Since people everywhere need prayer, we need prayer ministries everywhere. The design of your prayer ministry will be determined by two things: (1) by what the needs are, according to the location and type of ministry, and also (2) by whom your leaders are, according to their gifts and how God is calling and directing them. In this blog post we will address the prayer ministry of the local church.
There is no right or wrong way to design any prayer ministry. There are so many things that can be done. Here are some of my own ideas for a local church prayer ministry—from my own experience and from what I have read and observed.
1. I think the senior pastor should lead the prayer ministry, or at least be a co-leader with another elder. He is the main leader of the church so it fits best if he leads the prayer ministry. He must lead of course by his own example. Therefore, he must immerse himself in prayer and give priority to prayer.
Prayer should not only be a priority in his personal life, the topic of prayer should be a priority in all of his preaching. It should be his goal that every Christian church member knows how to pray and be encouraged to pray.
He should also teach prayer and the priority of prayer to his ministry staff, elders, and to all the leaders of the church. He should see to it that those he teaches are in turn teaching others.
Last, I think it is primarily the pastor’s job to call the church together to pray and fast for particular needs. This was the practice of the Old Testament leaders, such as king Jehosephat, Ezra, and Esther (2 Chron. 20:3, Ezra 8:21-23, Est. 4:16), and it should be the practice of our church leaders today.
2. There should be times of prayer and fasting for special needs. When there is a particular church need, or when there is any kind of a need (whether it is local, national, or global) that the church senses they should pray about, the pastor should call the church together for a period of fasting and prayer. Our church usually does this for a period of 40 days. The way we have done it is to give everyone a chance to sign up for a prayer slot until all the time slots are filled for every minute of the day for 40 days. We also have provided for each person some items to pray for, for each day of the week. For example, on Monday we would pray for vision, on Tuesday for wisdom, on Wednesday for faith, and so on. There are so many different things that can be done. The idea is to get the whole church praying together at the same time for the same things.
3. Prayer should be encouraged in all the Sunday school classes, and in all the support groups and ministry groups. Even though the particular group is not designed as a prayer group it should nevertheless take advantage of the meeting time to pray together for at least five or ten minutes. Prayer will always unify and strengthen a group; and it will give its members God’s direction and help.
4. Special prayer groups should be encouraged. A growing church should have prayer groups popping up everywhere. I suggest that groups have a special focus or purpose. One group may want to focus on praying for missionaries, another may want to pray for world needs, and another may focus on praying for all the needs of the church. Some prayer groups may feel the need to pray just for their own needs, to encourage and support each other.
5. Prayer chains and emails can be used for urgent prayer requests. If there is an urgent need, prayer must be made immediately. The prayer chain by telephone I think is the best tool for urgent needs; for if callers are faithful to call and pray, everyone can be notified for an urgent need in minutes. If the need is not so urgent emails are really the way to go (but those who don’t have a computer would have to be called).
6. Prayer retreats are definitely needed these days. Everyone needs a retreat at least once a year. If your church is small one retreat for the whole church will probably suffice. A larger church, however, may want to have two or three retreats, or however many will fit the needs of the church. Even if your retreat doesn’t focus on prayer, it can and should be a special time for you to get away with God and build your relationship with Him.
7. How about a prayer conference? Churches don’t usually have conferences, but I think it would be very beneficial. Members should be encouraged to attend, but you can also advertise and invite outsiders to come. A prayer conference would be particularly helpful for those who are more serious about prayer, but I think it may also help to motivate someone who is not so committed. I remember my first conference. Just to see so many fired up Christians together and to hear those motivating speakers was a real encouragement to me. A prayer conference can definitely help to jump-start one who is discouraged in his faith.