Friday, December 07, 2007

Inner~View #36: Seminary Prayer Prof On The State of Prayer

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Dr. Dan R. Crawford

Dr. Dan Crawford

Senior Professor of Evangelism & Mission; Occupant of the Chair of Prayer, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and President of Disciple All Nations, Inc. http://www.discipleallnations.org

Compiler of Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry. PrayerShop Publishing, 2008.
Author of:

  • God's Formula for Genuine Happiness. Hannibal Books, 2007.
  • Coping with Conflict: A Measure of Discipleship. Covenant Publishers, 2006.
  • One Anothering: Praying Through Challenges Together. Covenant Publishers, 2004.
  • Prayer Walking: A Journey of Faith. AMG Publishers, 2002.
  • Night of Tragedy Dawning of Light: The Wedgwood Baptist Shootings. Shaw Publishers, 2000.
  • The Prayer-Shaped Disciple. Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.
  • DiscipleShape: Twelve Weeks to Spiritual Fitness. Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

PM ~ Dr. Crawford, you are an authentic champion for prayer. How did the Holy Spirit develop this passion in you?

DC ~ Two ways. Through my parents. My dad was my pastor and my mother was a great prayer warrior with a heart for the nations. I grew up observing prayer and God's responses to prayer. The other way was though an automobile accident at age fifteen when the second vertebra of my neck was broken. Long before today's medical technology, I spent nine months in a hospital bed in a neck brace. Tough for an athletic teenager during basketball and baseball seasons. Twice I was scheduled for surgery to wire the bones of my neck together. In other words, twice the doctors were giving up on my healing. Both times and at significant other times, my mother organized twenty-four prayer chains on my behalf. After nine months I was pronounced totally healed (by an atheist surgeon) with no repercussions in the fifty years since. I decided prayer worked, because God worked in response to praying people.

PM ~ You have held a unique position related to prayer . . .

DC ~ For years I thought I held the only fully endowed Chair of Prayer in any theological institution in the world. Then I discovered another Chair of Prayer at Asbury Seminary. Needless to say there are not many of us in such a chair or even teaching a course in prayer in theological education. North American theological education has failed a couple of generations of ministers by not teaching them the full discipline of prayer. The struggling churches of North America and the growing churches of the third world, are evidences of this.

PM ~ Share with us your personal observations on the prayer movement

DC ~ When I began to teach prayer in a theological seminary, I received maybe three invitations per year to attend or participate in a "prayer conference." Today, if I had the time and travel expense, I could attend one each week. Unfortunately, with the growth of the movement, has come a more popular approach to prayer. In the Bible and in church history, the most effective prayer came from a remnant of faithful prayer warriors. Not to say the growing movement is bad, but with growth comes popularity, and with popularity comes a broadening of purpose, and with a broadening of purpose, comes a lessening of genuine prayer. For years I have been taking groups overseas on prayer journeys. The most frequently asked question is, “What else are we going to do?" Likewise the question I hear most often from students who are thinking about taking my course on prayer is, "What else do you teach in the class?" Following the prayer journeys and the class, the most heard response is, "Wow! I had no idea it was so involved." Many pastors and vocational ministers I know believe strongly in prayer but don't have a clue what all it involves. Missionaries are different. Because of who they are and where they serve, they know.

PM ~ Most pastors have had minimal experience and no training in prayer. What key concepts do you present to your students; future leaders in the Church?

DC ~ I teach first that prayer is biblical, throughout the Bible from the first mention in Genesis to the final verses of Revelation, as well as modeled by Jesus. The most often used verb in the ministry of Jesus is not preach, teach, or heal, but pray. There is a popular bumper sticker that reads, 'the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." Well the Bible teaches prayer and that settles it whether you believe it or not. I also teach the principles and methods of corporate prayer and personal prayer. I teach simple, often overlooked truths, like – We don't talk "to" God, we talk "with" God. And never talk to people about God until you've talked to God about the people. Then I always teach the global implications of prayer. If God's purpose is for the nations, then how can we pray for less? The bottom line, like with other disciplines, is that prayer is more caught than taught. So, in addition to my classroom teaching, I try to model a life of prayer for my students.

PM ~ Explain to us how prayer and discipleship intersect...

DC ~ First let me offer a few definitions. Disciple making (as in Matthew 28:19), is the umbrella that covers three things – (1) Cultivation (or pre-evangelism, building relationships, etc.); (2) Evangelism (the actual sharing of the faith with an intent of conversion); and (3) Discipleship (or follow-up, nurturing, spiritual formation, etc.). Even though it is often valuable to take non-believers (or better "pre-believers") through a study of Christian discipleship as a part of the cultivation process, genuine discipleship is for believers. I believe prayer is the priority discipline of discipleship, just as prayer was the priority discipline for the Lord. I know this is a controversial belief but I'm not so sure how interested God is in the prayers of non-believers, until that non-believer begins to turn toward God (we sometimes call that conviction). Prayer then, is primarily for convicted non-believers and believers and it is the priority discipline.

PM ~ Dan, please write a prayer for the leaders of Christ's Church.

DC ~ Gracious Father. We who have experienced Your call to leadership, stand in awe that You would call such as us. But when we study Your Word, we discover that has always been Your practice – not so much ability, but availability. For whatever reason You had in mind when You singled us out, we offer thanks. As You continue to shape us into Your image, please remind us frequently of the importance, yea the priority, of communication with You. And when we remember this, and when You respond to our intercessions and petitions, remind us to give You the praise. To You be all glory because we ask this in no other name but the name of Jesus. Amen.

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