In our reading group at the moment we’re working through Tim Keller’s Center Church. Last Monday evening we looked at his section on gospel renewal. At the start of chapter 6 (p. 73) he describes signs or precursors to renewal as including ‘extraordinary prayer’. He cites a distinction made by C. John Miller between ‘maintenance prayer’ and ‘frontline prayer’. Here’s a quote . . .
“Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and focused on physical needs inside the church. In contrast, the three basic traits of frontline prayer are these:
- A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves
- A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost
- A yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory.
If you pay attention at a prayer meeting, you can tell quite clearly whether these traits are present.”
I found this quite challenging. I don’t think Keller is saying ‘maintenance prayer’ is wrong, but if there is never anything that resembles what he describes as ‘frontline’ prayer then there’s a problem – if you’re a church that really wants to see genuine gospel renewal in individuals, the church, and reaching out to the community.
I know for myself personally, and I fear for our smaller and larger prayer meetings, we can all too easily and quickly slip into maintenance prayer. The challenge I think for us as individuals, for our small groups, and for our church more generally is to recapture a more real and earnest expression of ‘frontline’ prayer. I suspect I’m not alone. So if you can’t remember the last time your prayer (individually or corporately) resembled the three traits above, then maybe this is something to share with others, reflect on, and think about how we can incorporate more of a ‘frontline’ spirit in our prayers.
I’d love you to comment below if you’ve had positive experiences of ‘frontline’ praying, and how you’ve managed to instill that in corporate or individual prayer.