The How To's of Prayer Ministry
Throughout the scriptures there are many examples of individuals, peoples, and nations which sought the favor of the Lord through fasting as a form of prayer.
Moses fasted and prayed for forty days on Mt. Sinai, for the commandments and then again as he waited on God to appease the judgment that was now on Israel.
The foundation of spiritual warfare is prayer. Ephesians 6:18 tells us to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:8 encourages men everywhere to "lift up holy hands in prayer." Jesus lived a life of prayer, often retreating to pray before times of serious spiritual conflict or major decisions. The early Church of Acts 2 was characterized by a wonderful unity in prayer. Their daily experience was one of devotion "to the Apostles" teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). Ephesians chapter 4 teaches that the unity and maturity of believers is the goal of ministry. Spiritual leaders are raised up "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).
The sad state of fragmentation that exists in today's church is due to many complex factors, far beyond the scope of this brief essay. What is more important than an analysis of how the present divisions in Christendom came about, is the journey returning to the book of Acts experience of unity and collaboration in the fulfilment of the basic task-- to bring the church to wholeness and reach the world with the message of the gospel. It is our opinion that the first step is to relearn how to pray together. Prayer breaks walls down like no other activity. Matters of culture, tradition, doctrinal, and even denominational disagreements take a back seat when a diverse group prays together. Spirit led prayer brings us into the very presence of God, and when the experience of God's presence permeates a diverse group, a transcendent unity is often the result. It is a wonderful thing to experience the perspective shift that occurs when believers from different traditions experience Christ communally in prayer. We are also convinced that the driving force in national renewal will take place from the ground up, that is person by person and church by church seeking the Father for His purposes in the realization that human programs have not accomplished the task.
From a strategic point of view, when thinking about a prayer room ministry, one must start by taking stock of the resources that exist. Clearly, the most untapped resource that exist in the Body of Christ are its lay people. In many of these individuals, God has placed a special gift of intercessory prayer.
The awakening of these individuals to their call can change the whole direction of church life. We encourage you to look at these people of prayer as untapped "resources," that must be empowered and equipped to skilfully perform the ministry of prayer. This is an important priority, in the same way as skilfully planning a sermon, lesson or worship. Just consider for a moment, when God answers prayer, God things happen and what could be better for a church environment than that? So then the first step must be to empower those who have a special gift to pray. It should be stated that our concept of this joint prayer time is not so much to share personal needs, although this is important, as it is to seriously and earnestly pray for their community and for wisdom in creating a strategic plan for winning their city to Christ.
The strategic prayer task force is a breeding ground for plans and ideas, for planning a strategic prayer effort. Eventually the same kind of strategic planning that churches do with their pastoral staffs and boards should occur among those whose creative ideas had previously been left out of the picture. As the experience of prayer deepens, so will trust and pastors who kept a distance from lay ministries will find themselves committing more of their time and resources to further empower their ideas into joint projects and outreach efforts.
Bringing lay people together for prayer is no easy task, and it usually will not happen unless strong prayer leaders emerge who can influence and organize with-in the framework of the local church. We recommend that at least two or three key leaders be involved with different task assignments - each of them to work out the details of their job description. It is suggested that these leaders meet frequently to work out a program that works well together.
Definitions: One of the leaders needs to take responsibility for setting up the prayer room personnel (we recommend that this takes place monthly), running general staff meetings, and casting the vision to the pastoral staff and church body. This person may be called the prayer minister or pastor. Another person is needed to track the actual prayer effort. The most effective way to do this is to create a monthly prayer letter that can be distributed to all individuals in the church body. For the sake of simplicity we will call this person the prayer communication coordinator.
The prayer minister or pastor must be a person capable of influencing others. He/she must be a mobilizer, visionary, and person of understanding and discernment, able to see the path to unity while at the same time respecting the diversity that exists in the various spiritual and motivational gifts of the people. Above all, the prayer minister or pastor must be a person of prayer, sold out to the idea that corporate prayer is a most powerful resource in God's weapon arsenal.
The prayer communication coordinator, on the other hand, must be an able administrator, organizer, and manager, preferably with computer skills. In addition, once a prayer room ministry is underway and the momentum level has begun, the natural outgrowth of the prayer effort will be a desire to plan together a concrete plan for outreach ministry beyond the church. At that time it may be advantageous to recruit another leader among the leadership who can coordinate the planning process that grows out of the local prayer ministry. This person might be called the prayer outreach coordinator. We will now discuss in detail the roles of these different leaders and how they can be recruited.