I met recently with a local church leader to talk about how we could reach out to young people in our area. I had a growing unease at the lack of children and young people in our congregation and a hunger to do something which would make us more relevant to our younger community. Before the meeting, I made a long list of things which might make us more ‘relevant’ to young people – removing our traditional choir in favour of a band, a community cafe, changing the times of our services, using more video footage in our services…I was brimming with ideas!
At the meeting, we talked about all the ideas and I was pleased to find someone who shared my concerns and passion. However, when we talked of how to bring about change, this wise and godly woman reminded me that ‘with God all things are possible – we need just to pray’. This simple statement struck me in a new way. I had immediately begun generating ideas, getting busy and coming up with solutions to the problem – but I hadn’t really committed myself to prayer. This experience left me thinking of all the other times in my life where I start with action without stopping to pray.
Why don’t we pray first?
So why don’t we pray first? Is it because we think that God hasn’t heard or won’t answer? In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God tells us that “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land”. When this is read in context with Solomon’s earlier prayer in 2 Chronicles 6:24-28, we can see that God directly answered his prayer. God hears us when we pray. Just stop a minute and think about that – almighty, creator God hears you.
Sometimes we don’t pray because it feels hard or we feel distant. Luke 11 gives us all we need to know for how to pray with our heavenly father. Here we find a very intimate view of prayer and a God who loves to hear from his children. Sometimes persevering in prayer is hard but there are amazing testimonies of people who prayed for years for loved ones and God answered – he might not always answer us when we expect, but he will always answer.
So, what of getting more young people into church? Well, there’s the church club on a Friday afternoon, which has been getting about 20 families every month since it started a few months ago. There’s the new style services planned for next year and there’s a community cafe starting soon. However, in the midst of all this, I am now convinced that no matter what we do, the best thing is to pray.