Many years ago, I had the privilege of eating lunch with my friend, Doug Hodges. Doug’s dad was the longest tenured pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia, where I had the privilege of serving for 13 years. Doug’s dad, Walter Lee Hodges, served that church for over 30 years and was responsible for putting Grace Baptist Church on the map.
I asked Doug for the secret to his dad’s success. I was expecting some great tip – a tip that somehow had eluded me in the many church growth seminars that I had attended throughout the years. Here was Doug’s answer: every Saturday night dad met with several men at the church to pray. Those six men who prayed with dad were responsible for the souls being saved, the buildings being built, and the missionaries being sent. It was as simple as that. Walter Lee Hodges believed in the power of prayer.
In our humanistic individualism, we often feel that there must be more to ministry than this. But prayer is significant, so significant that the devil wants us to overlook it. We often minimize its significance, but we must remember that we can do plenty after we have prayed but nothing before we have prayed.
In an attempt to turn Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple into a house of prayer, we have made several significant alterations in our church calendar this year. Permit me to share a few with you.
1. Wednesdays will not be mid-week services, but prayer meetings. To be sure, there will be some Bible study and singing. And because we are Baptists, we will take an offering. But the emphasis will be on prayer, and our people are now joining prayer groups to pray for those in our congregation who are in need.
2. We have organized volunteers into various prayer groups that will meet once a month on Saturday night to pray for our services the next day. Thus, every Saturday night there will be people around our altar asking the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to lost souls, to stir baptismal waters, and to bring additions to our assembly. We pray that our teachers, bus workers, musicians, ushers, and interpreters will be filled with the Holy Spirit and add value to those who attend the next day.
3. Every other month, we have organized men’s prayer breakfasts on Saturday morning so that our men can fellowship together over breakfast, learn some leadership principles, and bind their hearts together for this ministry in prayer.
4. We have made it possible for people to submit prayer requests through our web page and church app. Volunteers are prepared to alert our constituents to any need that requires emergency prayer support.
5. We have printed business cards that our members can distribute to authorities informing them of prayers that our congregation is offering on their behalf. We have encouraged students to schedule times with their principals and teachers, employees to schedule times with their foremen, and citizens to schedule times with their councilmen and mayors to inform them of our prayers for them. A card is left behind to remind them of our prayers.
The difference is already being felt. Our people are closer to each other and closer to the Lord as a result of these prayer times. One way to keep your church house from being a house of cards is to make it a house of prayer.