Ed Walker had suffered all his life from glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. When in school and asked to speak to the class, he would be scared to death, get lightheaded, sweaty, his heart beating out of control. Because of this fear, he would never take a role in the local church that required public speaking.
One day, Ed was working in his almond farm machine shop when his pastor stopped by for a visit. “I need you to be an elder,” the pastor said, getting right to the point. Ed repeated his excuse—“I can’t speak in public”—and then refused. The pastor looked Ed straight in the eye and said, “It’s because of your own foolish pride that you can’t speak in public.” Ed felt like he had just been punched.
The pastor continued, “I want you to pray about this. And, by the way, I need you to be the head elder.” Ed protested, “I haven’t even been an elder! How would I know how to be a head elder?” The pastor said he would guide him, and then left. After praying for some days, Ed accepted, although he was very afraid.
THE PANIC ATTACKS
Within three months, that pastor retired early due to cancer. There went the mentoring! Every week that Ed needed to be on the platform, he would have a panic attack. He dreaded it so much that he would look for any excuse not to even go to church.
One Sabbath Ed was on the platform waiting for his part in the service. During another panic attack, he desperately prayed, “Lord, you have to fix this, or I quit!” It was not an eloquent prayer, but it was the cry of his heart. The moment he prayed, his glossophobia was gone!
Ed had never felt such complete relief. He knew this was a clear healing and it gave him a new awakening into the real power of earnest prayer. Before this, his prayer life had just been routine. Now, he found his personal time with Jesus to be a wonderful opportunity to draw close to Him.
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
Over the next few years, the little church Ed and his wife Lisa attended outside of the small rural town of Chowchilla, California, USA, was in a downward spiral. It had dwindled down to about thirty-five attendees, and their small church school was down to twelve students. Another pastor had come and gone and now Ed was the leader of this struggling congregation.
Then something happened that dramatically changed Ed and Lisa’s lives, their little church, and eventually the whole local conference.
THE POSITIVE TURN
Lisa became the church’s prayer ministries leader. She called my wife, Janet, and shared how God had laid a burden on her heart to meet with a group of women and pray for the Holy Spirit, their church, their men, and their community. When women get together to pray like this, God is about to move!
Months later, Lisa and Ed came to a prayer ministries seminar Janet was conducting. In looking at Ed and his body language, Janet could tell that he did not want to be there. When she asked him about it, he admitted that Lisa had dragged him there against his will and he did not want to be there. So, Janet handed him a notepad and pen and said bluntly, “Take notes! You are going to learn a lot today!” He had a look of disbelief and annoyance on his face.
During the seminar, several elders of different churches shared how, when they were without a pastor and did not know what to do, they started praying privately and unitedly with other members, pleading for the Holy Spirit. Then they shared miracle after miracle of how new people began coming to their churches.
Ed was moved by the testimonies and thought, “I can try this! Let’s see if united prayer really makes a difference.”
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Ed started praying with Lisa, and then her prayer group, and eventually decided they needed to really make prayer meeting a prayer meeting. They started praying over each other’s needs, which drew in more people wanting prayer. People then invited friends with special concerns to come and have the church pray for them. God was answering their prayers, and that excited the members!
In his own prayer time, Ed became convicted over the text where God says, “My house is a house of prayer” (Luke 19:46).1
Ed and Lisa then decided to have quality prayer time in the church service itself. They passed out prayer request cards and people would come down to the front to be prayed over. People loved that and brought more friends with needs to church.
Without any earthly invitation, God started bringing new people to church. Ed would greet everyone warmly and immediately write their names down to follow up. He would be sure that all visitors were invited for lunch. True, loving fellowship began to spread.
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3
Ed was spending more private time with God than ever before, and he fell deeply in love with Jesus. He shares how he loves the quiet time with his Bible open, praying, and he knows Jesus is right there, asking him, “What do you want to know?”
THE ABUNDANT GROWTH
The little country church kept growing and growing. They went from thirty-five to over a hundred attendees—a thriving church! The school grew to forty students. Ed noted that, over the years, when they started to take things for granted and pray less fervently, things begin to slide backward again. They would then become more focused and intentional to reverse that trend.
Ed became a motivated and passionate person for personal and united prayer. He is now involved in organizing many prayer events in the conference. He and Lisa have become associate prayer ministries leaders for their conference, making a tremendous difference in many churches.
When Paul went to answer the Macedonian call in Philippi and joined a women’s prayer group, it led to Lydia’s conversion, the planting of the church in Philippi, and eventually to the expansion of the gospel to all of Europe! (Acts 16:12–15, 40). Small prayer groups are powerful in the Lord!
PRACTICAL ESSENTIALS FOR ELDERS
Here is a summary of the awakenings that Ed, and so many other elders, have discovered which can transform their lives and whole churches.
Believe That Prayer Really Makes a Difference
Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” One of God’s rules of engagement He established in the great controversy is that “you do not have because you do not ask” (Jas 4:2). He has limited Himself in some ways to our asking. But He does answer every earnest prayer in the best way, even though it might not always be the answer we want.
Personal Prayer Time with Jesus Jesus
said in His last most important instructions to His disciples, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). There is nothing more important for an elder to do than to make sure he or she enjoys quality time with Jesus each day!
As Ellen G. White puts it, Many even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing of real communion with God. They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ’s loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts, but not waiting for counsel. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. With their burdens they return to their work. These workers can never attain the highest success until they learn the secret of strength. . . . Not a pause for a moment in His presence, but personal contact with Christ, to sit down in companionship with Him—this is our need.2
Jesus then promises seven times in John 14–16, when we do take time to abide with Him, that “if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
Praying Together with Others
We have been guided by both Jesus and Ellen White that there is more power in praying together than even in our personal prayers. The reason is that there will be unity of our hearts’ desires, our love for God, and our love for each other.
In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Ellen White comments on this verse, saying, “The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer. The power given will be proportionate to the unity of the members and their love for God and one another.”3
Repeatedly in the book of Acts, as the believers faced obstacles, problems, persecutions, and opportunities to spread the gospel, they followed these steps:4
- They gathered together, prayed, and fasted.
- The Holy Spirit showed up.
- The Word of God went forth in power.
- People were converted.
- The church grew dramatically.
John Maxwell says, “In Acts chapter two, they prayed for ten days, Peter preached for ten minutes, and 3000 were converted. Today churches pray for ten minutes, preach for ten days, and three get saved.”5 We, as elders, need to put the proven steps given to us in the book of Acts into constant practice!
Prayer Itself Is an Excellent Outreach Ministry
Most people are open to praying about their needs and as a method of reaching others. Prayer works better than many other methods, and in many cultures around the world. For example:
In the Bergamo church, Italy, the elders’ main focus was on prayer and loving people, and the church grew from sixty to over three hundred in attendance, and the elders started three new church plants.6
In Kenya, the Eldoret church elder, his wife, and their pastor called for regular prayer at seven each morning. Members also invited their friends to join them. Then they joined the annual worldwide 10 Days of Prayer,7 40 Days of Prayer, and 100 Days of Prayer ahead of the 2015 General Conference Session. Everyone was so excited to see many answers to prayer. Attendance grew to four hundred, including many non-Adventists and pastors of other denominations, too. Friendships and questions about Adventist beliefs multiplied. They started a small Bible study school that resulted in many new baptisms, with over 120 other church pastors baptized now, and some even bringing their churches and buildings with them. Prayer is evangelism!8
Pray the Lord will lead you to His plans for you!
The elder’s prayer life is all about a living intimate relationship with the risen Jesus, who can do the impossible! Those early believers had no buildings, few pastors, no institutions, no education, no big resources, and were being persecuted, but still turned the world upside down in twenty-five years. Nothing is impossible if you are used fully by our Lord. Ask and you shall receive! (Luke 11:9–13).
1 All biblical quotations are from the NKJV.
2 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1903), 260–261.
3 Ellen G. White, Letter 32, 1903, in Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, MD: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), 9:5.
4 For examples, see Acts 1:14–15; 2:41– 47; 4:18–33; 6:1–8; 12:1–25.
5 John Maxwell, Partners in Prayer (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 10.
6 See Bettina Krause, ed., “Churches Born of Prayer,” chap. 1 in It’s Time: Voice from the Front Lines of Mission, Global Missions Centers 1 (Silver Spring, MD: Mission to the Cities Committee, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2015).
7 The 10 Days of Prayer event happens annually in January. For more information and resources, visit https://www.tendaysofprayer.org.
8 For hundreds of practical resources to improve your prayer and spiritual life search, visit https://www.revivalandreformation. org/prayer.
Jerry N. Page is the secretary of the Ministerial Association at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD, USA.