By Charles Boswell, Director of Pastoral Care and Church Health
Not too many years ago, churches once had what they called “Prayer Meeting.” It was a time when the church gathered to pray corporately for the needs of the congregation and community. Few churches still have mid-week “Prayer Meeting” anymore; most have discontinued the practice. Those who still have “Prayer Meeting,” have made little time for prayer, their time is filled with more important things. Why have we discontinued this practice? How much praying actually goes on in His house? Have we scheduled any time for prayer? If it’s important to pray, then why aren’t we?
As Jesus enters the Temple, He’s appalled. Man has made God’s house something other than what He intended. He clearly states in Mark 11:17; “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations!” Think about those words for just a moment. Really stop, take a moment of your time and think about what Jesus said. First, Jesus says that the “house” belongs to Him. It doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to Him. In other words, He gets to determine the purpose and use of His house. Jesus also says that His house will be “called” a house of prayer. Those who gather in His house will know His intended purpose and engage in that purpose. His purpose is prayer! The prayers that are being offered to God, are prayers “for all the nations.” God’s saving grace was always meant to inclusive, never exclusive. When Jesus finished His teaching in the Temple that day, we are informed that the people were amazed. Shouldn’t we, like Jesus, not only teach God’s word but practice it?
How many more years will we continue to preach the word of God, without practicing it? Maybe the amazement would return if we practiced what we preach? Practicing what we preach requires awareness, intentionality, preparation, communication, commitment and execution. We must teach the value of prayer and incorporate the practice of prayer in our gatherings, if we are to enjoy the blessing and benefits of obedience.
How do I engage my church in prayer?
Clarify: Discover a clear vision for prayer.
Imagine what your church would become and could accomplish, if the people in your congregation were united in prayer. What if dozens or hundreds of disciples were all praying specifically for the same concerns in your church and our state, imagine the impact that would bring? Your vision and purpose should be to return and unite the church as one church, engaging in spiritual warfare, by becoming a “House of Prayer,” that seeks God’s will and power as you join Him in accomplishing His mission to bring Him glory through Gospel impact. The vision should include a desire to implement more than just a season of prayer, but an ongoing prayer effort that will engage the church in prayer until God accomplishes His purposes.
Focus: Concentrate on uniting in prayer.
There are so many things in church life that demand our attention, that prayer gets less attention than it should. We understand and believe in the value of prayer, but it’s not one of those ministries that demands the most attention. No one is asking for more prayer. In forty years of ministry, I can count on one hand how many people asked for more prayer in the church. That’s why we need to recruit and involve committed prayer warriors who will commit to engage in spiritual warfare on their knees, praying daily for spiritual awakening and renewal in the church, community and state.
We need to concentrate on the salvation of lost souls and for God to fill every seat in our Worship Center with lost souls. We should pray until God fills His house (Lk. 14:23), adding to His church (Acts 2:47). We must call for Prayer Warriors to stand in the gap and pray for spiritual awakening in their lives, church, community, city. state and nation. If we believe, that the battle is won on our knees and that the battle belongs to the Lord, we know that the victory is found only through Him. We must be specific about what we pray for and develop a theme for our prayer emphasis each year as we reengage and reunite the congregation in focused prayer. Prayer is not a one-time attempt or program, it’s an ongoing weapon in the arsenal of spiritual warfare that’s continual and must have our constant focus. (Eph. 6:18)
Communicate: Preach/Teach/Speak on the Biblical mandate for prayer:
Matthew 6:6 | But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Mark 9:29 | And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Luke 6:12 | In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Acts 2:42 | And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 4:31 | And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Unify: Design a strategy for prayer:
Unless there is a clear and concise strategy that is executed and maintained, the initiative will never move beyond the initial launch. It may start strong, but it will not continue beyond the initial drive. Execution is key to long term continuation.
- Raise awareness for prayer:
- Develop and promote a theme for your prayer emphasis.
- Coordinate Worship on Sunday Mornings with this theme in mind.
- Prepare and deliver a series of messages on prayer.
- Assign members to share testimonies in service on prayer.
- Make time for prayer opportunities in service.
- Promote a prayer campaign by posting flyers and posters, as appropriate.
- Recruit participation in prayer:
- Call for a personal and public commitment to the prayer initiative.
- Designate a commitment Sunday, with a commitment card.
- Have an altar call at the end of message series, asking people to commit.
- Enlist small groups to select a time/place to pray – provide teaching material on prayer.
- Assign a Prayer Room on Sunday mornings – praying specifically for initiative/services.
- Enlist participation from Spiritual leadership – Pastors/Deacons/Staff.
- Form a Prayer Ministry Team to facilitate ongoing emphasis/encouragement.
- Make available the Worship Center for personal and small group prayer.
- Encourage, assist & communicate with other ministries in the church about prayer.
- Communication during the campaign and throughout the year:
- Prioritize prayer in Worship Services weeks before, during and after the campaign.
- Assign a Facebook account specifically for prayer.
- Make available reminders of the campaign on church web site.
- Provide monthly Prayer guides with specific requests – reports.
- Maintain prayer as a vital part of Church Staff/Deacon/Leadership meetings.
- Meet / educate / enlist Small Group Leadership to prayer specifically.
- Use prayer guides and Bible Studies on prayer in small groups annually.
- Use posters, bulletin inserts, mail outs, email, etc.
- Other Resources:
- Sign up cards for the church for commitment Sunday each year.
- File registration cards (data base) for tracking and encouragement.
- Hand out a “Prayer Card” reminder that sits in a visible place at home/office
- Develop a “Prayer Guide,” with specific pray needs once a quarter.
- Develop a process for reporting and tracking progress of participation.
Execute: Take actions and initiatives toward the prayer initiative.
Prayer will never become the priority it needs to be, unless we execute an intentional ongoing prayer strategy. We must take the lead and execute an ongoing prayer strategy.