I think it is safe to say that most pastors desire a healthy prayer ministry in their churches.
We know prayer is important, but it seems like an uphill struggle to motivate and encourage people to deepen their commitment to prayer. It feels like the hill turns into a cliff when we talk about developing and deepening our commitment to prayer on the corporate level.
We know prayer is important, but is that reflected in our worship services and in our other ministries?
We say prayer is important, but do we see that in our congregation’s daily lives? Do they really get it?
And how do we help our churches get to the place where our desire and commitment to prayer is deep and valued?
I had the opportunity to dive into these questions and more at the EFCA East Leadership Conference this past October while presenting a discussion-based breakout on developing a prayer ministry in your church. We started off the session by looking at three important questions.
I wonder how you and your team would answer these questions:
1. WHAT ARE THE PURPOSES OF PRAYER?
My guess is that many of the people in our communities would have trouble articulating the answer to that question, even if they know that prayer is important. Some of the answers we flushed out in our discussion were: two-way communication with God, communing with God, worshiping God, confession, aligning our hearts and minds with God, supplication, thanksgiving, to sense the presence of God throughout the day. While we know these answers and the scriptural support for these answers, many in our congregations may struggle to fully understand the whys behind a healthy prayer life. The understood value of prayer can be deepened in out congregations simply by talking about or teaching the purposes of prayer. Don’t assume everyone knows how to pray. Don’t assume everyone knows the purposes of prayer. Help people learn the value of prayer through a deeper understanding of the purposes of prayer.
2. WHAT ARE THE HINDRANCES TO PRAYER IN OUR SERVICE/MINISTRIES?
This is a great question to dive into as a leadership team or elder board. The answer to these questions may change based on your ministry context. But some of the answers we flushed out in our breakout session may sound familiar to you: people seeing prayer in the service as a platform for venting frustrations, people using prayer to gossip, people not showing up, awkward silences, people afraid to pray publicly. You could probably add a few of your own to that list.
What hinders payer on a corporate level often reflects what hinders prayer on a personal level. If we want to see a vibrant prayer ministry develop within our church body, we need to first help individuals overcome hurdles in their own prayer lives. So we asked: What are some hinderances to prayer as it relates to our folks’ daily lives? The answers sounded so familiar from church to church. People don’t understand what prayer is and they don’t know how to pray. When personal prayer isn’t a priority, it’s going to be a struggle to see people engage with prayer in a broader context.
Discipling our congregations in this area needs to start with our teaching how and why we pray, and then modeling prayer as a priority in our own lives and the lives of our churches.
3. WHAT ARE SOME CREATIVE WAYS TO INCORPORATE PRAYER INTO OUR MINISTRY VENUES?
A few of the ideas mentioned in our breakout session were: Setting up prayer stations around the church. Have the church opened at specific times just for people to come in to pray. Have people sign up for time slots to pray. Host a Prayer & Praise night. Have a time of special directed prayer before the church service begins.
There are likely many other ideas your team could brainstorm for your own ministry context. Use what you know about your church and its people to choose one next step to introduce more prayer in your venue. But remember that without helping your congregants find the depth and beauty that comes from a commitment to personal prayer, those corporate initiatives will eventually fizzle out.
So it is essential to ask: What are some ways to encourage our congregants to step up their prayer lives? A few of the ideas from our breakout were: Show how leaders model it in their own lives. Share stories of how a deep prayer life has impacted you personally. Preach messages on prayer, teaching the purposes and value of prayer. Teach what prayer is and its importance in our lives. Allow the stories of answered prayer to be told and celebrated.
How could you creatively encourage your congregants to deepen their prayer life this year?
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