There are three things that people need to know about prayer – prayer is misused, the power of prayer is underestimated, and that prayer works, said Bishop Horace Sheffield III, American pastor and personality who took over the pulpit at New Destiny Baptist Cathedral on Sunday. At the same token, Sheffield confirmed that prayer should be people’s focus.
Sheffield, who encouraged people to keep up with the practice of prayer, said too often the practice of prayer is taken for granted. And that many times, people neglect to pray to God until they get into trouble. He reminded church members who don’t take prayer for granted to keep it up, and urged others who aren’t as diligent to become more focused; to keep the faith, and be reminded that the God they pray to can supply their needs.
“Prayer is one of the most practiced disciplines in the church, but it’s one of the most misunderstood ones as well,” said the Detroit, Michigan pastor. “One of the biggest things that bothers me about people in the church today is they want God to do everything, but they do nothing. I know folk that won’t catch a bus to church, but want God to give ‘em planes and trains and Bentleys. And so, I’ve always been concerned about whether or not we’ve really grasped the true meaning of prayer in this era of minimum input, [but] people wanting maximum outcome. And they want God to do it regardless of who they are or where they’ve been and what they do. Here, we are hardly in the church, never prayed for anybody else and our whole prayer life is consumed with asking God to do a favor for me. We want a lot for a little.”
Sheffield said he has over the years discovered that when he is in God’s will and takes time to ask God to help him build his kingdom, he is able to move his mission forward.
The pastor said he doesn’t have to bother God about stuff because God has already told him that he knows what things he has need of even before he asks.
“Why am I going to cloud the spiritual airways with, ‘God I need this and God I need that’ when he already knows what things I have need of? And so, we also misuse prayer.”
Sheffield said some people pray for advantage and antagonism. And that amazingly, they don’t even understand who God favors. But that God says he comes to seek and save those that were lost.
“You praying for power and privilege and God is concerned about the lamb that’s lost. We misuse the power of prayer.”
The power of prayer he said is also underestimated. He urged people to put their concerns in God’s hands and wait to see what he will do.
“He may not come when you want him, but he will still be on time,” said Sheffield.
And he said Jesus says people should always pray. The pastor added that people should also be clear about what they’re praying for, and that he doesn’t believe people ought to be praying for consumption – for stuff.
As the pastor encouraged people to do the right thing, he admitted that he is still in the process of being converted, owning up to the fact that he’s not what he was, but that he isn’t what he should be. He also said some stuff people pray for will take them farther away from God, than closer. He encouraged them not to pray for consumption, but to pray for character, as the more Christ-like a person becomes, the less he has to pray about.
“It’s our failure of the flesh that causes us to need to wail at the wall. But when we become conformed in the image of the first born, I don’t need stuff – I just need his power and presence, because even the wrong stuff can be used for the right thing.”
Sheffield said people should also be cognizant of praying for prestige.
“I fly first class, and I don’t do it for status – I’m just a big man, so I sit up front and this famous female evangelist was sitting next to me taking selfies and putting it on Facebook and Instagram saying ‘I can’t wait until God gives me my own plane’ – and I looked at her and said ‘I can’t wait until God gives my unemployed members a job’. I want the Lord to enlarge my land – I’m not trying to knock prosperity, but even if you got what you wanted, and got what you prayed for, you wouldn’t even use it for him anyway. You don’t use the five and $10 you got, how you gone use a million?”
While speaking on his childhood and how he got to meet many influential people through his dad, whom he one day called an important man, Sheffield said people also pray for position and power. He said his dad told him he wasn’t trying to be important, but rather valuable, as important people are gotten rid of.
“We have reduced [our] relationship with the Lord about who we are and not who he is. Don’t brag about what you have and who you know and where you go; you ought to tell the story of how God found you in a wretched state. It ain’t about my story, but about his glory,” said the pastor.
Prayer works but people he said have to prevail in prayer. And that the first thing is to know you need help.
“We’ve camouflaged sin as if it’s some kind of social maladjustment – but when it comes to the Lord, if you really want to get through to him, you gatta be honest. You gatta get naked before God and stop trying to dress up what’s ugly and just tell the truth – something’s wrong with me.”
Sheffield said too many people pray for their friend who is involved with a man in a relationship that isn’t right but have a Band-Aid on their own forehead.
“Prayer works if you just be honest that you really need God to do something that you’re unable to do for yourself. Prayer will prevail when we know that it’s only him that can do it.”
He also spoke to living in an era of inflated worth of preachers and spiritual leaders, and while he said he loves Bishop Delton Fernander, New Destiny Baptist Cathedral pastor, who he said was “an angel” at his side when he had cancer, at the end of the day, he said he’s under the leadership of Jesus.
“I want to call bishop when I need him. I wish my mom and dad were still here … my granddaddy who was a praying man, but I found out that I need to know [God] for myself. In the time of trouble, he will hear my call.”
Sheffield reminded members of the congregation that they have access to the main line if they need to call on somebody.