A few years back, I was reading a religious article, and one statement caught my eye and caused me to stop and think. In an interview, a pastor was asked his ideas on what could be done to slow down the decline in church membership. He said something that was almost unthinkable for a seminary-trained minister: We need to pray harder. I thought, now there is a creative idea; pray harder.

There is an example in the Bible where the Old Testament prophet, Elijah used almost those same words in speaking to the prophets of Baal.

24 And call ye on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Jehovah; and the God that answered by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken (That is a good idea NASB).

25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under.

26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped about the altar which was made.

27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god: either he is musing, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleeps and must be awakened.

There is a place for earnest, passionate and intense prayer. James 5:16b- The intense (passionate) prayer of the righteous is very powerful.  It is proper to pray, earnestly and intently. In 1 Kings 18:24-27, Elijah bears witness to this point.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, yet he prayed earnestly (intently) that it would not rain, and for three years and six months, it did not rain on the land.

18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the land produced its fruit.

Prayer is the means by which we approach God. Jesus’ disciples asked him, how do we approach God through prayer? (Luke 11:1). Jesus gave instructions to Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'” (Luke 11:2-4).

It takes a lot of humbleness and humility to say the church is failing in its goal to reach the world for Christ. And it’s not the sort of gesture you see in modern religious circles. We’ve become more accustomed to the mantra, “whatever will be, will be.” If we pray harder, longer, and louder, things will get better. Instead, we must earnestly and passionately pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.”