Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review of Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders by Dave Earley

            Dr. Dave Earley is no stranger to Liberty University, he not only graduated with his bachelor’s degree from this prestigious college; he also went on to earn his masters degree from there as well. When he was still in his early twenties he and half a dozen other families started a small church in a basement in Ohio that grew to over 2,000 in attendance each week. Dr. Earley has served as the Chairman of the Department of Pastoral ministries and Church Expansion at Liberty Theological Baptist Seminary. In June of 2012 Dave and his wife Cathy moved to Las Vegas and started Grace City Church. He has published close to a dozen books with several being used for course materials in seminaries.[1]
            In his book Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High Impact Leaders Dr. Dave Earley covers a barrage of topics that deal with prayer. The first nine chapters are extremely meaty while the tenth chapter pulls everything together from throughout the book. His chapters include value the power of prayer, make time to pray, pray for those you serve, train other to pray for you, turn your problems into prayer, fast and pray, possess a bold faith, build upon the basics, adopt best practices, and putting it all together.
Evaluation and Critique
            In the very first chapter of his book Earley points his reader to the power that prayer holds. He says, “If you want to maximize your impact, prioritize your prayer life. Effective spiritual leaders value the power of prayer.”[2]  As a people there is often a tendency to devalue prayer and the impact it has on a person’s life. Earley quips, “To think we are too busy to pray shows a failure to understand that prayer actually saves time and effort.”[3] Not only do we not realize the amount of time that can be saved, we forfeit seeing great things happen where mediocrity has ruled. Earley believes in the power of prayer so much he argues that, “The more we pray, the more God works. The more God works, the better everything will ultimately be. We fail to recognize the astounding way our omnipotent God has linked his activity to our prayers.”[4] With that being said why don’t people pray more, this author included? One of the greatest assets an author can supply in a worksheet to help their reader own what he/ she has read and Earley provides one after each chapter in the book.
            When is the best time to pray, it can depend on who you are. However, no matter who you are prayer should be a priority. Throughout history there are numerous examples of great spiritual warriors that fought the war of this life on their knees. The best example we have is Jesus Christ himself. According to Earley, “Prayer was the first of Jesus’ daily activities and appointments, the number one item on his calendar each day. If nothing else would get done that day, prayer would get done.”[5] In this modern time most people are constantly on the move and feel that they cannot “find the time” to pray. Earley gives several great example in chapter two of his book about men making the time to pray, and by doing so were rewarded with accomplishing more than they ever could have otherwise. A common misconception that is had about prayer is that it has to be some long process, involving a great multitude of words. Jesus tells us, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.(Matthew 6:7-8, ESV) Earley implores his readers to not only pray once during the day but to set up several scheduled prayer times.[6]
            In the next chapter Earley gets right to the heart of what all leaders should be doing and that is praying for those whom he leads. He mentions a specific type of prayer called intercession or intercessory prayer. According to Earley, “The term intercede means “to go between.” Used for prayer it describes the act of going to God and pleading on behalf of one another…Therefore, while all intercession is prayer, not all prayer is intercession.”[7] When leaders take the time to pray specifically for those in their charge it shows a level of commitment and love that cannot be demonstrated any other way. When these relationships reach this level there is a noticeable change in the interaction with the leader and God. Earley believes that, “Spiritual leadership takes on great power and authority when leaders so tightly link their heart with God’s that it beats in rhythm with his and they feel his burdens. Often, tears will be the result.”[8] People do not cry for just anyone generally it if for those closest to them, the ones they love. By going before God on behalf of those you serve it gives you a greater love for them, so that you can “use tears.”[9]
            This work is extremely thought provoking, and in the next chapter Earley continues his thoughts of intercessory prayer, but instead of leaders praying for their followers it is the other way around. Earley makes a great statement that this author fully supports when he says, “The most underutilized source of spiritual power in our churches today is intercession for Christian leaders. If we hope to be the prevailing church Jesus predicted, we must pray for our leaders. If we hope to become the leaders our churches need us to be, we must train our people to pray for us.”[10] This is one of the hardest things for any leader to do is to show vulnerability to those they lead. Once it has been done it creates a greater trust between the parties involved, and allows God to move in even greater ways.
            In his next chapter Earley piggy backs off the previous in a way when he tells the reader to turn their problems into prayer. We can share our problems with others and have them pray for us, but the ultimate point he is trying to make here is that when we enter in to a situation we know we cannot handle on our own we should automatically turn to God in prayer. The first example he uses is the first real leader of the nation of Israel, Moses. Earley uses the story of how Moses was becoming overwhelmed and his greatest resource was to turn to God. “Wisely he did not carry the burdens on his own shoulders. He took the problems of God’s people back to God in prayer.”[11] While this book is all about the strength and power found in prayer Earley makes a staggering statement when he says, “Therefore, leaders must learn that when troubles do arrive to pray, pray first, and pray until you either know what to do next or have peace that God has it all under control. Dr. Earley reinforces the fact that prayers need not be bound up with a multitude of words when all we have to do is be like David in our times of need and cry out “Help!”[12] When we take the time to turn problems over to God through prayer it allows a person to overcome anxiety and stress, as Martin Luther said, “Pray and let God worry.”[13]
            In scripture there a few times that we are told things cannot be handled by prayer alone, it must be accompanied by fasting. Not only is fasting prescribed as a mandate in Scripture it is called a Christian duty by the church father Augustine.[14] Earley believes whole heartedly in the power of fasting on the Christian life. Earley list several big reasons people should fast, a monetary miracle, healing, preaching emphasis, evangelistic results. One thing this author really appreciated about chapter six on fasting is Earley’s section on advice and encouragement (pg108), in this section he speaks like a father to a young child offering encouragement or a coach trying to boost the confidence of the player he is interacting with.
            When a person prays does it pay to be general or specific? Earley argues that, “The more precise the prayer, the more faith it takes. If you want specific answers to prayer, you need to make specific request. If you offer only general requests, how will you know if they are answered?”[15] There is no way to argue with Dr. Earley on this point, if you pray for a new job that has certain days of work for a certain pay rate and that is what you get, then you know for certain that it is God; however, if you just pray for a job and get just any job who gets the credit? When you pray why don’t you ask for more audacious things? Do you think God is unwilling to give them to you? This author would say that it is fear, that if you do get what you asked for you will realize all the potential that has been sitting on the sidelines. Earley encourages his readers to seek big things. He says, “God likes to answer big prayers. They reveal his power and give him glory. They spread his name and prosper his work. They also grow our faith.”[16] That last sentence is extremely important, they grow our faith; because if it is so big that only God can accomplish it there is no way to mistake it as “coincidence.”
            Prayer can very easily become a place where people fall into a rut and continue to do the same old thing. They assume that in order for prayer to count that it has to follow an exact model. Dr. Earley uses David as an example of a man that prayed a multitude of ways. “David prayed simple prayers and complex ones. He prayed tears. He asked questions. He made bold resolutions and prayed big prayers of faith. He also used balance. He prayed prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.”[17]Dr. Earley also lays out a foundation of how to get to the heart of God with our prayers and acronym called A.C.T.S.; he slightly rearranges the way in which it takes place instead of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, he begins with thanksgiving. He describes the nature of thanksgiving as, “…Verbalizing the attitude of gratitude. It is expressing appreciation to God for his generosity. It is saying “thank you” for the specific gifts he has given you. It is an indication of humility and the cure for complaining.”[18] Throughout the rest of the chapter, Earley lays out specific ways to address each step. In the confession step he makes a very poignant point when he says, “God is not use dirty vessels. We must be clean if we hope to be used.”[19]
            In his next-to-last chapter Dr. Earley urges us to adopt best practices. One thing he urges us for is to never stop petitioning the Lord until we receive an answer. He also reminds us that when the demands of life begin to get heavy should spend more time in prayer. He says, “yet Jesus shows us that for the high impact spiritual leader, the greater the pressure to reduce our time in prayer, the greater the need to maintain and even increase it.”[20] It is easy to want to sever our time in prayer because it is all too easy to forget how powerful this activity truly is. This book is been truly inspiring, and there is not been anything that I can argue with; in the last chapter of the book Earley says this, “Inspiration and information without application leads to frustration.”[21]
Personal Application
            This work on prayer is a very valuable resource, as long as I choose to use it properly. It is rich on so many levels that it can be hard to digest. It is my hope that I will begin to take prayer more seriously again, understanding the power that I have simply communicating with God. I hope to pray more specific and bold prayers not only for myself, but for those that I lead. For a season I would take time every night and write out my prayers, because it allowed me to clarify my thoughts, it would be good to get back to doing that. I also hope to let pride get out of the way, and fear of the judgment of man to fall by the wayside as I ask others to pray for me and those I love. I have learned in my walk to turn my problems into prayer; just within the last month my wife’s car broke down and we did not have the finances to afford a new one. We sought the Lord specifically about this issue and dear friends of ours had an extra car that they just gave to us. This will make me continue to seek God boldly and specifically. I truly enjoyed this work and would recommend it to any Christian leader or not to gain a better understanding on the power of prayer.

Earley, Dave. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2008.

[1] all of this Information And more from Dr. Earley may be found at this link.
[2] Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2008)2.

[3] Ibid., 5.
[4] Ibid., 7.
[5] Ibid. 19.
[6] Ibid., 24-25.
[7] Ibid., 34.
[8] Ibid., 41.
[9] Ibid., 44.
[10] Ibid., 59.
[11] Ibid., 73.
[12] Ibid., 77.
[13] Ibid., 84.
[14] Ibid., 92.
[15] Ibid., 117.
[16] Ibid., 123.
[17] Ibid., 128.
[18] Ibid., 133.
[19] Ibid., 145.
[20] Ibid., 157.
[21] Ibid., 173.