Jesus called the temple a “house of prayer,” but some contend modern American churches don’t live up to that title.
“We’ve kind of shoved prayer off to the side,” said Kim Beckham, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Tyler. “In the New Testament, there was a dependence on spiritual forces.”
On Jan. 18, the church will hold a seminar “Pray and Read, Love and Lead,” led by renowned speaker and author Becky Tirabassi.
“Becky speaks to men, women, and students on a variety of topics including prayer, leadership, balanced living, mentoring and parenting,” reads her website. “She frequently appears on television and radio empowering people with her dynamic message of how to live disciplined lives in the current ‘out-of-control’ culture.”
Central Baptist Church began holding a weekly prayer meeting after a choir trip after seeing their success firsthand at Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York in 1998, said Lydia Lybrand, who has been a member of the prayer meetings since that time.
“Every week I get recharged at the meeting,” she said. “I beseech the Lord for others and myself. It’s a great time to focus on something other than yourself. You always have a great feeling when you leave there.”
Mrs. Lybrand said prayer requests are gathered for each meeting from cards left at the Sunday service, emails and word of mouth, and they often hear about the results.
Is she ever surprised that a request is granted?
“We shouldn’t be, but we are,” she said with a laugh. “God is so faithful. He sometimes answers in a way we didn’t think he would.”
Beckham speculated that one reason people don’t pray is that they believe it’s wrong to pray in public, based on Matthew 6:5, where Jesus says “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
But Beckham believes that verse isn’t talking about any kind of public prayer.
“Many people think they should only pray alone,” he said. “But Jesus prayed in public many times. I’ve been to the Holy Land, the Wailing Wall, where there are thousands of people praying. He wasn’t condemning public prayer, he was condemning egotistical prayer.”
Part of the reason Beckham thinks prayer is lacking in the United States is an abundance of resources.
“The ramifications of lack of prayer is overconfidence in human assets,” he said. “If a problem comes up, it’s easy for us to look to our assets and be disconnected from our spiritual roots, then the church becomes spiritually anemic … People don’t need another sermon, they need to practice their faith through prayer. You don’t have to be at a certain spiritual level to pray.”