Prayer and Presence: Response to Dr. Hunter

By Terry Teykl

As I read Dr. George Hunter’s response to the Call to Action, I was once again impressed with the brilliance of this man. Years earlier, he was my preaching instructor at Perkins School of Theology. He was sharp then and even sharper now. Thank God his talents are at the disposal of Jesus—and that he serves in the United Methodist Church. Whatever he thinks about he covers all bases. My response takes up on two observations with regard to The Great Omissions in the Call to Action.

Hunter is correct in saying that vitality in any church is hard to achieve without prayer. In fact, from what I can find, prayer is not prominent in the Call to Action. And for me this a serious oversight from a biblical and Wesleyan standpoint.

Second, the importance of the Holy Spirit in evangelism is of upmost importance. The Holy Spirit is vitality to the Christian faith. The lack of emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s role is, again, a critical omission.

For me to separate prayer and the Holy Spirit is not possible. One brings the other. The water and the faucet are uniquely related. As I have written and taught on prayer in the local church for 25 years, I know these to be the sources of church renewal and effectiveness. I have seen in hundreds of churches of all sizes the result of praying the price and experiencing God’s arrival. Revival is a matter of arrival, the arrival of God in a greater measure.

Services that are soaked in prayer—whether traditional or contemporary—are alive with God’s presence. And it is his presence that changes lives, heals brokenness, and brings people to the saving knowledge of Jesus. If anything the worship in a church needs to be “user friendly” to welcoming “The Presence.” In worship, we should be more concerned about pleasing him, and not them. Meeting early to pray, anointing the chairs, and praying behind the scenes are all components of vital worship.

Small groups that do not pray as their purpose are just depending on the resources that people can bring to the table. Prayer visibly announces that God is our source and the life of the group is in him. The first small group in the Upper Room bears witness to the power, vitality, and long- lasting effect on the church. The early Methodist Classes were replicas of the Upper Room in Acts 1 and 2.

Programs without a presence-based agenda run the danger of becoming “new carts” offering “strange fire” to afford short-term results that bear the pressure of becoming bigger and better to keep human interest.

Vitality in the pulpit is determined by a prayer force for the pastor’s preaching. I have found so much vitality in the South American church and the pastors there tell me, “It is what happens behind me that determines what happens in front of me in response to my preaching.” In sermon preparation, they spend 50 percent praying and the other 50 percent studying.

In addition, attendees who pray make great leaders who will pray about everything in the church. Research any vital leader and you will find a prayer closet where he or she is clothed and equipped on a regular basis.

The bottom line is that if there are “drivers,” there must be “One Driver” and that is the Holy Spirit. And prayer for us must not be the spare tire but the steering wheel for God’s touch. Without prayer we can say as Paul Morell always said, “We are just shifting the chairs on a sinking Titanic.”

Terry Teykl is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and is currently under special appointment to Renewal Ministries in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous books including Pray the Price, Blueprint for the House of Prayer, Making Room to Pray, and The Presence Based Church.