February 1 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

    North Carolina Baptists from across the state wanted to learn how they could be empowered by seeking God through prayer, praise and His Word – and ultimately impact the world for Jesus Christ.
     
    They did just that at the Empowered North Carolina Pastor/Staff Prayer Retreat. Though most would agree Christians believe in prayer and the power of prayer, not all of them are prayer warriors, contended some speakers.
     
    The conference was held Jan. 10-11 at Ridgecrest Conference Center. Those in attendance heard how many people pray only when they are in need or when it’s convenient.
     
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    BSC Photo

    James Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., and Richard Owen Roberts, president of International Awakening Ministries, take part in a panel discussion at the Empowered North Carolina Pastor/Staff Prayer Retreat.

    Learning how to change prayer habits within the church was the focus of the conference.
     
    James Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., spoke about the need to change the “culture of prayer” in many churches. He said prayer meetings that focus more on the needs of parishioners than on the mission of the church is a hindrance to empowerment. 
     
    Walker, who was the pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, told pastors the prayer culture in their churches must change if they sense a lack of Kingdom-focused prayer. Pastors can do so by teaching on prayer, modeling prayer, and organizing the church to pray specifically for the mission of the church in the community and around the world.   
     
    John Franklin, president of John Franklin Ministries, reminded the audience as he spoke on individual prayer that two motivations drive people to pray: desperation and need, and encountering Jesus. The second motivation, he said, is what should be the driving force behind prayer.
     
    Franklin explained that God wants His people to pray out of a relationship rather than an activity. When Christians approach prayer as a means to encounter God, their walk with God is strengthened and God becomes a believer’s joy and source of power to impact people around them. Franklin warned that if the prayer culture does not change, God will make the church “really desperate in the coming days.”
     
    Empowered through praise
    In the “rut and routine” of life, Franklin said Christians sometimes find it easy to forego daily prayer time in favor of meeting worldly demands. It’s a common problem many struggle to overcome.
     
    One remedy to reclaim daily prayer time is to begin each day with personal praise and worship directed toward God. Franklin told the audience to focus on the great things God has done in their lives when they struggle to spend time in prayer. Scripture routinely commands believers to declare the works of the Lord. Franklin added that Christians become empowered when they “remember the works of God.”
     
    Franklin challenged believers to count the blessings God has provided in their lives and to remember how God delivered them through various trials and circumstances. He said when Christians reflect on the greatness of God in this way, they will be more likely to live empowered by a total dependence upon the Lord. 
     
    While praise is a mighty weapon when believers encounter spiritual warfare, Richard Owen Roberts, president of International Awakening Ministries, told the audience that believers often credit Satan with too much power.
     
    Roberts said spiritual attacks can be defeated with one word of praise directed toward God. “One hundred billion words spoken of Satan cannot defeat one acclamation of God,” he said.
     
    Empowered through God’s Word
    As important as prayer is to a Christian’s life, hearing the truths of God’s Word and putting those truths into practice is just as important.
     
    This requires effort from pastors and laypersons. Those who preach have a responsibility to present the whole counsel of God’s Word. Those who listen cannot pick and choose which parts to obey. When both sides do their part, the church becomes a powerful agent of lives changed by the gospel.
     
    When asked if there is a “famine of hearing the Word,” Roberts responded with a tough critique of modern preaching. He said many sermons are aimed at the head, and not at the heart, of listeners. 
     
    The church must purge itself of “all the nonsense” it calls preaching and return to the New Testament model of preaching, Roberts said. It’s a model that includes a mix of sound doctrine and exposition of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit.
     
    When the Word of God is used properly it will make incredible differences in individual lives, in the life of the church, and in society, Roberts said. True preaching should be an experience with God where believers “meet the Lord in His Word.”
     
    That type of Spirit-filled preaching will empower the church to fulfill its mandate to reach the nations with the gospel.
     
    For more information about prayer and prayer resources, visit the Office of Prayer page at ncbaptist.org.




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