One of my favorite hobbies as a parent is watching my kids play sports. If I’m honest, I probably love it more than they do. I rarely miss a game.
In fact, I love getting to the games early to watch the pre-game activities. I have learned you can tell a lot about a team by the way it approaches the pre-game. This routine is intended to give players time to warm up and get focused for the action of the game. It allows players to go through game-like activity without game-like intensity. It’s not the game, but it is intended to prepare a player for the game.
I fear many Christians have unintentionally minimized prayer to a type of pre-game activity that gets us ready for the action of life or ministry—failing to see prayer as the action itself. Prayer in many ways has become perfunctory or preparatory for whatever activity we have before us. I’m embarrassed to admit that at times prayer at my church has been used as a placeholder for transitions in our services. No wonder our prayers are so small and churches are so powerless.
We must make a paradigm shift in the way we think. Prayer is not the pre-game—it’s the game itself! Prayer is the action. As my friend Jason Paredes said at the Empower Conference this year, “Prayer isn’t preparation for spiritual war. Prayer is warfare itself.” Spiritual victories are won and lost in prayer. As a pastor, it is crucial that I prepare my messages with great care and diligent study. But more important than a well-prepared message is a well-prepared messenger. If the messenger isn’t prepared, it really doesn’t matter what the message is. On the flip side, if the messenger is prepared, the Holy Spirit will prepare the message through Him.
The truth is, the enemy doesn’t fear prayerless preaching, he doesn’t fear prayerless ministry, he doesn’t fear prayerless Bible study or prayerless programs. What he does fear is praying pastors, praying Christians, and praying churches. He trembles when we pray because he knows we have moved beyond our own strength, gifting, creativity, and efforts. He sees us fully dependent upon the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. R.A. Torrey once said, “When the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church on its face before God in prayer, he trembles as much as he ever did, for he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.”
Let’s pray game-time prayers! Let’s pray like people who understand the real battles of the Christian life are won on our knees in prayer. Let’s stop pretending prayer is merely preparing for the action and let’s see it as the action itself.