Getting to the point of prayer

Intercessory prayer team actively engages at Gathering 2008

The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him.—William McGill

How many times do we hear a list of prayer requests, offer our best intentions to pray, and end up allowing that promise to fall casually to the side and remain nothing more than a pleasant reassurance? Admittedly, I sometimes neglect to follow through. I think we all have. So, I wonder, do we – do I – really pray enough? Perhaps that answer lies in how we define prayer.

Prayer, for Paul and Kathy Francis, is an active engagement. “As we engage life, we pray,” says Paul. The couple led the intercessory prayer team at Gathering 2008 – corporate prayer in main sessions and prayer in small groups, behind the scenes.

Whether driving by an accident on the road or leading decision-making in their church, Paul and Kathy believe in praying into situations as they happen. Paul is quick to describe how prayer gives the Holy Spirit access to our minds, hearts, and spirits. Seeking God first gives direction for what to pray for, and then prompts an immediate response through intercession.

Inspired by author Henry Blackaby, Paul believes that experiencing God should be dynamic. We don’t simply ask God to bless what we plan to do, but we find out what God is already blessing us to do. This process happens through unhurried listening, and resonates in the life of Gateway Community Church, the congregation that the couple co-pastor in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

A prayer-focused community

Since the church was planted in 1991, Gateway has been a prayer-focused community. Prayer is part of an ongoing discernment process at the church, as the congregation expects God to speak and is prepared to respond. Decisions are based on consensus after first seeking God together.

“Prayer in a community context changes the style of leadership,” says Paul. “Often leaders listen to God and get people to follow what they hear. But praying in community allows people to hear from God themselves and follow together. This profoundly changes the dynamic of decision-making in a congregation.”

Congregational meetings at Gateway include listening prayer – an opportunity for the church to ask “What are we hearing?” and “What are we sensing God doing in our midst?” Decisions are made by tuning into God’s activities, and then responding in community and allowing leadership to refine those prayers. Weekly prayer meetings and a discernment team help support and strengthen the prayer emphasis.

“Our hope,” says Paul, “is that we have a prayerful people, engaging with God throughout the week, praying about what he lays on our hearts, and as we gather, bringing all of that together.”

Praying for the details

When it came to Gathering, it was important to Paul and Kathy that the whole event be covered in prayer, right down to the technical details. Being in Montreal, a significant amount of the event was bilingual – including main sessions with interpreters, who translated consecutively for the keynote speakers.

Paul and Kathy were seated at an accessible table at the back of the room and took prayer requests throughout the sessions. While people approached them with personal prayer concerns, Paul and Kathy also actively interceded for the presentations, especially for any difficulties that might occur in the translation process.

I once heard that change happens in the spiritual realm first, before manifesting in the physical, hence the significance of intercession. With all the prayer behind the scenes at Gathering, how much more must have happened that we never saw!

The final Saturday afternoon celebration service at Gathering ended with spontaneous prayer, as organizers commissioned leaders from Quebec – and all those in attendance – to go back to their churches and serve with passion and unity.

When I asked Paul if he and Kathy would be open to leading again at Gathering 2010, he replied, “Yes, but we’ll have to pray about it.”

Sheralyn Heinrichs is communications assistant for the Canadian conference in Winnipeg. 

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