Professor and author Norman Blackaby challenged churches and ministers to devote themselves to prayer during the 2009 Baptist Religious Educators Association of the Southwest (BREAS) conference at Southwestern Seminary, Oct. 5-6.

“Prayer is really a matter of confusion among a lot of people in the church,” Blackaby said. “It is essential to the Christian life, absolutely essential. It is essential to the corporate life of the church. It is at the very heart of our Lord, yet it is something that seems to be very confusing to God’s people.”

This case remains, he said, despite the proliferation of talk about prayer: “I think we would all agree how important prayer is: We talk about prayer. We have books about prayer. We know that prayer is important.”

“No matter what you say about prayer,” Blackaby added, “if you don’t pray, you don’t believe in prayer.”

At times, prayerlessness can be attributed to the failure of ministers to show and tell their congregations how to pray. With the busyness of both the local church and its members, it is often difficult for ministers to develop a true devotion to prayer within the congregation. It may threaten other programs and activities, but it is worthwhile. In fact, not praying is more fearful than the difficulties faced in developing such an emphasis on prayer.

“There is a lot of opposition, but it is a beautiful thing,” Blackaby said.

A former pastor, Blackaby now serves as a professor at Dallas Baptist University, and he has co-authored the book, Experiencing Prayer with Jesus: The Power of His Presence and Example, alongside his father and Experiencing God author, Henry Blackaby. He also received his M.Div. and his Ph.D. in biblical backgrounds and archaeology from Southwestern Seminary.

Other speakers at the 2009 BREAS conference included David Apple, an adult ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, and Michael Lindsay, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University. Jim Denison, founding president for the Center for Informed Faith, led worship throughout the conference, and sculptor Cindy Burden shared her art and her testimony during an evening session.