“Nothing is more important to God than prayer in dealing with mankind. But it is likewise all-important to man to pray. Failure to pray is failure along the whole line of life. It is failure of duty, service, and spiritual progress.” (Bounds, E.M., The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Baker. compiled 1990, pg. 370.)
“What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use-men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men-men of prayer.” (Ibid, pg. 447.)
I’m afraid that many of us, without thought, have equated the work of the church with organizational activity. God's great power in the church is its faith and faith increases through prayer. “Jesus replied, ‘This is the work of God-that you believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:29, CSB).
While most of my recommendations for promoting prayer are written from a pastor’s perspective, I believe that there is much in here for other church leaders and members. As you read, reflect on applications to your personal life and ministry. Here are the 10 ways to promote prayer in your church.
1. Make prayer a priority in the church leadership
Whether you have a large paid church staff or if they are volunteer leaders, spend regular and consistent time in prayer together. As a senior pastor, I led our staff meetings by first spending significant time in prayer before moving on to our other agendas. At the close of the staff meeting, we would pray over the plans that came out of the meeting at the end.
Two of the churches I pastored were elder led churches. These were my favorite. Our elder meetings were the best because we brought everything to the Lord and did not make decisions apart from a unity of spirit in prayer.
If it’s appropriate, try to pray with everyone you interact with during the day. When I had an appointment with a staff member, a church member or someone in the community, I would not let them leave without spending some time in prayer. I still do this frequently when I meet with people even over the phone or online.
Another way to make prayer a priority is to have your staff or volunteers read through a great book on prayer together. You could discuss it chapter by chapter at regular meetings and pray together. You will have your own ideas that are best for your setting.
2. Designate a time of clearly defined corporate prayer in services
We are notorious for using prayer as a segue from one part of the worship service to another. Prayer is certainly more than this. Think about adding a pastoral prayer time in your worship. This can be a very reflective and instructional time. During the week think about issues that your people are dealing with, struggling with. Take the time to write out a prayer, perhaps a little each day during the week. In other words, craft your prayer to the Lord on behalf of your congregation like you would a sermon. You could even publish the prayer in your bulletin or online.
3. Share stories, recent and past of answered prayer
One of the privileges pastors enjoy is hearing the ways God answers prayer in the lives of his church members. This is worth sharing and there are many avenues you could make this happen: In the worship service either live or on video, social media, and the church’s website.
Another inspiration is recounting answered prayer from the past. Our Christian history is full of prayer and God’s wonderful timely answers. Ample examples are found in the Great Awakenings and revival history of the United States. There was the great prayer revival of 1857 with Jeremiah Lanphier in New York City. Prayer so saturated the area and later the country that sailors on ships entering the harbor, not knowing of any spiritual awakening taking place, were falling under conviction of sin, and repenting even before docking. Here’s a couple of videos about these things.
4. Seek to improve your own prayer life
There is a certain gravity that envelops a praying person. It is also called the “fragrance of Christ”. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” (2 Corinthians 2:14–15, ESV)
People recognize it when you spend extended time in prayer. The time is spent not just praying through a list, but seeking God with your heart, mind and soul. It is like the prayer of Moses to see the glory of God. Moses prayed, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”” (Exodus 33:13, ESV)
My friend, Dr. Donald Whitney has some great advice on generally improving your prayer life. You can see it here.
Dr. Whitney also has a prayer app that was developed by one of his students to help add variety to his prayer life. You can download it from the App Store or Google Play for free.
Five Psalms: Praying Through Psalms of the Day
5. Make an opportunity for ministry prayer at the close or between services
At my last pastorate, I was inspired by a neighboring church pastor, Sam Storms at Bridgeway Church, to add prayer ministry teams of two or three individuals who were available between and after worship services to pray with and over those who have needs.
I put together a Prayer a Prayer Ministry Team card. I personally recruited couples and individuals who were mature and prayerful. I gathered them together for about 45 minutes of instruction with the card. Every single one of them volunteered. In fact, they were excited to see what God would do. Here’s how we did it: During the announcement time and again near the close of the service, we would announce that prayer teams would we at a certain location if anyone would like to receive prayer. Not a Sunday passed by that we didn’t have someone want prayer and a few times we had people accept Christ during the prayer ministry time.
If you’d like a copy of the prayer ministry card we used, you can download it here.
If you’d like help setting up a prayer ministry team, I’d be glad to assist.
6. Designate a prayer team for each church event
Every year your church has important and life-changing events. They range from Vacation Bible School to the annual Christmas Pageant. For each of these events, make sure to have a prayer team that is praying over every aspect of the event. The team doesn’t have to be big; it may be just 3 or 4 people. However, design a prayer sheet for that event and ask them to get together two or three times and to pray over the sheet. They may meet in person, on the phone or online. Focused, purposeful prayer for each event will make a difference in the heavenlies and on earth.
7. Have a congregation wide 21 day or 40 day prayer initiative.
The perfect time to have one of these is during the Lenten season. You could do it in preparation for the passion week or you could start it after Easter Sunday and set up 40 days that coincide with ending on Pentecost Sunday. You could also start the new year off with a 21 days of prayer emphasis for your church. Whether you do it at the first of the year, in preparation for Easter or in preparation for Pentecost, I wouldn’t do this more than once a year or once every two years.
Here are some guides that may help to inspire you. I feel confident that if you were to ask these churches if you could customize what they have done for your church, they would be flattered and of course help you to do that.
Rick Warren has a whole kit available for purchase if you are interested in all the bells and whistles.
8. Teach your church how to pray
Yes, actually teach how to pray. I’ve done this several times. At my last church, we still had a Wednesday night meal and prayer service. I used this as an opportunity to teach on prayer. Once I taught through the Apostle Paul’s Prayers. After the teaching we would gather at our tables and pray on that subject of Paul’s prayer for that night. I had many, many compliments on this kind of praying. I also used some of Andrew Murray’s writings to help me in teaching on various subjects of prayer.
One year I preached a series on The Lord’s Prayer called “The Prayer that will Change Your Life”. I took 10 weeks on the Sunday morning series with application each Wednesday Night prayer service. One of the best resources that helped me design this was by Elmer Towns, “Praying the Lord’s Prayer for Spiritual Breakthrough.”
You can get a PDF of this book for free here:
9. Promote prayer walking events coordinated to the church and community calendar
Create a prayer walking guide that matches the needs of a particular event. For example, with the start of a new school year it would be appropriate to ask different families or small groups to prayer walk near a school or around a school. For people who cannot walk distances, they could “pray the windshield” from the car. There are a variety of needs students and teachers will have. Prayer walk the school bus barn and the sports complexes. In the wider community, prayerwalk before and during county fairs and festivals. If there isa city council meeting, ask if you could pray in the meeting room before the event takes place. When asking, find out if there is anything they would like remembered in prayer. Any community or church could use groups of people praying on-site with insight before an even
Here's a link to a prayer walking guide I created for my last church. It’s in a word document, so you can change the graphics and text.
10. Use available technology to enhance prayer
Create a page on your church’s website for prayer requests. Get your webmaster to set it up where a request can be posted on the page for all to see or to be private. You can make the page one that people have to register to access. That will keep out spam. You can create a prayer wall and project that on the screen during your prayer service or prayer time in church for those present to pray over the requests. Promote the prayer wall page on social media. Just make sure you have a designated person to monitor the page and to reply to requests.
Encourage your small group ministries to form social media groups where they can share prayer needs with one another. Ask these groups to provide a link on their social media to your church’s prayer wall page.
Leveraging technology with prayer and outreach provides a fresh new way to intentionally reach your areas for Christ. Your church could join the www.BlessEveryHome.com ministry and encourage your members to join with their own individual accounts. This is a great way to saturate neighborhoods with prayer and good deeds. It may be the best outreach tool that uses prayer as a basis for ministry.
Check out the BlessEveryHome.org website. There is a video that explains how the process works, and it does.
I don’t intend for you to try all ten of these ways to promote prayer in your church. Perhaps you won’t try any, but while reading through this list, you thought of another way to promote prayer in your members and in yourself. That is even better. My prayer is that you will grow in the knowledge of Christ through the time you spend with him. Amen.