The Prayerful Church

Guest Contributor:  Tom Buchberger (Elder, 2017)

Prayer time should be consumed with asking God to deliver us and carry us when the burden is too great.  When the load feels too heavy for us to carry, He is carrying our cross of pain and suffering!

But in all of this, we must give Him the glory!!  We will accept His outcome and forever Praise Him!

Let us become a prayerful church.  I know that most of you have heard the expression, “God helps those who help themselves!”  Many of you may believe, as I once did, that this expression comes from the Bible.

It actually comes from Greek Mythology.  The story goes like this:  A man is pushing his cart along a dirt road, and it gets stuck in the mud.  He sits down on the ground next to the cart and asks the gods to free his cart.  Hercules appears and says, “Get up, man, and put your shoulder to the wheel.  The gods help those who help themselves.”

We often coin phrases and attribute them to the Bible without truly knowing where they came from or what they really mean.  Even with Biblical phrases, we don’t always research the true meaning of them.

God does not want us to handle it ourselves or to go it alone.  When things are going along smoothly, we think that we can do it without the Lord.  We mistakenly believe that we are so righteous that we don’t need to pray or that prayer is for everyone else but us.  We forget God because we are caught up in the material world.  Or worse yet, we only pray for personal gain.  A good illustration of this was told by Jesus in His Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

God wants us to go to Him in prayer.  But He wants us to be humble and to know that we are sinners who are not worthy of His forgiveness.  He wants us to bow or prostrate ourselves before Him.  Because we all fall short, we can’t do it on our own.  By our sin and the sin of our forefathers, we all fall short of His glory, and without His mercy and forgiveness, we know that we are not righteous or deserving!

Margaret Sangster Phippen once wrote that in the mid-1950s, her father, British minister W.E. Sangster, began to notice some uneasiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg.  When he went to the doctor, he found that he had an incurable disease that caused progressive muscle atrophy.  His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, and his throat would soon become unable to swallow.

Sangster threw himself into his work in the British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer.  “Let me stay in the struggle, Lord,” he pleaded.  “I don’t mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead.”  He wrote articles and books, and he helped organize prayer cells throughout England.  “I’m only in the kindergarten of suffering,” he told people who pitied him.  Gradually, Sangster’s legs became useless.  His voice went completely.  But he could still hold a pen, shakily.

On Easter morning, just a few weeks before he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter.  In it, he said, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, “He is Risen!”—but it would still be more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout.”

The prayerful church is not afraid to shout and to rejoice:

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia!  Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!  For true and righteous are His judgments….

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “alleluia!  For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns (Revelation 19:1-2a, 6)!


I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,

And have not let my foes rejoice over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you,

And You healed me.

O Lord, You brought my sould up from the grave;

You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.


Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,

And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.

For His anger is but for a moment,

His favor is for life;

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:1-5).

Prayer is meant to be exultation towards God.  We should glorify His holy name.  Prayer is not just about our needs, but an expression of our love for the great I Am!  Sure, we can ask for His healing, and He does answer these prayers.  We have certainly seen His healing power in this church time and time again.

But sometimes the answer is not what we asked for or what we thought the outcome should be.  By our suffering, though, we are greater for it, and the message becomes even more beautiful!

Pastor Sangster, mentioned above, was not healed, but he did not wallow in self-pity!  He worked for the glory of God, and he gave thanks that he was able to shout to the Risen God, even if it was only in his spirit.

I have a good friend who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).  He was not healed of this disease, but through it all, through all his suffering, he keeps praising God for His goodness and grace.  He continues to live with great humility.  I know him as a man of God!

The praying church can also turn to God as the world becomes increasingly wicked and evil.

Righteousness exalts a nation,

But sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).

In the first half of the 18th Century, England was also in a mess.  Gin and gambling were destroying the lives of poor and rich alike.  This was the age of Dick Turpin—crime figures were so high, there was so much danger from highwaymen and footpads that Horace Walpole wrote, “One is forced to travel, even at noon, as if one were going to battle.”  The government did not know how to respond, so they simply added the death penalty for more and more crimes.

Meanwhile, in 1713, England, having defeated France and Spain, had secured itself a monopoly in the slave trade.  The horrors of unbridled greed in the early industrial revolution meant that three out of every four children died before the age of five because of the unsanitary slums and poverty.  And of course, it hardly goes without saying—churchgoing was at an all-time low, and clergy were time servers.

I have an ancestor named Bishop Carr of Worcester, who gambled (and lost) so much, that when he died, his creditors high jacked the coffin and would not allow it to be buried, until the debts had been paid.  That was the state of the church and the nation at the time.

And then in 1738, a man called John Wesley went to a meeting in Aldersgate, in the city of London.  He heard a reading from a sermon of Martin Luther on Romans, and as he listened, “My heart was strangely warmed,” he would later say.  He felt God—not the god of cucumber sandwiches but the God who tears open the heavens and shakes mountains.  And he began to preach.  He preached outside the shafts of coalmines and at the doors of factories.  He preached not where the Church said people should come but where people were.

And lives were changed, workers who would take their pay and drink it away, leaving nothing for their wives and children, put aside the bottle and turned to Jesus.  Families were reunited.  Child mortality rates dropped.  Literacy grew as people longed to learn to read so they could read the bible.  Prayers were answered—people were healed of physical ailments.

Church attendance grew—passionate church attendance, singing hymns to what at the time were considered vulgar pop-song tunes.  Parliament itself was affected.  The slave trade was abolished.  Sending children down the mines or up the chimneys was abolished.  The death penalty was restricted to truly serious crimes.  And the crime rate fell…because one heart was strangely warmed.  And then many hearts were strangely warmed.  In one generation, a nation was changed.

The evil in our world is nothing new!  It occurred in the 1700s and at other times during mankind’s existence.  Instead of allowing it to consume us, to get us down, we must do something about it.

It starts with bowing down in prayer, but it does not end there!  We must pick up the torch, and be God’s light here on earth.  We must go out among the people and preach God’s holy Word.  It is not in churches that we will have the greatest effect on our society, but out among the people, praying for them, praying with them, and teaching them God’s Word.  Living the example that Jesus wants us to be!

Don’t choose to sit here one or two days per week!  Choose to be the light!!  Be God’s righteousness on earth.  Don’t be the Pharisee, be the tax collector who humbled himself to God.  Who was not worthy of his salvation, but by his humility gained eternity!  SO LET US PRAY!