Archive: The Power of Prayer

By Sundo Kim (1930-2022)
Good News
January/February 2000

While some may respond with skepticism and hesitation about church growth in the new millennium, I believe the potential for growth is tremendous. God will continue to bless churches as they grow and fulfill the Great Commission. But churches must reclaim their mission in the world through prayer.

In the years to come we will witness growing interest in spirituality. Some futurists inform us that the new millennium will be an “age of information” or “age of globalization.” I also believe it will be an age when people will become more open to the supernatural world, which is beyond rational and empirical comprehension. Postmoderns are dissatisfied with rational and scientific explanations of the world, and they are turning to religious paradigms for new ways of understanding themselves and the world. People are no longer dismissing religions with contempt, but are carefully considering them, hoping to find meaning and purpose in their lives. It is a favorable time for churches to seize this opportunity and reach out to the unchurched with the good news of Jesus Christ. Therefore, from a sociological perspective, we can say that the possibility for church growth is immense.

But more importantly, we are hopeful about the future of the church because of our strong theological conviction about its mission. God has chosen and established the church as an instrument of salvation for the world until the end of the age. Therefore, we ought to approach the new millennium with a sense of purpose and confidence. God is with us!

But many pastors and churches have lost their mission and place in the world. How can churches reclaim a sense of purpose and confidence? Through prayer! Prayer is a means for churches to clearly understand their mission and to gain confidence. Through prayer we must continue to nurture the fundamental ecclesiological conviction that we have a mission in the world. A passionate and sustained prayer life can lead us into the presence of God who strengthens us in our mission for the world. Thus, we cannot do anything without prayer. Here are some explanations on the integral relationship between prayer and church growth:

1. One of the greatest benefits of prayer is to develop a personal relationship with God. Just as we develop social relationships through communication, we develop a personal relationship with God through prayer. When God spoke to Jeremiah and called him into ministry, God used personal language: “I and thou” (Jer. 1:4-10). God communicated with Jeremiah person to person; our God is a personal God. Without a personal relationship with him, we cannot discern his will for our church. People of prayer build the church. Therefore, pastors and churches muse pray to grow in their personal relationships with God.

2. We pray to receive spiritual power. Churches do not grow through human planning and engineering. Many articles and books have been published to address various factors which lead to church growth, but I believe the most important factor is spiritual power. David confessed that the source of his triumph was God (2 Sam. 22:2-4). In his victory over Goliath, David acknowledged that God had given him the necessary power (1 Sam. 17:45-47). The secret to attaining spiritual power is to kneel before God in prayer with humility. When God enables us with spiritual power, we can lead churches with dynamic power, and experience church growth.

3. We pray to accept spiritual leadership. Words such as leadership, vision, and paradigm have been circulated widely in recent years. Spiritual leaders need to receive new visions from God to change their paradigms and to effectively lead people into the future. God will grant new visions to leaders committed to prayer, just as he had given many visions to Old and New Testament leaders. It is through prayer that we receive new visions, and we implement them with God’s guidance. Without a prayer life, one cannot become a spiritual leader; and without a spiritual leader, a church cannot grow.

4. We pray to regain spiritual vitality. The Holy Spirit grants dynamic spiritual vitality to us when we pray. Many pastors have reported their experiences of burnout, and many have sought to deal with this issue. But I believe the most effective way to overcome burnout is by experiencing God’s presence through prayer. God will grant new strength to those who seek him and “they will soar on wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:29-31 ). Pastors without spiritual vitality will burn out. After 40 years of ministry I can testify that there is an organic connection between church growth and a pastor’s spiritual vitality.

5. We pray to experience signs and wonders. A common phenomenon in recent years is the emergence of new cults and folk religions that are gaining a wider audience. It is my speculation that in the new millennium we will witness diverse expressions of spirituality, and many people will seek spiritual signs and wonders. Churches of the 21st century must be able to accurately observe and interpret these sociological developments and be prepared to provide clear answers and direction. For instance, churches must be able to provide healing as demonstrated in the Bible, especially as experienced by early Christians (Acts 3: 1-10). Recently, the World Health Organization accepted a holistic understanding of health that includes not only physical and emotional dimensions, but spiritual dimension as well. Contemporary churches have every right and responsibility to be instruments of God’s healing in the manner and likeness of the early church.

The Kwang Lim Methodist Church that I pastor regularly practices spiritual healing during early morning prayer, special services, and during Sunday worship, through which we have experienced many miraculous healings. These healing experiences have demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit, and have given us a strong motivation for our evangelistic efforts.

6. We pray to exercise spiritual gifts. Church growth occurs when members of the church exercise their diverse gifts in ministry. Dr. C. Peter Wagner teaches that there are 27 spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible, and they play an indispensable role in church growth. Pastors come to understand their spiritual gifts through prayer, and develop them through practice in ministry. When pastors have gained a clear understanding of spiritual gifts, they can train and equip lay people with spiritual gifts. Then the possibility of church growth is more than just a dream, it becomes a reality.

7. We pray to offer spiritual worship to God. A church cannot experience growth without spiritual worship. The church’s mission is not only to proclaim the gospel in the world, but to offer pleasing worship to God. God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Furthermore, people are also seeking spiritual worship. Church is a house of prayer (Mark I l: 17), and people want to experience God in prayer. A spiritual worship that is permeated with prayer can bring physical, emotional, and spiritual healing – and that is when church growth will most likely occur. Lay members will increase their level of commitment when they have experienced God and are spiritually inspired.

Based upon my discovery and experience of prayer, I conclude that prayer is an indispensable ingredient for church growth. For instance, the Kwang Lim Methodist Church had 150 members in 1971. As a result of a prayer-based ministry there are now more than 85,000 members. I am sure that God will continue to cause churches to grow in the new millennium, but a question remains to be answered: who will claim the power and promise of prayer? (Mark 11 :22-24).

When this article was published in 2000, Sundo Kim was the senior pastor of Kwang Lim Methodist Church in Seoul, Korea and the director of the Kwang Lim Prayer Mountain. Throughout his illustrative ministry, he participated in many leadership roles. Dr. Kim served as adjunct professor to Asbury Theological Seminary, Methodist Theological Seminary, St. Paul Theological Seminary, United Theological Seminary, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Yonsei University. He served on many boards including the board of trustees of World Vision International.



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