After the last mass shooting, CNN posted a story on their website that quoted Pope Francis as saying “ Prayer that doesn’t lead to concrete action toward our brothers is a fruitless and incomplete prayer,” to which the article concluded, “When even religious leaders appear to be questioning the real value of #ThoughtsAndPrayers, it can be hard to place your faith in it.”
Dr. Kie Bowman and Pastor Trey Kent could not disagree more. In their new book, “City of Prayer: Transform your Community through Praying Churches,” the two have seen, first-hand, how prayer can change a plethora of issues.
“I can understand the frustration people feel if they believe the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ is used as an innocuous reply to tragedy,” says Bowman. “I often see those kinds of things expressed on social media and I can’t help but wonder if everyone using those expressions really believes in the power of prayer. Obviously, millions of people in America do believe in the power of prayer, and for them prayer is a genuine response to every kind of heartbreak and tragedy. Those of us who believe prayer works miracles cannot be dissuaded by those who do not believe, but neither should we defend meaningless statements when we know the real power of true prayer.”
In “City of Prayer,” the two pastors describe in detail how over 100 churches in their town of Austin, Texas have banded together to pray for 24 hours, seven days a week for the past eleven years. They cite various changes in the city because of what they call an “Unceasing Prayer Movement,” including racial reconciliation and out-right miracles.
“During one of the worst droughts in our city’s history, over 1000 believers gathered from churches of all denominations to pray and worship for two hours,” says Bowman. “We needed Lake Travis to fill up with rain. The next weekend, it began to rain and it kept raining for months, despite all the weather predictions. It was so overwhelming that the prayer movement that sparked the rain received national news attention. And that’s just one example.”
Bowman says churches across the country need to start focusing on both the importance and power of prayer.
“Prayer is often relegated to a few sentences before and after a meeting or a church service,” says Bowman. “It’s often a combination of lack of knowledge about how to pray and a lack of trust in God’s promises regarding prayer that leads churches to be negligent in prayer. We know from Scripture and history that prayer movements precede revivals, and this book offers a blueprint to church leaders on how to organize and lead city-wide prayer movements wherever they serve.”
Kent concurs. “It takes time, patience, and lots of perseverance—but in time I truly believe every city can be a city of prayer. The key to success is local church pastors mobilizing their churches to pray. Praying together is a visible sign of the John 17 unity for which Jesus prayed. Monthly prayer for the city moves a church’s focus outward to a bigger view of what God is doing beyond the church walls. Pastors and churches must understand that the work that God does in and through local congregations should ultimately translate to their cities.”
For more information, visit www.prayershop.org.