Vol. 26 - September 2011 - In this issue:

Article:

The Forgotten Altar - Part 3 - The Heart of Worship.

 

Ministry News -

Prayer In the Real World - our newest conference

 

 

The Forgotten Altar

by Lowell Snow

Why so many people never encounter God when they attend church and what can be done about it?

Part 3 - The Heart of Worship

The land is ripe for spiritual harvest, yet the church seems powerless to reap it because the people in the pews are not experiencing an authentic encounter with God.

Many see the seeds of revival blowing in the fresh desire among God’s people to pray. All across the land sermons are preached, books published, and new ministries started: calling the faithful to prayer. However, between these hints of renewal and the full flowering of revival, prayer must make the leap from prayer closet to sanctuary. The church stands in need of a revival of congregational prayer.

One major roadblock is the absence of effective prayer leaders. In many, if not most churches, there isn’t a single person trained in the skills of guiding effective corporate prayer. Talk to a dozen ministers and ask if they were trained to lead congregational prayer. You’ll be surprised, maybe appalled, because most will assume you mean saying a monologue prayer in front of the congregation. They don't understand what real congregational prayer is. Why?

There are tens of thousands of worship leaders who’ve spent hundreds of hours learning the ins and outs of music and praise, but not one week in the study of prayer leadership. Pastors have been taught everything from child psychology to the dangers of higher criticism, but not required to read a single book on effective corporate prayer. No wonder their congregations are languishing in a prayer wasteland.

Pastors and worship leaders who learn to guide authentic congregational prayer will make a difference in a world crying out for a personal encounter with the Almighty. In the previous segment of this series, we saw that the ‘forgotten’ altar of incense (prayer) was:

  1. Closest to the presence of God
  2. Central to biblical worship
  3. Empowered by holy fire from the altar of sacrifice

From this study, we realized that bringing individuals into a personal relationship with God through prayer was actually the ultimate purpose of the temple system. That’s the ultimate purpose of worship today as well.

When Jesus died on the cross, the Father immediately ripped open the veil that separated the holy of holies from the altar of prayer, making clear that the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was renewing the personal and conversational relationship that was lost in the Garden of Eden. This was too much for the temple priests, so they quickly replaced the torn veil.

How sad, but what's really sad is that many congregations today act as if the veil is still in place. Like the Old Testament Jews, they come into the courtyard with praise, but never go on into the temple for a personal encounter with the Almighty.

There’s much emphasis today on worship. Everyone wants an experience that brings them into the presence of God. That doesn't scare the devil. He knows most of those worshipers are going to be distracted away from the Lord as soon as the music stops.

A wonderful worship service doesn’t change people. It draws them toward the Father, but only in prayer can they take the final step that brings them into a life changing encounter with God.

You instinctively know this to be true. If someone comes to you and says they want to become a Christian, you won’t sing with them. You may counsel them and instruct them from the Word, but you’ll not leave them until you lead them in prayer. It’s in prayer they’ll encounter God. It’s as natural as water running downhill.

I received a call from a stressed-out pastor asking if I could preach for him the following Sunday. The church was going through a difficult time, and he felt that God had given me a message for the church. I’d been praying regularly for this church and did in fact know instantly what God wanted me to do.

I preached the message the Lord had given me, but just as importantly, I used the last ten minutes of that service to lead the congregation in corporate prayer. Using Prayer Guide techniques, I guided them to the throne for encouragement and blessing from their Savior.

Between services, a graduate student from Eastern Europe caught me in the hall and said, “That was a life changing experience for me.” He said that he’d never experienced God in such a dynamic way. Several months later, a long time member of the church told me that he kept the CD of that service in his truck so he could listen to it whenever he became discouraged. Two years later, I ran into that grad student in my travels and he was still talking about that service.

Why were these men so blessed? A song? A sermon? A speaker? A prayer? None of those. They had encountered God.

____________________

Next month we'll consider The House of Prayer.

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Ministry News:

Now is the best time to schedule a prayer conference for next spring:

If your church hasn't hosted a prayer conference; prayerfully consider hosting Prayer In the Real World. These down to earth sermons and sessions are a perfect starting point for most congregations. Here are just some of the topics from this powerful conference:

I am scheduling now for spring, 2012. Please consider hosting Prayer In the Real World. Every church needs a prayer conference and now’s the time to get it on the calendar.

Some are saying their church can't afford a conference, but I suggest they ask themselves if they can really afford not to have a prayer conference. If your church has voted to suspend extra meetings because of financial concerns, but you feel that God wants you to do something; please contact me. I'll join you in prayer and we'll see what God does.

If you've already hosted the original Journey Into the Presence of God conference , this Prayer In the Real World conference will be a great follow-up. If you're not sure which conference is right for you, contact us and we'll answer your questions.

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