by Don Moore, Prayer Ambassador, ABSC
In a recent survey on prayer that included a random sampling of pastors of Arkansas Baptist State Convention churches, a couple of observations emerged. A summary of the surveys returned revealed two things: (1) Wednesday night prayer meetings are still the primary prayer event in our churches. (2) Requests for help in revitalizing Wednesday prayer meeting were mentioned often.
I want to share some ideas that might be of help in making these events more vital to the church’s ministry, as well as prompt more people to be involved. As pastors we may need to answer a probing question. “Do we think Wednesday night prayer services are worth saving?” That question relates to the issue of how much we may be willing to put into the effort. Foundational questions might further help to sort out the degree to which we want to work at this. Such questions as, “Do we do this (Wednesday night prayer meeting) because we really believe prayer is essential to the church or do we do this as a tradition and practice out of the past?”
If we are convinced this is an opportunity that needs to be seized and enhanced, then we will be prepared to launch an effort to take prayer to a new level in the church. The following ideas may be of help.
- You might want to announce a NEW START for the format of the prayer meeting. That would be assuming that things will be significantly different. For the new start, I would work one on one to get as many deacons as possible to be present. Involve them in some of the activities of prayer, scripture reading, or testimonies. Unless young people are in other activities be sure to involve them in the prayer meeting. Prayer meeting needs to not just be an “old folks meeting.”
- HAVE YOUR HEART FIRMLY SET THAT YOU WILL NOT follow the old patterns of “do you have any requests?”, “let’s pray as we feel led,” or “let’s just pray around the circle.” God is not the author of boredom. In that resolve, begin to prioritize spiritual needs over physical needs. If you have a prayer list, make physical needs last on the list until people begin to feel that spiritual illness is worse than physical illness.
- SCRIPTURE IS “GOD BREATHED,” the New Testament says, so let God breathe on the body through Scripture related to prayer. Praying Scripture is not the same as claiming a Scripture. Both are legitimate. Claiming Scripture relates to a promise while praying Scripture relates to things the Holy Spirit will bring to mind as we pray from a Scripture. This is where creativity, variety and fresh initiative come into play. “Lead, guide, direct, bless and help” pretty well cover the vocabulary of most prayers in a Baptist prayer meeting. Jesus said that His going to the Father would result in “greater things being done” in the Kingdom. The “greater things” he talked about was the avenue of prayer. John 14:12, 13.
- The greater the POTENTIAL FOR GOD TO DO GREAT THINGS the more intense will be the warfare, since Satan hates anything that is going to give God glory. So, just realize, revitalizing Wednesday prayer meeting will be an uphill battle.
- FOLLOW THE PATTERN JESUS GAVE IN THE MODEL PRAYER
(1) Spend some time in recognition and praise of the Father. Think of Him in different ways in which He is presented such as Shepherd, Friend, Priest, Father, Brother, or King to name a few. These metaphors allow for warmth and identification with Jesus in different ways at different times.
(2) Spend some time praying about Kingdom issues, “thy kingdom come.” These need to be specific needs, not just general all-purpose prayers.
- Various ministries that need God’s touch such as Samaritans Purse, seminary classes in Varner Prison, e.g.
- For our mission efforts to be guided and blessed by God, locally and abroad.
- Social ministries in your area that need spiritual support, including food pantries, clothes closets, after-school programs, etc.
- Awana, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth ministry, church camps, etc.
(3) Other local churches, schools, government leaders, law enforcement, etc. Again, be specific about individuals and about issues.
(4) Pray for yourself. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Pray for repentance, renewal, rededications, evangelistic fervor, and deliverance from addictive behaviors that threaten so many.
(5) Address critical physical issues before closing the prayer time.
Now, the question arises, how long would this take? PRAYER HAS TO BE LED. Pastor, you have to be in charge. Encourage the group to just pray for one matter at a time. More than one may pray about that issue. When that is covered move to another matter. You can keep it moving from one issue to another. You want to get away from anyone person feeling like they have to pray “around the world” and for everyone in the world. This kills a prayer meeting. Different people have different concerns about different issues. Ask the ones to pray who have a burden about the next matter you bring up. A lot of people will pray, and they will pray short prayers. Soon you will have people praying short prayers publicly that did not think they could ever do that. You may have schedule limitations, so that may dictate the time you have. Don’t let the prayer meeting drag, nor let it be drawn out too long.
I hope this will be helpful, and I would really love to have your input on other things you may do that brings real spiritual life to your church.