The story is told of a group of visitors to Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. They wanted to meet the great English preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and see the sanctuary, his office, and the education rooms. Spurgeon himself guided their tour, but they were surprised when he said, "Let me show you the boiler room."
They followed him to that lowly space and were even more astonished to find 50 people there, on their knees. The assembly was praying for the church's ministry, the staff, their community, and the world.
Why choose such an inauspicious place for prayer? As the power-center for heating the entire building, the boiler room symbolized for them the source of power in ministry—prayer! A major component of that church's impact was the effectual and fervent prayer of humble people meeting in a shabby, out-of-the-way room.
Reflecting on this story, I wonder how often I've approached prayer in a mechanical way. How many times have I forgotten to pray? When I have remembered, how often did I merely ask the Lord to bless 'my' day, or 'my' work? What relevance does this have for a ministry and, in particular, a board?
Sure, we habitually pause for prayer at the beginning of board meetings, but then we dive into the 'real' work of plowing through the agenda. Are we short-circuiting the ministry and ourselves?
Scripture gives repeated invitations to pray, but let me cite three:
"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known" (Jeremiah 33:3).
"Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
About Philippians 4:6-7, our board chairman Pastor James Pettit recently said, "The ultimate joy and benefit of prayer is peace: peace to know our God has heard our need, that He is guarding our hearts from doubt, and He will reveal His perfect plan and purpose at the right time." We can carry that promise into the boardroom, the counseling room, or any area of our lives.
Why should prayer be a central focus of ministry?
Any truly Christian ministry belongs to the Lord. He is the Owner; not the board.
As the Owner, He has a plan for it. Our job and delight as a board is to discern together what that plan is so we can carry it out.
Our culture is increasingly hostile to Christian ministry, which is all the more reason to seek His will and His protection from attack.
God's work done in His way and by His power will ultimately be funded and fruitful!
What happens when we don't pray? The example of Rehoboam is instructive: "And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord" (2 Chronicles 12:14). Prayerlessness puts ministries in jeopardy!
Many pro-life ministries know this already. We're on email prayer chains for several, and it makes us feel as though we're involved in their day-to-day work with clients. If your center doesn't send out frequent, specific, and urgent requests (while carefully guarding client confidentiality, of course), maybe something toward this end should be targeted in your next strategic plan.
Our staff begins each day with prayer. About eight years ago, we asked friends and donors to join us. We designed a prayer calendar with room for specific requests concerning Baptists for Life and other partner ministries for each day of the month. That calendar now goes to a thousand prayer partners and over 80 churches. It's even available on our web site. We've seen God work as a result of concerted prayer, and so have our partner ministries.
Since our board incorporated prayer as a major focus of meetings—not just as a perfunctory opening and closing exercise—we're more united and excited to know and do the Lord's will.
I'm still learning to make prayer a major focus of each day. Let me encourage you and your team to seek the Lord's presence in every aspect of the ministry each day. Then you'll be able to tell others where the 'boiler room' of your life and ministry is located.
Tom Lothamer is President of Life Matters Worldwide in Grand Rapids, Michigan.