Some General Comments
- The amount of “extraordinary congregational prayer” seems to be both increasing and decreasing at the same time! Clearly there is more creative, effective, life-flowing prayer taking place in the church today. Therefore, it is increasing. But, because it is increasing, what used to be extraordinary is becoming more ordinary. Great news!
- Pastors are being more deliberate and spending more time in preparing for times of extraordinary prayer. If pastors spent a similar amount of time preparing for times of congregational prayer as they do on their sermon preparation, we would see even more extraordinary prayer.
- The most extraordinary times of prayer seem to be the simplest times of prayer. Much preparation does not equal much production.
- Pastors are learning the lesson of “Learning from others, but not copying them.” Many are seeking the Lord for His creative expression of prayer in their congregation. They are becoming convinced that His last creative act is not His last creative act! He wants to express His creativity in their setting.
Some Specific Examples
- Pastor Sam had a cross in his entryway where people could tack requests. He noticed they were all very general requests. One day, he thought they should be more specific. So they took all the requests down and they announced that they wanted to put the names of people who were not yet in God’s family on the cross. Very soon, the congregation of c. 400 people had placed nearly 800 names on the cross. He had his secretary print 6-8 names on small cards. Identical cards were distributed to 3 people each, who committed to praying for each name daily. Collectively, over about 10 weeks, these names were lifted up to the Father over 127,000 times! Within the first month, two of the people whose names were on the list were miraculously saved!
- What do pastor Jeff (with his congregation of c. 60 people), Pastor Dave (with his congregation of c. 750 people) and Pastor Daniel (with his congregation of c. 5,000 people) have in common? They all saw the value of leading their people in a Congregational Prayer Summit. Over 40,000 pastors and other spiritual leaders have participated in a Prayer Summit in the last 15 years. Now, more and more pastors are seeing the value of leading their people in a similar experience. A Prayer Summit is a multi-day worship experience that implements “Spirit-led, worship-fed, corporate prayer”. Spirit led, as opposed to pre-planned. Worship fed, as opposed to request driven. And corporate prayer, as opposed to a group of individual prayers offered in a group setting. I remember watching a participant of a Prayer Summit looking at their pastor with tears in her eyes saying “Pastor, thank you so much for helping me love Jesus through worship-based prayer!” A man at a men’s summit said “I had no idea how we were going to pray for over 8 hours in a day, but this ended up being too short!”
- Pastor Lewie took the Prayer Summit model and applied it to their monthly, Friday night “half-nights of prayer” for their leadership, which takes place from 7:00 PM till Midnight. The people reported that they feel safer because their leaders are spending regular time in the presence of Jesus.
- Pastor Dee leads his congregation in a prayer vigil just prior to Easter each year. The focus is on praying for those who have not yet given their lives to Jesus. Last Easter he had six people representing six “spiritual generations” share at their Easter service. The first person began by saying “Last year, at this service I gave my life to Jesus because Bill prayed for and invited me.” Then Bill said “Two years ago, at this service, I gave my live to Jesus because Fred prayed for and invited me.” Then Fred said “Three years ago…” then Mary said… “Four years ago…” etc.
- Pastor Pat was looking for a way to increase prayer for their community. Email was part of the answer. They have maintained their prayer chain, but they have also determined 10 other times during the week when they will pray “together”. Sixty percent of his congregation (of c. 90 people) have committed to 3, 15 minute time-blocks per week. The pastor sets the week’s scriptural and community focus through an email message.
- One church decided that if some congregations could do home visits to each of their members to talk about financial pledges, then why couldn’t they commit to visit every home and pray with and for each family?
- Some pastors have responded to the challenge to shorten their Sunday sermon by 5 minutes and facilitate the congregation in prayers directly related to the application of the message.
Extraordinary? Hopefully more and more ordinary!