A Deeper Understanding of Prayer

pray understand gods will.jpg

Editor’s Note: Over the last year, many Chinese Christians have intentionally devoted themselves to prayer for their own hearts, their churches, and their nation. Many believers have also taken part in intensive prayer trainings, meant to equip them and their churches to build God’s earthly kingdom through prayer

We recently spoke with Pastor Zhang Liyan about why he feels the need for renewal in his personal and corporate prayer life, and how a recent prayer training helped him and his church.

 

China Partnership: Why did your church participate in an intensive prayer training?

Pastor Zhang: We need prayer training in the church because nowadays, prayer meetings are more of a formality. Since there is no good way for the church to be renewed without prayer, we need to have a deeper understanding of prayer. We also need practical equipping in how to pray—how to teach prayer, how to practice prayer, how to keep our prayer meetings fresh, and so on.


Never miss a story

Sign up to receive our weekly email with our original articles.

CP: How would you describe your experience of prayer after becoming a Christian?

Pastor Zhang: When I first came to faith, for a very long time I had an amazing prayer life. I was moved by the Holy Spirit and received clear guidance from God. But as ministry became busier, prayer became less easy. Prayer gradually became less personal, and more about ministry; less emotional, more rational; less an inner experience, and more an outer practice.

CP: What does prayer look like in your personal life?

Pastor Zhang: Prayer is still important in my personal life—but prayer is also a problem that is difficult to explain. It seems like everything is right, but at the same time, nothing is right. I am not quite sure what is lacking. Of course difficulties with prayer are related to one’s relationship with God, but other than that, I do not know if the issue is circumstantial, lack of knowledge, or something else.

CP: What does prayer look like in the life of your church?

Pastor Zhang: The church’s prayer life is fairly stable, because most prayers within the church are formal: for a ministry project or for the needs of a member. This type of prayer is very specific and focused, so there is not really a lot to say about it.

CP: Tell me about your church’s experience at the recent prayer training.

Pastor Zhang: We had an important experience during the prayer walk. Going through the prayer walk training led us to face not only our city, but also our own hearts. As we reflected on the prayer walk, we realized that we had gradually lost our passion for the gospel and our burden for lost souls. Satisfying logical questions and building the institution of the church are both important, but doing these things took up too much space. We spent less and less time praying for our city and for the gospel. This experience of prayer walking in our city prompted us to make some changes.

CP: What does “prayer evangelism” mean? How can prayer be a part of outreach? I know there were prayer exercises during the training that involved praying with and for strangers. Can you tell me what this looks like?

Pastor Zhang: Our church does not actually practice prayer evangelism or pray with strangers in public. Partly this is because we lack courage; partly, this is because of the culture in which we live. Perhaps there would be unexpected gains if we just went for it (actually, I am sure there would be), but these things also bring a greater chance of negative consequences. We look forward to learning more deeply about prayer evangelism and to building the right kind of faith so that, when we become more mature, we can have these types of experiences. 

CP: Is prayer a priority for you and your church? If so, why? How would you convince others that prayer is important?

Pastor Zhang: Theoretically, prayer is the highest priority for any church, because prayer is the foundation for all of a church’s ministries, both inward and outward. In my own experience, effective evangelism and church planting must be connected with prayer before they take place. If prayer is not the highest priority, then any work we do will be ministry- and result-oriented rather than God-centered, which is dangerous and unstable. 

But—the reality is that our church just makes formal prayer our top priority, not effective prayer. This was one of the reasons our church joined the prayer training, and one of the reasons we convinced others to join along with us.

CP: You mentioned that effective evangelism and church planting are linked to prayer. Can you tell me about how you have seen prayer impact church planting and prayer? Are there any personal experiences you could share regarding this?

Pastor Zhang: Different people experience different things. Based on some experiences I have had, I believe that prayer can create a spiritual atmosphere. If we pray persistently about something—this includes both formal and informal prayers—then the meditations of our mind will be constantly focused on that certain thing. Our spiritual sensitivity will become strong, so that when God leads through the Word, circumstances, people, or situations we are experiencing, we will easily notice that leading, and then we will be able to verify it. We will be able to understand God’s will. But on the other hand, if we ignore the importance of prayer, our spiritual observation skills will be dull and we will rely on past experiences instead of God. 

One example of this was that our church prayed for our church planting ministry. Once the church realized this was a need, we began to pray about it, and during that time, all of our thoughts were focused on church planting. One Sunday, the preacher passionately shared Deuteronomy 11:11, which says: “The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.” After service that day, someone gave me a notebook with that very verse on its cover. 

Shortly after all this, the church settled on a plan for church planting. The great question was that of space: where would we meet? Should we rent something, or use someone’s home? At 6 a.m. morning while I was praying about this, a sister in the church who works for a real estate company called me. The night before, her boss had called her to say that the company had a home that they could give him for a very good price. He wondered if she wanted it? As soon as she woke, she couldn’t wait any longer and called me. It was amazing as I was just praying about this very thing! Through further discussion and meetings, the church determined that this was the very place God had prepared.

When we entered the room for the first time, we were amazed. Just as Deut. 11:11 says, the house faced a valley with a very beautiful view. We all praised the Lord. Of course, there are many more experiences—but the point is that, without prayer, we would not have realized what was happening. Everything would have seemed natural, not supernatural. I do not think prayer changes God’s plan, but prayer does lead us to understand his plan, which is the foundation of all ministry. If prayer is lacking, then we lose the opportunity to work with God, which is a shame!

CP: Did this recent training change or influence your attitude toward prayer? If so, how?

Pastor Zhang: Yes, it impacted me personally. Not only did the training give me a broader understanding of prayer, but it also helped us to see opportunities in prayer ministry. For example, during the training, I saw that some church members who were not very good at prayer were praying better after they had studied prayer and practiced praying. Once the training itself was finished, our church started a one-year prayer group, and even more people got involved in the prayer programs. Although our church still has difficulties in prayer ministry, the training gave us a lot of practical help in areas like teaching prayer, practicing prayer, and experimenting with prayer.

 

Pastor Zhang Liyan (a pseudonym) shepherds a church in northeast China.

 

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

-Pray that churches across China will pray with expectation, diligence, and fervor. Pray for Christians to experience God’s guidance and gospel renewal through prayer.

Our blog exists, not just to transmit information, but to resource the global church to share the joys and burdens of the Chinese church. Our hope is that everything you read here will lead you to intentional, knowledgeable prayer for the Chinese church.

Share This Story

Further Reading

zhimai-zhang-iTf45b2M_0U-unsplash
Nanjing: Loving People Through Prayer
Read More
shio-yang-g_C8w1QBca0-unsplash
Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
zhang-kaiyv-L9NHlk2CGOQ-unsplash
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

Videos

ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

Videos

Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

Videos

Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Videos

Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

Videos

Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

Videos

Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

Videos

Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

Videos

Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

Videos

Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

Videos

Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

Videos

Stories from Shanghai

give

A short message about partnering with us.