Since becoming a pastor, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how to plan for and lead the traditional “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” in a way that reflects the glory and importance Scripture places on such meetings. For this reason, I am always looking for resources that will help me cultivate a love for Biblically-faithful corporate prayer. One recent publication I picked up is Teach them to Pray: Cultivating God-dependency in your church, by Paul Tautages.
I had high expectations for this book from the beginning. To start with, Tautages has been the pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, since 1991, so I know his writing flows out of a long-term pastoral ministry. Also, this book is part of the “Ministering the Master’s Way” series by DayOne publications, which produced the extremely helpful book, Visit the Sick by Pastor Brian Croft a year or so ago. I knew from my experience with Croft’s book that the goal of this series was theologically sound counsel for pastors, by pastors, on concrete ministry issues. But that’s not the end of the build-up. The introduction was written by Jerry Bridges, the elder statesman of “practical godliness” writers, and glowing endorsements were included from both Bridges and Joel Beeke. Throw in an outstanding introduction by Tautages calling for the need to cultivate God-dependency in the local church, and my mouth was watering at the assistance I was about to receive.
To be fair, my expectations for this book had risen to such a level at this point that it would be almost impossible to meet them. With that said, the book did not turn out the way that I expected. It was, in fact, a series of nine expositions of key New Testament passages about prayer. The exegesis and explanation of each passage was faithful, and so the reading was profitable to me. However, the real issue at stake (in my view) in local church prayer meetings is how to translate the glorious reality of prayer as Scripture describes it into the real-life meetings in the middle of the week with people who, along with their pastor, are fighting dead traditionalism, exhaustion, apathy, ungodliness, distractions of creaking pews and stuffy room temperature, etc. What I was hoping for in this book, in addition to a biblical-theological foundation for corporate prayer, was an account from Pastor Tautages as to the concrete steps he has taken in his ministry, in addition to faithful preaching about prayer, to cultivate this Biblical God-dependency in these prayer meetings.
For instance, how is his prayer meeting structured, and is it always structured the same way? What role does Scripture reading, singing hymns, sharing prayer requests, etc. play in each prayer meeting? How do you guard against common pitfalls of prayer meetings, such as focusing only on physical concerns, praying for people no one knows about to keep from becoming too personal, praying the same prayer from rote memory each week, etc.? How do you handle praying for lost people in the community, when it could be a delicate situation to mention such people by name? How do you encourage people to come to the prayer meeting without begging or using guilt to manipulate? These are just a few of my questions about prayer meetings that have arisen from actually trying to conduct them from week-to-week in a local church.
Now, some of these concrete issues are touched on briefly in the appendix section, issues such as, “Monthly Missionary Prayer Nights,” “Praying Scripture Through Trials,” “Pastoral Prayer as Part of Worship,” etc. The resources here are very useful, and I am grateful for them. But most of these were confined to one page, and I would have loved for Pastor Tautages to unpack how he implemented these suggestions in his own setting.
Again, this was a Biblically faithful book, and I am grateful for it. But this brother has obviously made prayer a priority in the congregation he has served since 1991, and I simply hope he writes another book detailing how that has developed in his years of ministry.