Sunday, September 2, 2012

The “Incentive” to Pray

I recently read an article about whether incentives should be used to entice people to come to church. The usual lures were named to get the attention of the public, such as potlucks, special programs, and ice cream socials. This article was supposedly written by a Christian, but he left out one important factor: prayer. While each of the above named attractions do sometimes draw a few outsiders in, whatever happened to praying and then following the leading of the Holy Spirit? The Lord may very well impress upon the hearts of the believers to have another program or potluck; but then again, it may be something entirely different.

When I think back over my own salvation experience and the draw I felt to come to Christ, it wasn’t a meal, or even a lot of meals, that led me to the Lord. It wasn’t seeing Jesus on a cross in a moving Passion play, or the temptation of a huge buffet; rather, it was the Holy Spirit—period. It was decades ago, back when our son was four and our daughter was two. One day after his pet turtle died, my son began asking questions about death and where we went when we died. I gave him a vague response about heaven. That response only led to more questions about God; who He was and where He lived. Again, I responded vaguely. While my answers seemed to satisfy his curiosity, I became driven to gain answers about death and the afterlife—for myself.

I now know it was God who would not let me be content; He kept nudging me to come to Him. There was no sign in front of a church that offered barbequed pork or homemade desserts—just promptings from the Holy Spirit stemming from the simple questions of a little child. (Thankfully, God uses little children to lead many an adult to the cross.) Don’t get me wrong, I know some people have eventually become Christians after responding to an outside incentive, but if God is left out of the picture—incentives won’t be blessed.

I also know that when my Grandma Grimes was alive she prayed regularly for her family—for each of her descendants to come to the Lord. She was a strong Christian lady who wasn’t pushy about her “religion”; rather, she was sweet and kind and lived out her relationship with Jesus. Grandma had been in heaven for years before I became a Christian, but I know with certainty God was answering her faithful prayers the day I dropped to my knees, repented of my sins, and invited Jesus into my heart.

Sometimes I think we are getting lazy, or even forgetful, when it comes to prayer. We’d rather “do” something about increasing church attendance instead of praying and waiting on the Lord. We tend to forget that it is His church, and it is His Spirit that will draw people to Him. When we pray as a body of believers, truly caring more about lost souls than we do about our attendance numbers, God will answer and will also bless our “Spirit- led” efforts. What a privilege we’ve been given to intercede on behalf of the lost—let’s not forget to do it.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).


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