The How To's of Prayer Ministry
A stroll around the average church campus will usually reveal a worship auditorium, classrooms, a choir room, childrens playground, and church offices. Larger churches may have sports facilities, large meeting halls with stage platforms. Tucked off to the side in some churches are rooms sometimes called chapels, which are used for prayer, counseling, fellowship meetings and sometimes weddings and funerals.
It would be interesting to have a completely unchurched person visit several church campuses and then based on what they have seen, describe with a numerical 0-10 evaluation, what place prayer has in the life of the church they visited. Granted prayer can happen any time of the day for the believer and many churches that have not designated a specific part of their facility for prayer are deeply still committed to prayer.
Creating a prayer chapel or prayer room in a prominent place in the church gives visible and a tangible witness that prayer is important to its church life. The prayer room can become a focal point for important relational concern ministry.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Choose a room near or with a view overlooking the inside of the sanctuary when possible. An over-looking balcony, soundroom or nursery make excellent campus locations possibilities, when they are equipped with sound proof glass. Other strategic locations may be considered. Churches working on a master building plan have a great opportunity to plan a prayer room from scratch.
2. The room should have ample room, carpeted with moveable chairs. a desk, bulletin board. an emergency phone, a writing board, notebook journals, and a procedure to receive and pray for specific requests. Other devotionals can be considered such as a prayer library, a post board of protocols, "How to Pray" ideas, and volume-controlled sound monitors from the sanctuary. A computer will also allow use of technology. e-mail, the Internet, and other forms of communication to disseminate prayer requests and information. Pastors should challenge those with technical expertise in their congregations to think creatively about the possibilities for ministry.
3. It is vitally important that the vision of prayer be projected from the pulpit as fervently as any other church vision or facets of church life. The pastor is key to communicating the vision to the congregation. Mobilizing lay people for prayer should be a regular topic of discussion from the pulpit and in other areas of influence. Pastors can help encourage those who have a heart for prayer and intercession to come forward, providing a climate in the church that makes it easy for lay prayer leaders and intercessors to emerge.
4. Make use of existing cell groups/home group networks. Infuse them with a new vision for prayer. Create studies within each group that will promote a deeper dedication to seek the Father for others as well as for personal prayer needs. Link groups together with common prayer lists and concerns, Communicate these concerns from the prayer room ministry.
5. Churches need to establish a process to identify those whom God has burdened in the area of prayer in a special way. It may be that a tool similar to a spiritual gifts inventory needs to be developed specifically for the area of prayer intercessors. Such a tool can help determine those who have prayer as a primary passion in their Christian lives.
6. Prayer ministers, especially lay prayer leaders should not be treated as second class citizens among the church leadership. Pastors must learn to look upon the ministry of prayer as just as important as any other ministry in the church. If this happens, prayer ministries should be allotted church budget dollars. There are not many churches that have a prayer ministry budget category. Some churches may even want to make prayer ministry a part of the job description of one of the staff members. Pastors may want to consider bringing intercessory prayer in as part of the regular worship services.
7. Regular training should be conducted for all who frequent the prayer room to ensure that it is a safe environment for all, especially for those who use the prayer facility after hours.
8. Hold training events and prayer retreats to encourage lay intercessors to come forward. Market these events to as wide an group as possible, appealing to any believer who feels the burden to grow in prayer.
9. Pastors must free up their lay people to associate with other believers in their city for special gatherings of prayer. Walls must come down on the lay level as well as pastoral level. This may be very threatening to pastors. But if pastors can help their lay people to focus on the common task of intercession and not on denominational differences, then they have little to fear from their members mixing with believers from different churches. It is a question of building trust and taking risks.
10. Lay people must truly be set free to lead and create. Lay prayer leaders that God raises up must be given freedom to plan creatively. Pastors cannot fall into the trap of micro-managing a prayer ministry, yet at the same time it is very important to keep the intercession on target. It is important that intercession not only be directed to The Father for a move in the church body, but also that it be kept in the minds of intercessors that Christ will do nothing apart from His established order. This is where the pastor and the intercessor must work together. Without the cooperation of both the pastor and intercessor each will be weakened in their effectiveness to perform their ministries.
11. This prayer facility should be conducive to a prayer atmosphere and free from excessive noise or distraction. Soft worship playing in the back ground adds to a prayer climate.
12. A prayer room can be used for regular daily prayer activities. For healing and personal prayer and the laying on of the hands by the elders of the church and of course for those who are seeking a special place to find God.
13. All prayer leaders should have ungoing training of procedure, protocol, and ministry responsibility. Special events are times to provide training not only to do the work of prayer, but to train people how to pray and cast vision. When possible, involve lay people in these events. Times of corporate prayer can be used to empower willing candidates out from the pews into the prayer arena. Often at the larger prayer events the assumption is made that those who come are well schooled in prayer or have an understanding of being a part of a prayer ministry, when in fact they may need training and teaching. Samples of protocol are available through RTV Ministries 626/296-7600.