It is five years from now. Amazingly, your church has grown incredibly in prayer. People are setting aside time each day to pray. They are worshipping God throughout the day. You see small groups and ministry groups making prayer a central part of their group life. You see a church where God is doing amazing things as he responds to prayer.
Sound exciting? How do we realize this kind of vision?
Here are several ways to strengthen prayer in your church.
Equip people to pray
Most Christians know how to petition God. But do we also practise thankfulness, confession, and adoration of God? Do we realize deep down that the goal is not just to pray for a set period each day (as good as that is), but to develop a lifestyle of prayer?
Teaching about prayer through sermons and workshops is helpful. Yet, combining training with practice can often help people go further in their habits of prayer. I recall being part of a church leadership team that went on a two-day prayer retreat. We read a book on prayer before the retreat and then used our time together for training sessions and praying together. It was powerful way to experience God and develop our skills.
Affirm what is already happening
We sometimes think that we must create something new to stimulate more prayer in our churches. This may be helpful, but we should probably start with what is already in place. For example, when I was serving as co-chair of our church board, we extended our dedicated prayer times and incorporated prayer throughout our business discussions. It was a small change that had considerable impact.
Small group studies and ministry groups provide excellent forums for strengthening prayer in your church. Inspire your leaders with a big vision for prayer. Train them and give them solid prayer resources. When leaders learn to pray, others will follow their example.
Grow a visible prayer ministry
At South Langley Church, we often have an open sharing time during our worship services. One Sunday, a woman recounted how she had requested prayer about her recent cancer diagnosis weeks earlier during the post-service prayer time. After our prayer team prayed for her, the woman felt that God had healed her. Her doctor was not so sure. He tried to convince her that the first test was conclusive. But after she pleaded with him, the doctor authorized another test. The new test result revealed the woman was cancer-free!
You can imagine how our congregation responded to this obvious answer to prayer.
When your prayer ministry is evident during corporate worship times, it reveals how God moves in people’s lives. As we see God work, we will be more likely to believe that God can do immeasurably more that we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Incorporate rallying prayer initiatives
Capitalize on people’s willingness to make short-term commitments by calling your church to a day or week of prayer. My church has rallied behind 40 days of prayer during Lent where people are encouraged to pray for specific aspects of our church each day. Over the years, I have often challenged groups to pray for five unbelievers for five minutes a day for five days a week for five weeks.
These kinds of short prayer initiatives motivate people to pray and help them develop stronger habits of prayer.
Encourage the prayer warriors
It is likely you already have people in your church who are extraordinary intercessors. Thank and appreciate them in appropriate ways. Supply them with prayer requests and put them in positions to use their gift. If they are willing, let them share about their prayer practices and how God has worked through them. Your people will be inspired!
For more ideas on how to strengthen prayer and other key disciple-making elements in your church, check out Randy’s new book, Maximum Discipleship in the Church and the discipleship resources on the MinistryLift website