Over the past several weeks we have discussed the marks of an effective personal prayer life. This is the first of ‘four dimensions’ of prayer ministry. There are four critical components that, like cogwheels, interact with one another, yet each is separate and distinct. These four prayer concentrations of your prayer effort are:
- Personal, home-based, daily prayer.
- The church as a house of prayer.
- The force of intercession and mobilized intercessors.
- The interface of prayer and evangelism/mission.
The second critical component is that the congregation is itself a ‘praying church.’ Not merely a church that prays, but one that is pervasively dependent on God. This is corporate prayer. Here are first steps to starting your church prayer ministry:
1. DO IT – Pray. Don’t talk about it. Do it.
Pray before you plan. Pray before you do anything else. Above all, let prayer lead the way in developing a prayer ministry. Tarry in prayer. The flesh will want to plan it into being. The Spirit will want to prayer it into being. Pray for prayer – a spirit of intercession. Pray for pray-ers – an army of prayer warriors. Pray for wisdom and direction in prayer. Pray for God to identify prayer leaders. Pray for a passion for the lost. Pray for God’s unique design for the prayer ministry of your church.
2. ENVISION IT – Pray aloud.
“By faith, I see …” Have the participants fill in the blanks. Let prayer, bathed in faith, quicken your hearts with the possibilities for prayer ministry. Don’ hurry. Wait in prayer.
3. RECORD IT – Have someone record the ideas.
“By faith, I see … us prayer walking the city … (another) … with healing teams … praying regularly for the mayor.” Some things envisioned in prayer may be immediately forthcoming. Some may only unfold after years of faithful persistence. A record might encourage latecomers to the process that God had a huge mission in mind from the beginning.
4. TALK IT UP – Keep sharing ideas for prayer. Enlarge the circle.
As more people are exposed to the things stirring in the hearts of a few, the Lord will call others into the process. And the vision will become clear.
5. PRIORITIZE IT
Begin to separate the ideas about which you have prayed and talked into prioritized categories – do these immediately. Develop an action plan. Keep committing ideas and plans to prayer. Keep it fluid.
6. STEWARD IT – By now, a core group has emerged who want to see a prayer team become a reality.
Some will have a passion for prayer, but not be gifted as organizers and leaders. Ideally, you want an intercessor who is also a gifted leader with evidenced maturity to serve as your team leader. Team is a key word. This is not a one-person job. A prayer ministry demands a team. Designate the team members. Keep the roles loosely defined in the discovery and exploratory phases.
7. WORK IT – Transform the vision, with its priority categories, into action steps.
Don’t stop praying. Pray and plan. Work and pray! Keep enlarging the circle of people meeting to move the prayer process forward.
8. GROW IT – With the core vision given the group in prayer, now expose yourself to all kinds of ideas.
Don’t copy other prayer ministries, but do learn from them. Assign each of your team members a different book to read on prayer ministries – not just prayer. Come together. Have them share insights. Secure a copy of these publications: Transforming Your Church into a House of Prayer; The Praying Church Resource Guide (a 700-page collage of prayer ideas); The Praying Church Made Simple – all available from Alive Publications (www.alivepublications.org). These resources focus only on prayer, but on developing a prayer ministry.
9. EVALUATE IT
In light of what you are learning, how balanced is your plan? How likely is it that you can accomplish all your goals in the time-line you might have set? Have other prayer ministry leaders from other churches assess your plan. Get pastoral approval. Make sure your team is on board.
10. EXECUTE IT – Even as you put your plan in action, keep it flexible.
You learn by doing. As you conduct prayer events, you will see gaps in prayer theology and practice. Teach and train into those gaps. Then test the learning by another doing event. Build slowly – teach and execute; train and deploy. Set reasonable goals. Make them measurable. Expect resistance. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.