Praying as the Lord Teaches – Hallowed Be Your Name


Editor’s note: In recent years, China Partnership has dedicated itself to intentional prayer for the church in China. As CP increasingly emphasizes prayer as part of our calling, we have worked with John Smed of Prayer Current to hone our prayer muscles. We spoke with him about why prayer is so crucial and how organizations can grow in this critical area. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I recently talked with a young woman who, when I asked about her prayer life, said: “I can hardly pray, and I have very little joy when I read scripture. I think it’s just a duty.” I have been told she probably speaks for a lot of younger Chinese people. 

I’ve been very encouraged about many things in my involvement in China, [especially] the progress of the gospel. But there have been a few things that surprise me – for example, the challenge of legalism in the Chinese church. As this relates to prayer, it translates into joyless prayer: prayer without doxology. 

When this happens it’s a sign we’ve taken the benediction and the blessing out of prayer. There is not only gospel obligation, but there is also gospel benediction. Prayer is not just a duty, but is participation in our fellowship with Christ. He said, “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). The dynamic of prayer is a friendship dynamic. 

Jesus says he gives us the Holy Spirit as an inner friend in prayer. The Holy Spirit will pray with you, he will intercede with groanings according to the Spirit, and he will pray with you according to the will of God. We need to move past obligation to benediction. 

Never miss a story

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

Legalism in prayer is a gospel issue, but you cannot resolve the gospel issue apart from prayer. It’s not a matter of having more theological study or gospel content; faith is never just a matter of assent. The Reformation was rigorous about that. Faith is not just that we assent to something: we have to participate in something. 

How do we move from knowledge of the gospel to actual communion and participation in the gospel? You cannot move from gospel information to gospel transformation without having prayer in between. Prayer metabolizes the gospel. Prayer enacts the gospel. Prayer is what internalizes the gospel.

A second issue I’ve felt in the Chinese church is that the thirst and hunger for theological teaching doesn’t always translate into gospel transformation. I believe the missing factor – bar none, no exceptions, without discussion – is that prayer has to come between gospel information and gospel transformation. Until it does, the information of the gospel will remain cranial, because it is prayer that takes the gospel and brings it to the heart. As we pray, it becomes enacted in our lives. We can’t just talk about the gospel or assent to the gospel; we want to participate in it. That happens on our knees. 

The third issue we need to look at is the relationship between preaching and prayer. The divorce between preaching and prayer is a North American phenomenon, and we don’t want to export that to China. There is a sense that preaching is the end point of what we do. But Charles Spurgeon said something very key: prayer is the end of preachingHow do you know if your preaching has been effective? People are praying.

For example, Paul has 64 prayers in 14 epistles. That tells us something. Prayer completes teaching, and prayer is interwoven in teaching. Teaching, apart from prayer, can be sterile and dormant. Prayer needs to be integrated with teaching: you bring those two together, and you get gospel explosion. That is where you get more than gospel awareness or gospel conversations. That is where the gospel becomes a living reality in a person’s life and transformation, and it is also where the word gets its power and effect. We are not only inspired by what someone says, but are moved to participate in what they’re talking about. That’s a prayer event. 

John Calvin put it well. He said the chief activity of the Holy Spirit is faith; the chief activity of faith is prayer. Faith is how we receive the gospel. How does faith receive the gospel? By prayer. 

Prayer can’t be given a separate category. It has to be woven into the entire fabric of training. There is no such thing as word discipleship apart from prayer discipleship. There is no such thing as a person who is really powerful in the word who is not powerful in prayer. In Acts 6:4 the apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the word.” Is it a coincidence they said prayer first? Is it a coincidence those things are put together in a binary relationship? Prayer not only has primacy, but there is an inversely proportionate relationship between prayer and the word. We have got to stop separating those and saying, “Well, we’ll have the prayer meeting on Saturday, but the big thing is the talking on Sunday morning.” I think it’s not the big thing at all; it is one of many things in the church. 

The church needs to build a gospel ecosystem, not a Sunday morning experience. Apart from prayer, I find Sunday morning relatively boring. I think the next generation finds it relatively boring. But prayer, woven into it, gives people a chance to participate and engage.

I had a long talk with an instructor who teaches in seminaries in China yesterday, and she asked, “How do I do this?” I said, “Just weave prayer in.” 

Start with prayer. Start with doxology. Praise God for what you are learning. Take a passage out of the text you’re teaching people, and have them look at it and praise God for it. Then teach the passage, and then when you’re finished teaching the passage, ask, “How can we pray for our nation about this? How can we pray for others?” 

It’s not difficult. It’s not magic. It’s a simple exercise, but we’ve gotten used to separating those events, instead of integrating them harmoniously.

Share This Story

Further Reading

Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
Read More
Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
Read More
Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More


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.


  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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


Stories from Shanghai


A short message about partnering with us.