- I’ll be writing and posting things on prayer, fasting, and spiritual transformation and e-mailing them to students.
|Girl watching Shampa Rice, at Redeemer|
I estimate that 80% of North American pastors and Christian leaders do not have a significant prayer life. By this I mean that they do not take time to actually pray. By “taking time” I mean more than saying a blessing over dinner, or multi-task “praying.” By “significant” I mean an average of 1-2 hours a day.
My estimate comes from teaching and coaching 1500 pastors and leaders over the past 35 years.
The statistics flip for pastors and leaders who are from Third World contexts. 80% of them have a significant prayer life. When they attend my prayer and spiritual formation seminary classes they already have quantitative prayer life in place. They pray… a lot. The North American clergy, on the other hand, find themselves “too busy to pray.” They find it very hard to “fit in” times of actual praying. Why is this so?
The reasons North American pastors don’t significantly pray and Third World pastors do, include these.
- NEED: More access to human helping agencies lowers the desperation level. But when I was, e.g., teaching and speaking in India, the lack of access to medical care, education, jobs, etc. was massive. One could only turn to God, in prayer. So in India I found pastors who were praying people. The less felt need there is, the less one prays; the more felt need there is, the more one prays.
- CONTROL: The more Westernized a person is, the less they pray. Third World non-westernized people have not yet lost their prayer life. Westernized pastors live under the general cultural illusion that they are in control of life; Third World non-westernized pastors live in a cultural world where human control is minimal at best; hence, they appeal to God (or gods, or spirits) for help. The more one feels in control of life, the less one prays; the less one feels in control of life, the more one prays.
- TIME: The more stuff a person has, the less they pray. This is because much of their life is dictated by their stuff, which demands much time protecting, arranging, storing, repairing, cleaning, cultivating, etcing. Stuff demands time. On the other hand the less personal ownership, the more actual time to pray. The busier one is the less one has time to pray; the less stuff one has, the more one has time to pray.
The typical North American pastor has little felt need, is under the illusion that they can control things, and is afflicted with burnout busyness. As these three elements converge, the actual God-relationship is virtually gone.
James Houston writes: “To pray is to declare loyalty to a spiritual reality above and beyond the human realm of self-effort and control.” I agree. But if one’s spiritual loyalty is to self-effort and human striving, and that such this-worldly things bring in the Kingdom of Heaven, then of course one would rarely pray or “not have time” to pray. One follows the wisdom of Ben Franklin more than the praying example of Jesus; one follows deism nore than theism.