness, global pandemic, tragic loss of beloved lives, unconscionable injustice, and dangerous civil strife, God is calling us to prayer. Let us pray in our closets of prayer. Pray in small groups and corporate gatherings, entreating the Father for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is heaven (see Matthew 6:10).
1 S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer, Cosimo Classics, 1903.
2 Doug Small, http://pdouglassmall.org/are-you-thankful-for-prayer/. Accessed 23 July 2020.
3 Sidlow Baxter, https://www.azquotes.com/quote/544758. Accessed 23 July 2020.
The Rev. Mr. W. A. Mills, Jr. served for 32 years as a pastor in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, including 12 years in North Carolina and 21 years in Buena Vista, Virginia. W. A. has preached in camp meetings, revivals, men’s conferences, and pastors’ conferences within and outside the IPHC.
Having served 12 years on the General Men’s Ministries Board, prior to his appointment as General Director of Men’s Ministries in February 2018, W. A. assumed office on July 1, 2018 following the retirement of Rev. Bill C. Terry. He now makes his home in Oklahoma City. W. A.’s passion is to lead men in becoming authentic men who in the words of Robert Lewis, “reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously, and expect the greater reward, God’s reward.”