CHAPTER THIRTEEN Prayer Prayer is the fourth thing that the Bible says the early disciples devoted themselves to. In reading the New Testament it becomes evident that prayer was the most vital aspect of the early church. It was after ten days of prayer in the upper room that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. It was in a prayer meeting after Peter and John were released having been arrested for healing a lame man that the place was shaken by the power of God. When facing the problem of caring adequately for certain widows, the Apostles prayed and laid hands on deacons to take care of these needs so they could continue to give adequate attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word that flows from prayer. When Peter went up on that roof to pray the Lord gave him a vision that lead him to go the house of Cornelius to share the gospel with the Gentiles. Later when Peter was placed in prison the Bible says the church met to earnestly praying to God for him and the prison doors were opened and he was lead to freedom by an angel. It was during worship and fasting that the Holy Spirit told the church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for missionary work. So after, they fasted and prayed they placed their hands on them and sent them off. On a later missionary journey Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten thrown into prison, put into the inner cell and their feet fastened in the stocks. As they were praying and singing hymns there was an earthquake and the foundations of the jail were shaken and all the prison doors flew open and the chains came loose. As a result of prayer, people got saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, healed, and set free from demons. Lives were transformed by the power of God. It is inconceivable to think of the early church apart from consistent, dynamic personal and public prayer. As it was for Jesus, prayer was at the heart of everything the early believers said and did. One of the “Four Pillars” The origin of Cornerstone was birthed in prayer. Over the years prayer has been an important part of the ministry has it has developed. Along with the Apostles teaching, fellowship and breaking of bread it has served as one of the four pillars supporting the whole ministry. In explaining this I sometimes draw a building starting with the foundation plank that extends from one side of the building to the other representing the Lordship of Jesus. On top of this plank I draw two planks side by side representing the Authority of the Scripture and the Power of the Holy Spirit. These three planks make up the foundation. On this foundation I then draw four pillars one on each side with the other two evenly spaced between them representing the Apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. These pillars represent the core around which the whole ministry is organized and provides what is needed in order for the church to fulfill the mission to make more and better disciples. To illustrate this I draw two planks that form the roof meeting in the middle. The roof planks supported by the pillars represent evangelism (making more disciples) and edification (making better disciples). Important to our understanding is that neither edification nor evangelism is one of the pillars but rather supported by the pillars. This is significant in that while edification and evangelism must be taking place for the church to grow the effectiveness of both depends on the quality of the infrastructure that provides support. The early church did not devote them selves to edification and evangelism. They devoted them selves to the Apostles teaching (instruction), fellowship (joined lives), breaking of bread (worship) and prayer (communion with God). But the outgrowth of that devotion was edification and evangelism. The Bible says that the Lord added daily those who were being saved. When the church has its priorities right and is devoting itself to doing the right things the Lord takes care of the results. What people often see are the results. It’s like driving past a house. What you see is the external parts, the roof, the siding and the landscaping. The infrastructure while it may not be seen is nevertheless a very important part of the whole and actually gives shape to what is seen on the outside. Prayer IS the work! Prayer is the infrastructure of the church that if not present will cause a diminishing effect on all of edification and evangelism that we do. Therefore, we 30 have called on our people to pray. Prayer vigils, half nights of prayer, prayer walks, prayer drives, concerts of prayer, all night prayer meetings, prayer breakfasts, noon prayer meetings, personal and corporate prayer, public and private prayer, prayer in the streets, prayer on the mountains, prayer in the Spirit and prayer with the understanding are all part of the prayer culture that helps give shape to the prayer infrastructure of Cornerstone. Prayer is not preparation for the work, Prayer is the work of the church! It was like Joshua being defeated by Ai due to sin in the camp. When the sin was uncovered and dealt with they went back and were victorious. The key to victory in spiritual warfare is holiness and unity. Prayer without holiness and unity is not real prayer. At best it is only a religious exercise, a clanging symbol, words without power. That’s the reason the Bible makes it clear that if a husband doesn’t treat his wife with proper respect his prayers will be hindered (I Peter 3:7). Fasting has also been a common observance. We offer instruction and set times for corporate fasting and prayer. There is a strong scriptural precedent for this. Inner Healing Prayer and Spiritual Warfare Over the years Cornerstone leadership has taken seriously the mandate to pray. In pastoral staff meetings significant blocks of time have been devoted to prayer and seeking God. There were times when we rented a van and prayer drove the counties here in the central Shenandoah Valley. We visited and prayed over civil war sites. We drove around and prayed over courthouses, jails, schools and churches. We took authority over demonic forces in prayer. At times we joined with other pastors in the community to pray for each other, our community and nation. I remember a time after a pretty aggressive prayer drive of confronting the powers of darkness it seemed like we came under unusual attack of the enemy. We experienced some pretty devastating things in the church. It crossed our minds that we were perhaps taking on more than we were spiritually able to handle. On the other hand it was gratifying to know that the enemy was being threatened by our praying. One thing I think we learned was that directly confronting the enemy is not to be taken lightly and can actually be dangerous, especially if there is a lack of unity or hidden sin in the ranks. On one occasion, we sustained some significant spiritual damage from confronting the powers of darkness. We decided to pause our spiritual warfare for a season and discovered that there were vulnerabilities in the relationships among our leadership team. These vulnerabilities were providing the enemy with an opportunity to attack. In time, when those relationships were repaired and unity was restored we went back to the same location and announced to the enemy: “We are back!” Once again, we prayed boldly and took authority in the name of Jesus over the powers of darkness. As I remember, we experienced victory and were not overcome by the enemy. 31 A major part of our prayer ministry has been in the area of inner healing. Roy and Florence Kreider joined Cornerstone soon after it was founded. They served for over 30 years as missionaries in Israel. One of the challenges they faced was working with people who had been severely persecuted, many of whom lost loved ones in the holocaust where 6 million Jews were put to death for no reason other than the fact they were Jews. How do you share the gospel with people with hatred in their hearts toward those who had killed fellow Jews? Roy and Florence did a lot of listening and in time were able to lead many to faith. Even today their ministry is producing fruit as many evangelical messianic leaders continue to view Roy and Florence as their spiritual parents. It was with this background and experience that they came to Cornerstone. It soon became evident that they had a lot to contribute to the development of the church. I don’t know that anyone has kept a record but hundreds of people have been directly impacted by their ministry of prayer healing. I know they have had hundreds of sessions where they have sat with people leading them to deal with past hurts and bringing them to a point of forgiveness and healing. There is no way to measure the full extent of their contribution to the ministry but it has extended well beyond those that they formally and informally talked with personally. The way they have ministered among us has done much to shape the overall culture of prayer in our church. 24/7 Prayer Vision In closing one personal prayer goal I have for the church that has not yet been reached is a 24/7 prayer center. This simply means a continuous prayer meeting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week where people can call for personal prayer. It hasn’t happened yet but I believe at some point it will.