This week on ChurchPulse Weekly, Derwin Gray (Pastor of Transformation Church) joins Carey Nieuwhof to talk about making space for prayer. He shares how the Lord’s Prayer, in particular, has radically reshaped how he thinks about intimacy with the Father and why he believes physical space is needed to connect us with a larger narrative.
On the Value of the Lord’s Prayer
Last year, a Barna study found that 44 percent of Christians report an openness to praying the Lord’s prayer in a group context when given a choice of different forms of prayer. This item fell second only to “silent prayer” (57%) out of a long list of options, including prayer through song, call and response, praying for others, and more.
Gray is particularly passionate about the Lord’s Prayer as a foundation for understanding the character of God. He says, “When Jesus goes through the Lord’s Prayer, it is this beautiful framework that is actually a mini catechism, or teaching, of the life of Jesus himself.”
Gray continues, “The Lord’s Prayer describes who Jesus is, so if you are unbeliever and have no clue who Jesus is, [it] will teach you about his life and his mission […] The Lord’s Prayer is God’s will for our life.”
He concludes, “The Lord’s Prayer is memorable and portable, meaning whatever vocation you have, the Lord’s Prayer is the heartbeat in it […] Our life becomes a mirror, and when people look in the mirror, they see Jesus.”
On Narratives in Church Architecture
Gray talks about the formative nature of physical spaces and objects, both for prayer and as reminders of God’s faithfulness.
In reflecting on impactful spaces in his own prayer life, he says, “My daughter and I would travel […] to a summer camp that I would do near Wilmington, North Carolina. When I think of that space, I just think of God’s grace.” He continues, “I do think that God uses spaces and places to really draw us to the magnificence of his love, his care and his presence.”
Gray also finds this experience of physical space to extend to the infrastructure of church buildings. He notes, “Architecture speaks, and I think some of the older Gothic buildings really have a story to tell. Even in the older churches, the stained glass windows and artwork tell a story.
“At Transformation Church, we have a lot of pictures, our vision and our values; every wall is telling a story. The cross that we have in there tells a story […] Artifacts are stories that root us and ground us in something ancient.”
Gray shares specific examples from his church that remind his church of God’s faithfulness. He told his congregation, “When you’re sitting there, understand that you’re a part of people who prayed for […] money to build this place. We had no money to afford stadium seats, yet somebody on eBay found some for a price that we could afford. That’s an artifact that tells a story.”
On Learning Prayer through Practice
Barna research from earlier this year found that half of all U.S. adults (51%) say they pray at least a few times each week, and this number was even higher among Christians (68%).
As leaders look to encourage existing prayer practices for some believers and encourage others to begin their prayer journey, Gray suggests congregants learn through practice and active participation. He says, “I think the best way to introduce people to prayer is actually by praying. It is a part of our services, even when we read the Psalms or our worship team reads scripture.”
“If Jesus is not enough, nothing will ever be enough,” Gray says. “You have to jump in the water, go underwater, and see the life under there. That’s the only way you know it’s a step of faith.”
Gray shares some of the structured and unstructured elements that have been formative in his everyday prayer life. He says, “In the morning in the shower, I say the Lord’s Prayer. Midday, I say the Lord’s Prayer. At night, I quote verbatim Psalm 23.”
He continues, “But throughout the day, I’m praying. Even now I’m praying because prayer is not just talking nor listening; prayer is a disposition of the heart that is attuned to God’s sacred presence in every moment. Prayer opens ourselves up to God’s divine influence and love.”
About the Research
Barna Cities: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2.0 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.
State of Digital Church: The research for this study consisted of one online study conducted September 1–15, 2020 with 1,302 U.S. adults ages 18-75. The margin of error for this representative sample is +/- 2.5 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021