A visitor to his church posed that question to Charles Spurgeon. Reportedly, Spurgeon took the man to a room where numerous persons were on their knees, interceding for that day’s worship service. “That’s the secret,” admitted Spurgeon.
How can leaders of a church expedite a resurgence of prayer? I’m gleaning the first three suggestions from Jim Cymbala, who produced a six-session interactive DVD (Zondervan) titled “What Happens When People Pray.” The final session is titled, “Creating A Prayer Ministry In Your Church.” The fourth idea stems from my own experience as a church staff member.
1. Church leaders must model the integral role of prayer.
Cymbala suggests expanding the prayer time in weekly staff meetings. He also urges staff members to intercede fervently for church members and programs on the church’s calendar. The prophet Samuel told God’s people, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). “Like priest, like people,” Cymbala asserted.
2. Create an appetite for prayer instead of just scheduling prayer meetings on the church calendar.
Cymbala knows many pastors who have called the congregation to attend a new weekly prayer meeting. Few came, and the declining number who attended resulted in extreme discouragement for the pastors rather than a resurgence of prayer.
Before launching new prayer meetings, Cymbala suggests preaching a series on prayer. He encourages pastors to focus heavily on biblical promises concerning prayer. Sowing seeds of hope from Scripture can increase members’ expectations and motivation.
3. Reserve more of the worship service time for corporate prayer.
Cymbala is a huge proponent of preaching and knows the inherent power of God’s Word, yet he advocates shortening the sermon if it’s the only viable way to increase the time for prayer during the worship service. And he’s for involving the congregation during the prayer time rather than just having one person pray each week from the pulpit.
4. Weave five-minute “God At Work” spots into the worship service.
These testimonies can tell how God has answered prayer in the lives of individuals or families within your church. Whether the story is about someone’s conversion, a troubled marriage that was salvaged, or the Lord’s sustenance through a deep loss, stories of God’s intervention works in tandem with sermons on prayer to whet members’ appetite for it. I’ve seen this addition to the service instill a more positive climate in a congregation. Members are more apt to participate in scheduled group prayer because they’re thinking, “Do it again, Lord!”
From your experience, what are other ways to enhance the prayer ministry within a church?
Also see Cymbala’s Breakthrough Prayer: The Power of Connecting with the Heart of God (Zondervan, 2003).