9 Ways to Strengthen Prayer in Your Church
It’s five years from now. Amazingly, your church has grown incredibly in the area of prayer. People are setting aside time each day to pray. They’re worshipping Him throughout the day. You see life groups and ministry groups making prayer a central part of their group time. You see a church where God is doing amazing things as He responds to the prayers of His people.
Sound exciting? How do we realize this kind of vision? Here are nine ways to strengthen prayer in your church:
#1 – Enlarge People’s Vision for Prayer
How do we challenge people to grow deeper in prayer? Preaching and teaching on prayer can definitely help. In addition, here is an idea that can blow away people’s conceptions about how God can respond to prayer today. Tell people about some of the spiritual revivals that have happened over the past 300 years (for starters, see The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening video or text version). Knowing how God has responded to concerted, extraordinary prayer in the recent past can inspire us to pray in focused and persistent ways today.
#2 – Equip People to Pray
Most Christians know how to ask God for stuff. Yet, do we truly practice thankfulness, confession, and adoration of God? Do we realize deep down that the goal is not just to pray for a set period each day (as good as that is), but to develop a lifestyle of prayer?
We can teach about prayer through sermons and workshops, but there is nothing quite like combining training with practice. One of the most powerful equipping times for my church leadership team was when we went on a two-day prayer retreat (see 5 Reasons to go on a Prayer Retreat for more on prayer retreats). We all read a book on prayer prior to the retreat, had some training sessions, and then spent time in prayer. It was powerful!
#3 – Build on What is Already Happening
Sometimes, we think that we need to create something new to stimulate more prayer in our churches. That may be helpful, but we should probably start with what is already in place. For example, when I was co-chair of our church board, we extended our dedicated prayer times and incorporated prayer throughout our business discussions. It was a small change that had considerable impact.
Small group Bible studies and ministry groups provide an excellent forum for strengthening prayer in your church. Inspire your leaders with a big vision for prayer. Train them and give them solid prayer resources. When leaders really pray, others will follow their example.
#4 – Incorporate Rallying Prayer Initiatives
Make the most of people’s willingness to commit to something significant for a short period of time. For example, some churches will do a day or week of prayer where people sign up to pray at different times. Our church is currently doing 40 days of prayer during Lent where people are encouraged to pray for specific aspects of the church each day. I have often challenged groups to pray for five unsaved people for five days a week for five weeks. These kinds of short prayer initiatives get people praying and in the process will hopefully develop a stronger habit of prayer.
#5 – Maximize Technology and Social Media
I love the way that the Internet allows us to share prayer requests that get people praying within seconds. Small groups can create Facebook groups, use group prayer apps, or capitalize on other messaging platforms to promote prayer in their groups.
#6 – Grow a Vital Sunday Morning Prayer Ministry
At South Langley Church, we will often have an open mic sharing time during our worship services. One Sunday, a woman shared about how she had gone up for prayer (we have a post-service prayer ministry) a few weeks previously about her recent cancer diagnosis. After our prayer team prayed for her, the woman felt that God had healed her. Her doctor wasn’t so sure. He tried to convince her that the first test was conclusive. Yet, after pleading with him, the doctor authorized another test. The new test result revealed that the woman was cancer-free!
You can imagine how the congregation responded to this obvious answer to prayer. When you have a vital Sunday morning prayer ministry, God will show up in people’s lives in amazing ways. As we see God work, we will be more likely to believe that God can do immeasurably more that we could ever ask or imagine.
#7 – Model and Encourage Interpersonal Prayer
Structured prayer times are important and necessary. Yet, we also want to encourage people to pray spontaneously with one another. The pastors at South Langley will periodically remind us to look for opportunities to pray for one another even as we visit with people after the service.
We can also encourage interpersonal prayer in our small groups. It could be as simple as inviting group members to call one another during the week or to send email/text prayers.
#8 – Encourage the Prayer Warriors
You probably already have people in your church who are extraordinary intercessors. Make sure that you thank them and appreciate them in appropriate ways. Supply them with prayer requests. If they are willing, let them share about their prayer practices and how God has worked through them. Your people will be inspired!
#9 – Be Bold in Taking Next Steps
A Toronto pastor recently sensed that God wanted his church to have dedicated prayer groups praying every day of the week. He knew there would be opposition, so he tried to dismiss the growing conviction in His spirit. Finally, he realized that he had to obey the voice of the Lord. As he had anticipated, some people were opposed to this radical step and a few even left the church. Yet, at last report, the church had 10 prayer groups (including a children’s prayer group) that covered every day of the week. I have no doubt that God will do an incredible work in and through that church!
God loves it when we spend time with him in meaningful prayer. Our relationship with Him grows. He works in our lives. We also know that God has chosen prayer as a primary way of unleashing His power in people’s lives. When God’s people pray, amazing things happen. People come to Christ. People grow in their faith. People have the resources to live out God’s call on their lives. God is glorified.
What the Church needs today is not new organizations or more and novel methods, but people whom the Holy Spirit can use―people of prayer, people mighty in prayer (E.M. Bounds – paraphrased).
Note: Strengthening a culture of prayer is the first of eleven essential elements for Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church.
Randy Wollf is the Director of MinistryLift and Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Leadership Studies at MB Seminary.