You may recall the images from Iraq during the onset of Desert Storm. Having done their reconnaissance, American forces were bombing Bagdad, seemingly without mercy. The military commentator explained that we were trying to kill Saddam Hussein – which was unlikely – and/or destroy his command and communication centers. In other words, we were trying to separate the snake’s head and its body.

As it turns out, this is the strategy of every offensive force, in every war. Separate the commanders from the troops and you create a decided advantage for yourself and your allies. Consequently, threatened nations go to great length to protect their communication centers.

Regrettably, our enemies have made significant progress is cutting off the Western church from its High Command. Communication centers have been destroyed. Little effort is being made to rebuild and retrench. Consequently, we are separated from God and each other. Our efforts are disorganized, even divisive.

While it would be easy to blame the devil, those of us in leadership know better. In many respects, we are our own worst enemy. We have allowed the world to distract us and our carnal minds to deceive us into thinking we can get by with our own strategies, plans and programs.

Reestablishing communication is where we must start. Sacrifices will have to be made, but they will be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears. God has all the grace we need to turn the tide in this war.

As hard a time as we seem to be having with prayer, prayer is not hard. The Father is standing by waiting on our attention. He loves speaking with His children.

Much has been said about the decline of prayer in the Western Church. We have simply lost site of the importance of personal and corporate communion with God. This is so obvious, it hardly seems worth the time and effort to say it again. Just how much encouragement is enough?

Fortunately, God has not given up on us. He is aware of our weaknesses in this area. We are not the first generation of church leaders who have needed an attitude (re)adjustment about prayer.

Now, I’m no expert on prayer; but I know some people who are. I don’t know them in-person personally; in fact, quite a few of them are dead. I know them personally through the books they have written on prayer. You can learn a lot about a person through their attitude towards prayer. After all, prayer is their heart tie with God; a connection to the center of their being.

I learned from a dear friend and mentor that giving away books is a great way to disciple someone. This is particularly true with subjects like prayer. Better to let the authors speak than try to speak for them.

So, what I would like to do here is introduce three of my favorite books on prayer. I will include some thoughts and encouragement in the way they will help you and those in your spheres of influence renew your minds regarding the importance of personal and corporate prayer.

Destined for the Throne, by Paul E. Billheimer

The subtitle of this book says it all: How spiritual warfare prepares the Bride of Christ for her eternal destiny. The book opens with an explanation of our eternal responsibility, as the Bride, to co-reign with Christ over all creation. This encouragement alone is worth the investment of your time. The author goes on to explain that “Prayer is where the action is!” – based on Christ’s victory, our identity, and the gift of His authority (Billheimer, 1975).

While this book additionally provides strong practical advice on personal and corporate prayer, it is most valuable for its encouragement towards the Body of Christ to fully leverage the opportunity and responsibility we have to wage war against our enemies in prayer. If you are looking for personal motivation to pray – or the same for your leadership team – this book is for you (and them).

The PAPA Prayer, by Larry Crabb

Once we are motivated to pray (i.e., by Destined for the Throne), our next challenge is learning God’s way for prayer. As leaders, if we are not careful, we will raise up a bunch of bratty teenagers – congregants that pray to have their wants met. There will be little thanksgiving and less listening. Generally speaking, this is the current attitude about prayer in the Western church. We must allow God to use us to break the mold.

Larry Crabb, the father of Christian Counseling, at the age of sixty, confesses in The PAPA Prayer to “the excitement of a child when he discovers that his arrangement of letters actually spells a word (Crabb, 2006).” Using the acronym PAPA, he goes on to explain that prayer must first be about our relationship with God. We must present ourselves to God honestly, approach Him as He really is, purge anything that inhibits our relationship with Him, and give Him and His desires first place in our lives.

What I remember and use often in my teaching on prayer is that God is not Santa Claus standing behind a vending machine waiting for us to put in the right change and press the right buttons. God loves speaking with His children more than He enjoys answering their prayers.

With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Having discovered God’s encouragement and preferred method for prayer, we can move on to deeper and broader waters. The Scriptures instruct us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How is this possible except that we make everything a matter for prayer?

With Christ in the School of Prayer is properly titled. Writing in his classic devotional style, Andrew Murray explores the application of prayer in 31 areas of the believer’s life. Each lesson is rich and concise, leading the devoted student into depth of prayer rarely seen in the Western church.

Mr. Murray wrote many of his books as devotionals. However, I found that trying to study one lesson a day for consecutive days to be like drinking from a fire hydrant. It’s best not to put that requirement on yourself and those you are leading. I know of one leader who taught one prayer per week, as a means of birthing a prayer gathering. He has found this method to be highly successful.

Of course, there are many other good books on prayer. Practicing the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence, anything by John Wesley, and everything by E.M. Bounds come easily to mind. The fact that God used so many individuals to write so many books on prayer speaks to its importance.

In conclusion, allow me to state the obvious: You cannot lead others where you are not willing to go yourself; and it’s better to have gone there at least a few steps ahead of the others (that’s what leading means). We all must understand that finding time to learn, teach and practice prayer is the first battle in this war. We must fight for the necessary time; not use the lack of it as an excuse. Those that choose the latter are accepting defeat – surrendering their position and responsibility to the enemy.

God bless you with grace to fight the good fight and run the race to win it – for you and those in your spheres of influence and responsibility.

Humbly yours and forever His,