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EP 242 – Developing a Powerful Praying Church with Rick Fisher

Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp
EP 242 - Developing a Powerful Praying Church with Rick Fisher

Cultivating a Powerful Prayer Life in Ministry

This week, Rick Fisher of Blackaby Ministries joins us on the Bootcamp to talk about prayer. I would recommend grabbing a copy of the book that he wrote with Richard Blackaby that we discuss in this episode: Developing a Powerful Praying Church

You should also join JimBo and Rick at the Revive event in OH later this month.

Rick discusses the significance of prayer in both personal life and the life of a church, emphasizing creating a culture of prayer within the church community. He talks about the challenges and importance of prayer and its foundational role in ministry. He offers practical advice for pastors and ministry leaders on enriching their prayer life and encouraging a praying culture within their congregations. The discussion includes personal anecdotes, biblical insights, and practical steps for deepening one’s prayer life and fostering a prayerful atmosphere in church settings.

00:00 Welcome to the Boot Camp: Introducing Rick Fisher
01:51 The Challenge of Creating a Culture of Prayer in Churches
02:54 Reviving Personal and Corporate Prayer Practices
06:31 The Power of Prayer: Transforming Leadership and Congregations
16:04 Practical Steps for Enhancing Prayer Life in Ministry
24:16 Closing Thoughts and Prayer for Listeners

JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the boot camp, back at it again. I hope you’re ready for the next episode. today we are joined, by a special guest, good friend, Rick Fisher. I’ve gotten to know Rick over the last year or so, doing the revive events with him and Richard Blackaby and Mark Clifton.

Rick, welcome

to the podcast. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rick Fisher: Well, thanks Jimbo, good to be with you today. As you can tell by my accent, all your listeners out there can tell I’m from up north. as in North Carolina, that’s where I was born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina. My grandfather was a tent preacher. Means he would go around West North Carolina and put sawdust on the ground and put up a tent and preach the gospel and During the day, he would teach shape note singing schools

JimBo Stewart: what

is shaped note

singing schools.

Rick Fisher: yeah, most people sing by the, today it’s lines and spaces, but back in the day it was Fa, Do Re Mi Fa Sol La [00:01:00] Ti Do, and every note had a different shape, and he, he would He taught those kind of singing schools to guys in the, in the mountains. And anyway, preach the gospel at night. And, I grew up in that kind of culture and, was called to ministry in my teens.

And, really if I knew what God had in front of me, I probably would just stay home and mountain in North Carolina. I would scared me to death, but, just, went off to college. He got married seminary days and, local church ministry for about 30 years, 18 of that as a senior pastor, and, then, was called away from that, which was a whole, whole journey in itself, and been with Blackabee Ministries in one way or another about 14, 15 years now.

JimBo Stewart: the four fundamentals of preach, pray, love, and stay. And one of those that I’ve seen to be maybe the most [00:02:00] difficult for people to figure out how to, create a culture of prayer within, especially a dying church, really any church, but it feels like, this becomes, One of the more difficult aspects, just even out of those four fundamentals, if you’ve ever been to a prayer meeting at a dying church, then you know, you know, it’s like the, the organ recital, right.

And we’re praying for aunt Edna’s kidney and uncle Roger’s big toe. And,

you know, we just, we spend the whole time listing out all these medical ailments and then one person maybe voices a prayer at

the end. and so

Rick Fisher: yeah, yeah,

JimBo Stewart: talk to us a little bit. What does it look like to, to create a culture of prayer

within a church?

Rick Fisher: well, I think one of the things you hit the nail on the head there is kind of our, experience of prayer in the past, corporately,

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Rick Fisher: I I say that the reason most people don’t go to prayer meetings at the [00:03:00] churches because they’ve been to one and their experience has not been good, but you know, as Richard and I traveled around, I, I sort of came to the conviction that in our current evangelical culture, there’s sort of a loss of the theology of prayer and the practice of prayer.

and for me and my ministry early on as an associate pastor years ago, um Our church had a intercessory prayer ministry, one of the first ones I’d ever seen. This was in the eighties and, I chose to become part of that. And in those moments, God revealed to me that I did not know how to

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Rick Fisher: I knew how to say cliches, but I didn’t know how to have a communication, a relationship of communication with him where I heard from him more than he heard from me and what that relationship looked like.

And so it began a journey for me so that when I became a pastor, prayer [00:04:00] was definitely the foundation that I felt we had to lay. Before we could do everything. In fact, my definition of a, of a culture of prayer in a church or a praying church is where, where prayer is the foundation of everything you do.

Your preaching and your teaching and your discipleship and your missions and your ministry and even your meetings, you know, so that you just You, you basically pray first in all things and you, learning how to pray is, probably the crossroads for most people where they get derailed, just in their personal prayer life, and maybe, maybe we need better models and, I’ve tried to simplify in my own life what that looks like so that I could maybe communicate that more easily.

JimBo Stewart: I think it’s a good starting point of just talking about how, you know, starting everything with prayer. I think if you talk to any pastor and said, Hey, prayer and the word of God need [00:05:00] to be central foundational things for. Everything that you do, all of them would say amen and would agree, within inevitably, if you watch how they lead their meetings, how the Sunday morning service is led and operated, in practice, it just doesn’t seem to play out either of those scripture or prayer.

And so, you know, Oftentimes, you’ll go a whole worship service without hearing the Word of God read until the sermon and, and even sometimes it’s not like, it’s not the beginning of the sermon, it’s well after the sermon has started and led, and so you’re going the majority of the whole service before you ever hear the Word of God, and then prayer, it seems, gets treated like a tool of transition.

How do we, you know, how do we, how do we avoid the awkward silence between the, you know, the band moving off the stage and onto the stage and the pastor moving onto the stage and off the stage. And [00:06:00] then in. But then even how to pray. So, you know, chances are if you’ve been to a ministry leadership meeting they start with prayer But it it feels like it’s cuz like that’s what you have to do, right?

You have to start with prayer. And so There’s not a lot of thought, it seems like that goes into those prayers. what are some ways that, a pastor listening to this could, could learn a little more of how to, how to pray and how to, how to, not just to do it

more often, but to do it better.

Rick Fisher: Yeah, yeah, and that’s why the first, the very first section of that book that Richard and I did, we focused on the leader’s prayer life,

JimBo Stewart: Yeah.

Rick Fisher: because you’re not going to lead a congregation or a group of people to pray. It’s not going to rise above your own prayer life. And so it was so important that that, that you, that you learned that.

And, your motivation for that ought to be simple, but maybe it’s not. as a leader, there were some passages of [00:07:00] scripture that, really impacted me. you think about one of everybody’s favorite life verses, Jeremiah 29, 11. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And we all want that. I mean, that sounds great. We would, we would, in our worst days, probably still want God’s plan and His purpose and His hope, His future. but also if you know Isaiah 55, 8, 9, to be true, it says, Our ways are not His ways, His thoughts, not our thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth.

So now I know. That God has a plan and a purpose for me, but there’s no way I can figure it

out. You know, it’s his plan, his thoughts, his ways, his timing, his, everything is so much higher than my ability to conjure that up as a leader. But the world is always telling us we can do that.

The world is telling us, Hey, we, we have the ability within ourselves to do that. And [00:08:00] so you’re kind of in this conundrum of God knows, but I don’t. Okay. And so I love Jeremiah 33 3. Actually, that’s the, that’s the place it came together for me is when I read that invitation where God said call to me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and unsearchable things and here’s the kicker, which you do not know.

and so all through scripture God just issues this invitation. Come to me, call to me, ask me. Jesus said, if you, anything you ask in my name. Of course, the qualifier was in his name according to his character, according to his truth. But this invitation is just there for us to come to him. But the invitation is meant that we hear from him.

JimBo Stewart: hmm.

Rick Fisher: and I think that’s where I grew up in a culture where we talked to God. And when we were finished talking to God, we were finished praying.

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Rick Fisher: and so in this book, we looked at the leader’s prayer life and said, you need to dig deep, your [00:09:00] well of that. And, and I think it has to be combined scripture.

You have to, I think you pray with an open Bible. I think you start with God’s word because many times what you need to pray, what God wants to say to you, and embed in you and adjust in you comes right out of his word. Henry always said, when you see something as a leader in the word of God, then stay in front of that until God starts making it true in your life.

And the only way for that to happen is to kind of park your heart. And so I would say, if you want to start praying, find some margin, make sure it’s unhurried time. in fact, I think the more responsibility we have on our plates as leaders, the more margin we need. Amen. For prayer, the more margin we need for being still before the Lord.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah, you talk about, you, you share a testimony of going to, in the book of going to a conference and, going to the breakout session and the word of [00:10:00] God really helping you see this. And I highlight, you said the beginning of the transformation for you occurred when you stopped chasing and started seeking and listening.

And I think for me, it was similar. And I think about Psalm 46. You know, one in Psalm 46, 10, uh, for me on a day when I was in need of just, man, I don’t know what I’m dealing. Uh, Psalm 46, one reminded me that God is our refuge and then go into Psalm 46, 10 and that be still and know that I am God and even, you know, it could be translated cease striving.

And it’s, which is like you said, when you stop chasing. And so it’s that, I think there does need to become a moment for every ministry leader, where. They kind of just stop trying to make it happen and stop trying to pull their ministry up by their own bootstraps and sit in the reality that this is God’s and this is not mine.

And, uh, I love that. I love [00:11:00] where you talk about like, when, when we’re done talking, we’re not done praying. We got to shift to a,

a listening aspect of that. That’s really


Rick Fisher: yeah, and I think some of it is, is based on our view of God. I’m not sure we have a very high view of God sometimes, uh, so it makes me less likely maybe to run to him quickly, but, as leaders, we are seen as fixers, right? or, you know, as pastors, leaders, we’re supposed to have the answer.

So that can kind of get real eddy. That can kind of get in your head that you, you can come up with the answer. it distracts us from this, this time. But, one thing that really helped me, uh, personally. as a leader was to think that as I looked at my praying, most of my praying was for what was in God’s hand.

God’s hand sort of represents what God does. That much of my praying started with what was in God’s hand rather than what David [00:12:00] said in, in Psalm 27, I believe. He said, Lord, you said seek my face. So your face I will seek. And God’s face represents God’s character, who he is. And so I had to adjust my prayer life to start with who God was, not what I needed.

And, um, and, and so in scripture, even as I read scripture, I, I, I asked the first question is what does this tell me about God? Because if I have a proper view of God and who He is and who His character is, I really have more confidence in my seeking Him. And, uh, I have more trust in, in, in Him. Because I’m informed, my spirit is informed about who I’m coming to in prayer.

Who I’m spending time with in this relationship.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. One of the ways you say it in the book is you said prayer is not primarily an avenue for you to express your concerns to God. Rather, it is God’s divinely orchestrated, [00:13:00]orchestrated means of laying his heart over

yours. talk to us about what does that mean?

God’s laying his heart over yours.

Rick Fisher: Well, when I think about prayer, there’s two things. That’s one of them, two things I think God does as we pray. I mean, he does, there’s so much we could say for me. I, I boiled it down to two things I could grasp. Number one, when we’re still, God has time to lay his heart over our heart, which means that his pattern of thinking increasingly becomes our pattern of thinking or the way we see people.

It’s like he sees people, we begin to hear conversations like he hears them because we’re we’re still enough that he can speak to us, whether it’s through his word or just through the Holy Spirit ministering in us and, and He’s purposeful in that He. He’s laying his heart over us so that we become passionate about what he’s passionate about so that we become, burdened about what concerns God and what concerns him about sin.

But he [00:14:00] does that so he can do something else. And that is launch us into the middle of his activity. he, we meet with him and he purposefully adjust us. and shapes us into more his truth and so that he can then launch us into his activity. He can use us to bear fruit, to bring him glory, but he’s done it.

We’re doing it out of who he is, not necessarily who we are, out of, his heart and out of his image and his character. In fact, there’s a very simple prayer I pray, Every morning before I, my feet hit the floor, and that is God, would you help me see people today the way you see them? Would you help me hear conversations the way you hear them?

And would you help me respond in a way that honors you? And that little, that prayer has simply, it acknowledges at the beginning of the day that I don’t have a clue what’s coming, but God does.

JimBo Stewart: [00:15:00] Yeah,

I, love in the book you talk about prayer as an act of surrender and, and not commitment. and you say we often prefer commitments to acts of surrender. Commitment is something that we do. Surrender is something that God does. Commitment indicates that we are in control.

Surrender acknowledges that We are powerless to achieve victory over our circumstances. We cannot experience success in our own strength and wisdom. We must surrender every area of our life to Christ so he can do in and through us, what he alone can accomplish. So just to summarize where we’re at right now, like, so for the pastor, for the ministry leader, there’s kind of two things.

Two main things that we’ve talked about is slow down and, and sit in the moment that God has given you and listen, and then surrender to what, what it is he has. So you got to be listening in that so you can surrender. So if a pastor, one takes those steps for his own prayer life, how does he translate that [00:16:00] into the life and culture

of the congregation as a whole now?

Rick Fisher: Well, for me, as a pastor, I had to change the way I talked about prayer. The very first thing I did was have to adjust me just a little bit, like saying things like, Before we begin, let’s pray.

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Rick Fisher: Well, what I’m saying is, let’s get this prayer out of the way so we can get down to really what matters.

JimBo Stewart: Hmm.

Rick Fisher: But I had to understand that prayer is the beginning, it’s the important thing, and I had to treat it that way in my own life.

I had to stop saying things that didn’t make sense in prayer, like, God be with us. We’re not asking God to be with us, He’s there, the better prayer is. God make us aware of how very present you already are. So the way I was praying out loud had to be adjusted. Uh, and, and so that was a first for me.

And then I had to [00:17:00] begin to prepare for my praying, like I was preparing for my preaching.

JimBo Stewart: Hm,

Rick Fisher: I had to say what’s going on in the life of our church, what’s going on in our community, what’s going on in our culture and how should we pray in light of that today? How should we seek God? Because I think it was Spurgeon that said.

When you preach, you’re talking to the people about God, but when you pray, you’re talking to God about the people.

JimBo Stewart: Uh

Rick Fisher: so one of the things I had to make sure was in our worship time was the pastoral prayer,

where And, and I don’t hear that a lot anymore, where, where the leader takes the people before God and cries out to God even for the people.

So the modeling of what we do, uh, is so important, because people will take their cue. from a leader’s prayer life. They’ll be influenced by that. I think that’s, in the, my life, that was something [00:18:00]that had to adjust as a pastor leader. But then I had to do some practical things to kind of apply that.

And, um, but I, but I tried to do it biblically. If I could, if I could say it that way, there’s some wonderful prayers in scripture, corporate prayers, that model some very significant character marks of what I think a culture prayer looks like. Acts chapter 4 is one of my favorite ones, if, uh, the one where Peter and John have been arrested and then they get, come back to the people in Acts 4, and beginning in Acts 2.

Like 23, four right in there, the people begin to pray and the way they pray is a wonderful model of prayer. Of some character marks of prayer like number one they prayed first. So is your congregation praying first? I mean when those people heard the threats, they didn’t begin to wring their hands.

They didn’t say oh my what are we going to do? It says they cried out to god. They said [00:19:00] god You know, they went straight to prayer and so are we praying first in any you know in everything there’s and I think Also, praying specifically is so important. Make your prayer specific. In that prayer, in Acts 4, they prayed for boldness, and in Acts 4, 31, it says God gave them boldness.

So imagine that. They prayed specifically, God answered specifically. And I always ask the question, is there anything your church is praying for that could only be explained if God

did it? Are you praying specifically? And I, and I think sometimes we pray for just a little while and then we quit.

I think, I think, I think praying over extended period of times, I think there’s. There’s great power when you have one people with one voice at one time about the same thing. And, uh, you know, you referenced that story at my conference in, California. When I came back from that and preached to the congregation by heart about a passage, [00:20:00] of scripture.

We prayed for like eight or ten weeks. Just, we didn’t do anything except we prayed for eight or ten weeks about God show us our community the way you see it. And after about ten weeks we came back and said, what has God said? And it’s very, it birthed some very specific ministries because we prayed specifically, God answered specifically, but we prayed over a long time.

And if you look at that text in Acts 4, they also prayed with great confidence and expectation. They, they prayed, they, they recited to God who he was. They, they started with him and his character in that prayer. God, you’re the God who’s done all this. You’re the God who put the heavens in place. and so they’re saying, we believe you can do this.

We’re, we’re surrendering this to you because you are able. to do this. And, um, and I think too, Jimbo, something important for me, corporate [00:21:00] prayer in the churches, make sure we pray biblically, pray correctly. Um, uh, your listeners probably, I’ll say this anyway. Uh, some of the, some of the most unbiblical prayers I’ve ever heard are the offertory

JimBo Stewart: Yeah,

Rick Fisher: churches, because usually the guy who prays them just drew the short straw in the foyer right before they walked down the aisle.

But, you know, we never think about asking a soloist to sing who can’t sing on key, you know, they, they sing all sour notes, but what, so why would we ever, prayer is more important even than singing. So why would we ever let anyone pray publicly who’s, who prays off key? So one thing a leader or pastor has to do is make sure he’s been praying with his people so he knows.

Who are the prayers? You, you, you don’t want someone praying publicly and worship just because they have a position in the church. You want them praying because they know, they know how to seek God. [00:22:00] They know how to, you know, so, um, and final thing I would say, and I’ll be finished here with that, but celebrate it when God answers.

One of the things a leader can do is, because I think one of the jobs of a leader is to point out the activity of God to God’s people. God did this. God responded. It wasn’t, we didn’t get lucky, it wasn’t accidental, it, God responded, God did it, and celebrate God’s activity.

JimBo Stewart: if a pastor’s listening to this and, and Wednesday night is prayer meeting night. you know, his prayer meetings are dull and boring and they’re the organ recital and they’re like that prayer meeting. You said if somebody attends, that’s why they would never come back.

What are just a couple of things that he could do? the next time he’s leading a prayer meeting to make it more powerful and meaningful and


Rick Fisher: I’d simply open a psalm and read it and just say, folks, let’s take a moment, what does that psalm, look at that [00:23:00] psalm now, what does it tell us about God?

JimBo Stewart: Mm.

Rick Fisher: And, It’s going to be real awkward at first sometimes, give them time, you may have to prompt them. But then in light of what that tells us about God, what does that tell us about us?

We ask some good questions and then say, in light of what that’s saying to us about God and ourselves, how should we pray in response to

that? So now see, we’ve started with God’s heart and we just real practically moved people to think about praying in a different way. And frankly, that’s going to take weeks and months of doing that, but just some very simple thing like that, something people can look at and be prompted.

JimBo Stewart: That’s good. The other thing I’d tell you listener is I’ll leave a link in the show notes to get this book I mean this is I don’t bring books on here just to pump books but I when I bring somebody on here talk about a books because I feel like it’s a Something that would be [00:24:00]helpful in that pastor’s library and developing a powerful praying church by Richard Blackaby and Rick Fisher.

I think is one That I mean it won’t take you a long time to read it It’s a good book with a lot of good biblical and practical advice. Um, and so I would encourage you to check out that link and, and get that book. Rick, just as a close, one of the things we love doing the boot camp is one, if you would just share with our listeners ways they could be praying for you and your ministry, and then, uh, if you would close us with praying for our listeners that, that they would put into practice some of the things that we’ve

talked about today.

Rick Fisher: First of all, my wife and I are taking care of 91 year old mothers, so that’s how you can pray for me, is being a good son. I’m an only child, so I’d be a good steward of that. Secondly, for the ministry, this is a real busy season for us, and we’re very grateful for all the opportunities God gives us, but we want to make sure that we are creating margin in our own lives, [00:25:00] but also that we are on point when we stand up to speak, that we’re on target with what God would have us say.

So just clarity of our message, too, is important.

JimBo Stewart: Excellent.

Rick Fisher: Yeah, well let me pray for, for us here. Lord, thank you so much

that you’re the God who loves us enough to invite us to come before you, park our hearts and be still, um, and let you speak because Lord, what you have on your mind is much more important than what’s on my mind. You even can tell me how important and what adjustments I need to make and even what decisions and Directions and that I need to go about those things that are concerning me or troubling me most Father your heart for us is where I want to begin my day [00:26:00] and I want to I want to hear from you and know who you are so that I can have great confidence in you.

And I pray that for each person who’s listening, that whatever’s going on in their lives, that they would understand you’re the God who’s, who’s willing to hear us. And you’re the God who’s able to work and to speak. And so I pray for the churches that are represented that pray that there would just be a desire to live in the love relationship to hear from you and to just take time to come before you and say, Father, we need you.

We want to surrender to your agenda. We want to obey your heart. And Father, I know that from that, you’re going to, you’re going to bring much fruit that glorifies you. So I pray that in Jesus name.

JimBo Stewart: Amen.

Thanks for taking time to come on, with us, Rick. I would encourage our listeners to join us later in [00:27:00] May. This will come out in May. we’ll be in Ohio together, Pickerington, Ohio. We’ll leave a link for that in the show notes as well.

Rick Fisher: Thanks, Jimbo.


Jimbo Stewart

Replant Bootcamp Co-Host

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