I had the opportunity to travel to Asia recently in order to encourage and equip those proclaiming the gospel. As you might expect, those who came to study were greatly appreciative of my meager efforts. They also continue to be thankful for the ways that the Western church is granting to them the benefits of our experience and theological tradition. And without any pride--because it's God who's granted us those experiences and that tradition--we should be willing to continue blessing them in any way we can.
But every time I go, I'm reminded not only of how much we have to give but how much we have to learn. We who have been entrusted with the repository of centuries of Biblical, reformed scholarship, who have learned from great examples of preaching and leadership, who have enough experience to keep the wheels of presbyterianism moving...we have much to learn.
Specifically, we can and should learn from them how to pray. Having been to places where the church is growing despite serious opposition, I am convinced that the major difference between church growth in Asia and in America isn't cultural forces or evangelistic opportunism, but that the major difference is prayer. They simply pray harder, better, longer, more sincerely, more deeply, more fervently and more corporately than we do.
And while reformed churches in the West continue to shuffle members back and forth, trying to find some new outreach program that just might work, blaming the culture or other churches for our lack of growth, the church in the East keeps praying down the Holy Spirit. While we find that scheduling a prayer meeting is the easiest way to empty a church building, they don't think twice about regularly praying on the phone together for an hour or so.
Perhaps this is overstated or too harshly written. But if so, it's not too far from the truth. The Western church is the rich man, miraculously entering heaven like a camel through the eye of a needle. But the Eastern church, in their poverty of experience and theology and preaching, is the poor man who has become "rich in his humiliation" (Jas. 1:9) having learned how to depend upon God in prayer.
I hope they send us someone soon who can teach us how to pray.