This week, I had the honor of interviewing Pastor Jason McGee, Senior Pastor of One Family Church in Shrewsbury, MA, for His Inscriptions readers. My husband and I have known Jason for several years, and helped him plant his church in Shrewsbury.
One of the things that most impressed me during the church plant was his emphasis on prayer. I was curious to know, several years later, how he views prayer and what priority he gives to prayer in his growing congregation. Here are his thoughts.
“One of the few recorded requests the disciples made of Jesus was that He teach them how to pray,” Pastor Jason notes. “This is how we know the Lord’s Prayer. But most of the praying Jesus did in Scripture was done in private. Jesus rarely prayed in public. Instead, He ministered to people out of the wisdom He received from the Father in private.”
Jason’s comments made me think more deeply about Christ’s quiet times. We know little about Christ’s prayer life, except that He often withdrew to listen to His Father and commune with Him. He received His instructions during those times. But prayer was mostly private and alone. The longest recorded conversations we have between Jesus and His Father are found in John, just prior to His death. There He revealed much more about how He prayed for His followers and Himself. (See Jesus’s prayer in John 17.)
No Prayer, No Ministry.
I asked Pastor Jason whether he had focused on prayer in his time at seminary.
“In all my time at Bible School I don’t remember ever taking a class on prayer, or hearing a teaching on prayer,” Pastor Jason remarks. “I didn’t really learn the value of prayer until more recently, maybe in the last 10 years or so. I met a lawyer from Puerto Rico who intrigued me; I saw something in him that I had not seen before, and I asked to sit with him. In listening to him, I learned to listen to God, to go slower. It transformed my prayer life.
“Later, another teacher invited me to his church, where I heard him pray out loud. I learned from him, and the Holy Spirit began teaching me about prayer on my own.”
Pastor Jason says that now, prayer and the study of the Word are one and the same. Prayer and worship are also inseparable; for him, it is all about wholeheartedness and unity.
“When we want to commune with Jesus,” Pastor Jason says, “we can go to the Word and pray through the scriptures – because HE IS the Word! We interact with Him over His Words and we worship Him with our responses – our prayers. I listen more than I speak. And the primary way God speaks is through His Word.”
To emphasize the value of the Word, Jason reminds me of the story of the woman at the well. “Jesus said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’” (John 4:10, NASB)
“We must realize that Jesus IS the Word, and we have communion with Him. That Samaritan woman became the well to her community, drawing others to Christ, because she communed with Him first. Without prayer, without communion, there will be no true ministry. It will just be you working in your own strength. Power comes through listening prayer. And neither prayer nor ministry happens without the Word.”
To highlight the importance of listening, Pastor Jason cites the story of Peter, James and John on the mountaintop with Jesus, who was there to pray. (See Luke 9:28-36.) During this encounter, Peter quickly jumps in and speaks, wanting to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. While he is speaking, a cloud overshadows him, and a voice says, "This is My Son, My Chosen One! Listen to Him!" (NLT) In our zeal to speak, we often neglect to listen.
Corporate Prayer Inspires Private Prayer
Pastor Jason recognizes that even in his own church, most people do not pray on their own. This is one reason why he begins every service with corporate prayer.
Jason believes that praying together during the service provides two benefits: first, it gives people a model for praying as they learn from listening to the prayers of others; people learn by example. Second, it creates unity. “Unifying lives in Christ is the mission of the church,” Jason says. We are to put on love daily, to have communion and fellowship with God and each other, which brings unity.”
Jason invites people to gather for a once-monthly prayer meeting, which his core leaders usually attend, and he also prays weekly with his elders. Typically, these are smaller meetings.
“Do you wish attendance at prayer meetings was greater?” I ask.
“Absolutely!” he says. “But even Jesus only took three of his disciples to the top of the mountain, and these same three fell asleep at Gethsemane! We don’t see any of Christ’s disciples praying actively on their own until after the resurrection, when Peter is seeing visions on rooftops, James is writing about how to pray for healing, and John is getting revelations on Patmos.”
Prayer Releases Creativity!
I asked Pastor Jason what seemed, at this point, to be a redundant question. Jason is an anointed preacher of God’s Word, and when he speaks there is a depth and authority to his teaching that is rare even in Christian communities. My hunch was that his powerful preaching was directly related to a powerful prayer life. Was it true?
“I need to hear from the Lord,” Jason replied. “It’s not about what I have to say! There must be less of me speaking and more of Him. Power in ministry comes from alone time; the corporate is always a reflection of the private. We must pray on our own in order to make an impact corporately.
“God is a creative God,” he states. “His Words are creative. When I get those words in me, I become creative, too!”
Typically, Pastor Jason spends time meditating on the Word throughout the week to prepare for his sermons. He finds that his preparation time for ministry boils down to two essential methods: a slow, word-by-word study of Bible passages which often lead him into other related scriptures; and what he calls “encounter” passages, where he puts himself in the position of someone in the Bible story in order to understand it better. “I ask myself, ‘How would this person feel? What were they thinking?’ I try to become the character in my mind, which opens up new revelation for me about the passage.”
Prayer is Easier Than You Think.
“What do you wish people knew about prayer?” I asked Pastor Jason as we finished our interview.
“That it’s easy,” he replied. “When you’re aware of God, or thinking of Him, you’re praying, because He’s right there. We don’t need to follow a protocol, like in the Old Testament, to enter into His Presence, because He is always with us! Psalm 46:10 says, 'Be still and know that I am God.' Prayer is more listening than talking; it is being aware of His nearness to us.
I am always inspired listening to others describe their quiet times with the Lord. For Pastor Jason, “quiet time” doesn’t stop after his morning devotions. He is constantly listening for God, and it shows.
My prayer for every reader of His Inscriptions is that as you, too, open up the Living Word, Jesus will reveal Himself to you until you live a true lifestyle of prayer, worship, and communion with our King!
Questions for Meditation:
~ Who do you know who has a strong prayer life? Have you considered asking to pray with them, as Jason did, or talking about prayer over a cup of coffee? This is a powerful way to broaden your prayer life.
~ How much of your prayer time is spent listening? Talking? Do you pray with your Bible open or closed? Are you interacting with Jesus, the Word? Consider keeping your Bible open during prayer times and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His Word to you as you read and pray!
~ Does your church currently pray together? Do you attend the prayer meetings your leaders initiate? Why or why not? How can you make prayer a higher priority in your daily life – or your church’s life?
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.