Pastor's mission: Elevate our prayer life


Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — After 2,000 years of Christian prayer, many faithful still don’t know how to pray effectively, pastor Daniel Henderson says.

“Most Christians pray out of crisis or pray a grocery list,” he said, making “God a lifeline of last resort.”

Henderson teaches that prayer should be about worshipping God, having a one-to-one relationship through prayer.

“Every believer wants to be intimate with God and experience his power in a personal way,” he said. “Many are hungry to be more effective, because they haven’t been taught.”

Teaching is what sends Henderson across the country. He’s on “The Creative Prayer Tour,” a series of workshops that will have stopped in 14 cities by year’s end. Henderson also is an author and head of a group called Strategic Renewal, based in Forest, Virginia, which aims to strengthen churches through worship-based prayer.

The prayer workshop was life-changing, said pastor Jeremy Johnson of Arcade Church in Sacramento, California. Johnson said the training helped turn him from an angry recovering alcoholic to a spiritual life pastor.

“It changed my perspective on prayer from being ask, ask, ask to building a relationship with God,” Johnson said. “It went from God being a vending machine to actually having a relationship with him, acknowledging who he is as opposed to what he does.”

Such is the demand for the prayer summits that Henderson speaks at 20 to 30 churches and to as many as 13,000 college students annually, he said.

Even pillars of the Christian faith struggle with prayer.

“As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear,” Mother Teresa told the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet in 1979, expressing her concern about decades seemingly going by without her prayers being answered.

Henderson cites The Lord’s Prayer in the sixth chapter of the book of Matthew as the blueprint for Christians, containing what could be called the four Rs of prayer. He breaks down the passage this way from the New Living Translation of the Bible:

Reverence — “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.”

Response — “May your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven.”

Requests — “Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”

Readiness — “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a simple invocation that is recited weekly at many Christian churches and comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a compilation of his teachings.

“It’s OK to use a set formula/pattern,” according Cyndi McDonald, an associate minister at First United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia. “The disciples asked Jesus how to pray, and he gave The Lord’s Prayer.”

No matter how people pray, it’s a part of American life, according to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The study shows that 75 percent of Americans of all faiths — including Christians, Jews and Muslims — report praying at least once a week, while 39 percent attend services weekly.

McDonald said the numbers could use some interpreting.

“What do they mean by pray? A quick blessing over a meal? An hour spent in solitude?” she asks.

For Henderson, the prayer statistics point to a yearning for God.

“The hunger is there for a personal faith. It indicates a spiritual hunger that won’t be satisfied,” he said. “It’s a personal thing and very real beyond the walls of church.”