Consider these words from E.M. Bounds
It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city of wood, and left it a city of marble. Pastors who succeed in changing their people from a prayerless to a prayerful people have done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood to marble. After all, this is the prime work of pastors. Primarily, they are dealing with prayerless Christians – with Christians of whom it is said, “God is not in all their thoughts.” Pastors meet such Christians everywhere, and all the time. Their main business, therefore, is to turn those Christians from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of faith, from being prayerless, so that they become Christians who habitually pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. Pastors are not sent to merely induce people to join the church, nor to merely get them to do better. They are sent to get people to pray, to trust God, and to keep God always before their eyes so that they might not sin against Him.
Brothers, I am certain that all of us hope to leave our churches on better ground than when we started. Consider the place prayer plays in the congregational life of most churches and I think you will agree that we may not even be a “city of wood,” perhaps more like a city of rubble. If Bounds is correct, there is little that should take precedence over preaching, teaching and modeling a life of prayer. The last of those, modeling, is certainly not least. As we all know, these things are better caught than taught. We know that this is a problem, since most surveys indicate that pastors struggle in this area. Think about this:
A new survey shows that only 16 percent of pastors nationwide are very satisfied with their personal prayer life. Almost half, according to the survey, are only “somewhat satisfied” with that element of their spiritual life. The survey, conducted by Ellison Research, asked ministers about their personal prayer lives, including what they pray about and how much time they spend praying. According to the survey, the average pastor spends 39 minutes praying every day — but 21 percent spend 15 minutes or less per day in prayer.
When we think about leaving a church on solid ground, we could do not better than to build on the foundation or prayer.