Jump Start Your Prayer Ministry
By Nicki Carleton
1. Develop a Positive Prayer Culture.
Let’s face it prayer is difficult and easily avoided. Our Prayer Meetings have become bible studies and our Week's of Prayer have become Week's of Sermons. Why? Because we are scared of what God might say to us and we may have to get honest and vulnerable. But we don't need to be afraid when we realize how much God loves us and desires us to talk with him. Our daily life and our eternal life is wrapped up in our relationship with God, and prayer is the key to making that relationship vibrant and real. Our churches desperately need to create a safe, non-threatening atmosphere for prayer so that we can once again enjoy prayer. This may involve making a few changes and a lot of positive marketing.
2. Inspire Your Members.
Get people excited about prayer and hearing God's voice by teaching and reading inspiring books.
The Radical Prayer, by Derek J. Morris
Red Moon Rising, by Pete Greig and Rees Howells
Intercessor, by Norman Grubb
Forever Ruined for the Ordinary: The Adventure of Hearing and Obeying God's Voice, by Joy Dawson,
Delighted in God, by Roger Steer).
To have the whole church learning and growing in the same area is so unifying and powerful. Church leaders need to lead by example by praying more in their personal lives. Prayer should be the focus of corporate worship gatherings, board meetings, finance and nominating committees. In any and every situation we should ask God what he thinks and wait for an answer to include him in every decision big or small. If we study the Bible during our prayer meeting times, and preach sermons during our weeks of prayer, then we should schedule in time where we stop talking and start praying. And sometimes it is necessary to even stop praying so we can spend time listening to God. Praying and listening are best taught not in workshops but through application and practice. How about running a spiritual retreat that demonstrates praying in different ways. This would include scripture meditation, with times of silence where we just listen for God's response.
3. Pray for an on-fire Prayer Team.
Form a prayer team that consists of people who have a connection with God, who pray regularly, hear God's voice and love people. Include people of all ages, especially couples. Start praying for each other, the church members, leadership and community. Be aware that spiritual warfare will begin to happen to members of the prayer team and at organized events. Be discerning and learn how to pray in different situations and how to anoint people. Actively make sure you are not seen as 'holier' than everyone else in the church or community. Be available, be open, be humble, be yourself. If members of the prayer team are going through some difficult times spiritually, pray for them, and let it be OK for them to sit back and not take leadership roles from time to time. Create opportunities for team members to see a spiritual director or counselor on a regular basis. Be open to others being involved. Mentor new team members by example. Keep unified. Be creative.
4. Train Your Prayer Teams.
Imagine the miracles that could happen if we started prayer teams that flooded our communities and churches with prayer? If those prayer teams prayer-walked through their neighborhoods, and before and during the church services, prayed over every pew or seat in the sanctuary. Imagine what could happen if team members were available after the service to pray with those who were broken-hearted, or with those who had specific needs, or who were touched by the service. It would be wonderful if no one walked out the door after the service still hurting! We need to train these prayer warriors on how to be safe and non-threatening. Also, without being in a hurry, they need to learn how to listen for God before they start praying. Then we will see people coming to church specifically so they can be prayed over. The pastor can give that opportunity to everybody after his sermon. Prayer is so powerful, it recharges, heals and revives us.
5. Make prayer fun and exciting! Include all age groups.
Encourage parents to teach their young children how to pray and listen for God's voice. Offer a parenting class so the parents can lead by example. Secure copies of my book on teaching children to pray creatively! Run a children's prayer workshop so kids can learn to have fun praying together. Build a children's prayer room and invite the community moms to bring their children to a play group that includes time in the prayer room. How about a prayer lock-in for tweens focusing on the needs of people in Africa? How about an all night prayer session for the youth where they pray on a particular topic for ten minutes, then sing a few songs before breaking into smaller groups? In youth class create a piece of art that incorporate their prayers that can be hung up in the church. Or, how about starting a prayer quilting group or promise box ministry?
Make sure the kids are included in regular prayer gatherings and are encouraged to pray and participate. We as leaders can design the program so children feel secure and loved enough to share and pray. It may require a bit of thinking and planning outside the box, as 80% of people are visual or kinesthetic learners. Even young kids can have a ministry and be used powerfully by God.
6. Set up an Interactive Prayer Room.*
Find a room that can be converted into a permanent prayer room and someone who will tend it regularly. Think about all the senses and how you can set up prayer stations that can be interactive, creative and usable for people of all different ages. If a teenage boy feels comfortable hanging out there, you are doing well, so leave out the lace and fake flowers! Maybe include a guitar and CD's of different worship styles and soft mood lighting. You can do this without using real candles! Some churches make their prayer rooms available, via an access code, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If that doesn't work for your church, maybe you can advertise that it's open during set office hours so the community feels welcome. Most importantly, set this room apart for the presence of the Holy Spirit and you will find people making regular appointments to visit.
7. Prayer Meeting Make-Over.
Prayer Meeting should be a vibrant opportunity to spend time in God's presence, interceding for the people you love. Sometimes the non-verbal communication of an environment states how important you think prayer really is. Do you meet in a messy side room, a huge empty room, or a cozy comfortable space? Do you have a well lit sign that invites visitors to come? Even small details like arranging the chairs in a circle can make a big difference in how much people will share and how comfortable they feel. If you sit close to one another holding hands on very hard seats, it really limits the time you can spend praying. It's OK to be comfortable praying. And it's OK for one person to stand while another walks around, or another paints, or while another kneels.
8. Learn New Ways to Pray.
Remember the aim of any prayer gathering is to get more people connecting with God and offering up petitions that can be answered by God. There are so many ways to pray. I encourage you to learn from other churches around you that have vibrant prayer ministries. Watch videos or have study groups that use text books by Derek Morris, Jim Cymbala or David Yonggi Cho. The more prayers going up the better. Sometimes only one person prays at a time. How can we encourage more people to pray at once?
9. Stop the Gossip.
Often prayer meetings have the same format. Bible Study, then talk about the needs, then have a quick prayer. Imagine if we just prayed the whole time! Instead of talking to each other about the things on our hearts - what would happen if we started off by saying "Dear God" and then sharing all of those things with God? Then the next person could start off, "Yes God, I affirm that prayer and ask you to continue to pour out your blessings on that family, and I want to add that I have a friend suffering from cancer, so I ask…"
10. Know the Power Available to all of us.
Ephesians and Colossians talk about how the same power that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead is now flowing through us in the power of the Holy Spirit. Every person who has accepted the Gospel Commission should be asking themselves, "what am I doing with all that power?" The more I pray, the more I learn. I have learned that God does heal, there is power in praying in the name of Jesus, there is power in the blood and I can claim scripture, and it will not come back void. I have learned to pray more than a weak, "please be with this person," type prayer. I know that even when children pray, demons flee! Angels are eagerly waiting for us to ask God for his will to be done.
The aim of corporate prayer is to help people pray more personally. It is to help people connect with God, to affirm each other’s prayers, even if they are weak and feeble. We can surround each other and lift each other up to a God who hears even our faintest cries. Together we can cry and celebrate, struggle and wrestle and see changes happening in our lives, in our community, and in our hearts.
Nicki Carleton writes from Collegedale, TN. All rights reserved © 2010 Church Support Services. Click here for content usage information.
* For more information secure the book, The 24-7 Prayer Manual