Recently I've heard several church prayer leaders tell me that they had little hope for prayer ever going anywhere in their churches because their pastors weren't on board. "Prayer will never rise above the pastor's passion for it," they told me, or something to that effect.
I knew where they were coming from: a pastor is a powerful influence in the church to model, teach, and inspire concerning what's really important in our walks with God. Certainly churches where the pastors are praying and excited about having others join them are generally more likely to see their people growing in prayer than churches whose pastors are apathetic and dull in their own attitudes and practices regarding talking with God.
However—and this is a huge "however": God's hands are never tied. Never. No pastor or leader can ever thwart God's plans or power. Throughout scripture we see people in charge who drag their feet while someone with lesser or even no title or position leads the way to spiritual victory. Think of Joseph in Egypt. Esther in Persia. Daniel in Babylon. Gideon. David in the matter of Goliath. In each case there was someone else "in charge" who "should" have led God's people into His plans and ways. But when those leaders neglected their call, God brought in someone else to do the job.
So, back to one of my prayer-leader friends. God showed her that she was allowing the well-meant statement "Prayer will never rise above the pastor's passion for it" to defeat her. She realized that although the statement had truth to it, it was not a death knell for the church whose pastor hadn't yet caught the vision. So she actually repented of believing that statement and told God that she believed He could stir a people to pray in her church whether the pastor led the way or not. And she asked Him to do that.
Within one week, the pastor came to her and asked her to head up several significant events that would advance prayer in their church--events that the pastor wanted to be involved with personally. As you might imagine, my friend was tremendously encouraged about what God might have in mind for prayer in her church!
So, I share these things not to say that pastors' involvement and support isn't important. It is. However, if your pastor isn't there yet, don't think that God can't work anyhow. He can--and if you trust Him to, I believe He will.
How about other prayer leaders out there? Have you had any experiences of God helping you through different types of discouragement in getting your church motivated to pray? We'd love to hear them.