The following article was taken from “The Evangel” magazine where Robert D. Pace briefly outlines how pastors can develop a prayer ministry in their church.
What is the chief activity of your local church? Is it corporate worship opportunities, evangelism, fellowship, or benevolent outreach? While each ministry is vital to a church, none mentioned is the crowning jewel of the church. In both the Old and New Testament the Lord announced that the renown of His church was this: “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7 and Matthew 21:13).
So how does the local church make certain it follows God’s command to prioritize this indispensable ministry? It is my hope that this article will offer a partial strategy that local churches can use to develop a vibrant prayer ministry and create a hunger in congregants to form a mighty prayer force.
First, let us start with the pastor himself. It is important that pastors emulate Apostolic Prayer. In the book of Acts, Luke shows that the 12 Apostles were called upon to address the daily tasks of the church. However, the apostles understood that church management was not their calling. Their divine assignment was to study God’s Word, preach, and pray (Acts 6). Consequently, deacons were appointed to “serve tables,” while the apostles fulfilled their high calling. Pastors today that follow this apostolic pattern of prioritizing prayer will maximize their calling. But a pastor devoted to prayer will do more than maximize his/her calling. The pastor that is devoted to prayer will, by example, encourage others to make prayer a vital part of their life, too. The sheer force of modeling prayer by the pastor will cause others to follow.
Another forceful manner of building a praying church is through the pastoral pulpit. In fact, the Bible specifically delineates the prerequisite of teaching the principles of prayer. Luke 11:1 says: “after Jesus had finished praying, one of His disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.’”
After noticing how Jesus and John so powerfully persuaded men with the Gospel, the apostles made the connection between a strong prayer life and an effective ministry. They understood that there were secrets of prayer that unlocked the door to heaven’s glory, and they wanted in on those secrets.
Much about praying is easily understood. Even non-believers know that a heavenward glance and cry from the heart is readily heard by the Lord. But the principles of prayer are much broader than simply crying out to God. There are principles of intercession, persistence, passion, faith, agreement, listening, waiting, purity, etc., that are connected to prayer and when Christians are taught how to implement these principles they will be more prone to catch the vision for praying.
Consider how church facilities are designed to accommodate ministry and outreach. The sanctuary is designed for corporate worship, thus, it employs pews, altars, a choir loft, instruments, a platform, and a pulpit. The Christian Education department is filled with chairs, lecterns, marker boards, and media equipment. Churches also have fellowship halls, gymnasiums, and youth buildings, and each is suited to fulfill its respective purpose. While it is appropriate for churches to design their facilities accordingly, Christ has articulated an unambiguous commission for His church to be a “house of prayer.” At the beckon of Christ’s words, churches should be fully motivated to provide a specifically designed place of prayer.
It is understood that the options for finding space for prayer in an already maxed out facility could pose a problem. But the urgency to build a praying church is greater than any excuse for not providing a place for prayer. In searching for a prayer room/chapel, consider the largest available room. Seekers need personal space to cry out to God; they need space to walk, kneel, and lie prostrate. And while a stand-alone prayer room/chapel is optimum, it is not out of the question that this room be multi-functional. Even the church sanctuary can be promoted as the primary place of prayer for believers to gather during the week. The bottom line is: do whatever is necessary to provide a specific place of prayer at the church.
In order to prioritize prayer in the local church it is imperative that the pastor organize special prayer services and opportunities for prayer. These opportunities can be formatted in various ways: a Sunday evening prayer service; monthly prayer services; early morning prayer in the sanctuary; and prayer groups convening at the church, home, or a community center. The Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea conducts a 10:00 pm Friday prayer service with over fifteen thousand seekers attending. Even with seven Sunday services, it is reported that Cho’s members consider the Friday night service to be their favorite.
The Pastor can also build a praying church by forming various Prayer Teams. For example, we have a Sanctuary Prayer Team that meets for pre-service prayer. This team of intercessors functions to assist me in the altar ministry during corporate worship services. We also have The Pastor’s Prayer Team that is offered to the members of our local church that desire to uphold the pastor and his family in prayer on a regular basis. (I communicate special prayer needs with this group of intercessors via email.) Then, as the church catches the vision to pray, God will speak to certain people—gifted to lead others in prayer—and Laity Led Prayer Groups will form.
Finally, let me mention the power of prayer, a fact the apostle Paul clearly understood. Notice how Paul constantly appealed to fellow believers to pray for him. In Ephesians 6:19 he said: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” In Romans 15:31 Paul said: “Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there.” In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 he said: “brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” And in Colossians 4:3-4 he says: “pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
Paul solicited prayer for his ministry because he understood what propelled the kingdom of God forward and brought God’s glory. That truth applies today. When believers join together in a mighty force of intercession, doors of ministry will open and God’s glory will be poured out.
I have a question. How can we as pastors expect the local church to operate with God’s grace, power, favor, and blessing without being mighty in prayer? While today’s churches are adept at specialized ministries, outreach programs, music, and drama we must not neglect the ministry of prayer and intercession. Pastor, have you prioritized a strategy for prayer in your church?
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