Dear Pastor, Missionary, Chaplain and friends,
Steve here…Historically, every spiritual awakening began with a movement of intercessory prayer that precipitated the church being renewed and scores of people coming to Christ. If this is actually true, why aren’t we praying?
A.T. Pierson said, “Every step in the progress of missions is directly traceable to prayer. It has been the preparation for every new triumph and the secret of all success.”
The word “intercession” is a compound word made up of two Latin words: inter (between) and cedere (to go). An intercessor is a “go between”. It is the act of meditation. To stand between a cancer victim and death. To stand between lost soul and Almighty God. Annias was an intercessor (Acts 9). Prompted by God he prayed for the Christian-killer named Saul. And because of his intercession the “scales” fell from Saul’s eyes and he became Paul.
Is intercessory prayer happening in your life or your church? There are no fewer than 11 revival movements in the Old Testament. While each revival is unique, a common factor preceding each revival was God’s people gathered together in prayer. Look at the Biblical record:
∙ Exodus 32-34—Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp and required everyone who sought the Lord to meet him there.
∙ 1 Samuel 7:5-6—Samuel required all of Israel to gather at Mizpah where they fasted and confessed their sins.
∙ 2 Chronicles 15:9-15—Asa gathered the people in Jerusalem to enter into a covenant to seek the Lord with all their hearts and with all their souls.
∙ 2 Chronicles 20:3-13—Jehoshaphat gathered the tribes of Judah, and the people fasted and sought the Lord.
∙ 2 Chronicles 23:16ff—Jehoiada made a covenant with all the people, that they should be the Lord’s people. They then proceeded to cleanse the land of evil.
∙ 2 Chronicles 30:5ff—Hezekiah and the leaders established a decree requiring all the people to gather for the celebration of the Passover. Fourteen days were devoted to seeking the Lord.
∙ 2 Chronicles 34:31-33—Josiah gathered the people to enter into a covenant with the Lord to walk in all His ways.
∙ Ezra 6:16-22—Zerubbabel led the people in seven days of separating themselves from the impurity of the nations and pledging themselves to seek the Lord.
∙ Ezra 8:21-23—Ezra proclaimed a fast at the River Ahava for the people to humble themselves, put away their sins, and seek the Lord.
∙ Nehemiah 8-10—The people assembled in front of the Water Gate where the Law of Moses was read by the hour, and an agreement was made in writing to put away sin and to seek the Lord with all their hearts.
∙ Joel 1:14; 2:12-17—Joel gathered the people to return to the Lord with all their hearts with fasting, weeping and mourning. They were required to rend their hearts and not their garments.
I came across an email sent to me, posted by Pastor Kevin DeYoung (November 17, 2011) on “How to have a church prayer meeting?”. I thought it might be an encouragement to you.
“A little over a year ago our church began devoting one Sunday evening service a month exclusively to prayer. Honestly, I wasn’t sure it would take. But a year into the switch I think our people are growing to appreciate the prayer service more and more. We don’t get everyone to come back for prayer, but it’s roughly the same size we get for our regular Sunday evening service (around 125 people, or about a quarter the size of Sunday morning).
Here are seven things we’ve learned about having a church prayer meeting.
1. Pray. Don’t make your “prayer meeting” a time for five hymns, a short message, sharing requests and ten minutes of prayer. Get down to business and pray.
2. Start on time and end on time. This may not be true for every culture, but in America (and Canada) punctuality helps. People know what to expect. We will pray together for one hour.
3. Plan. If you are praying with a few mature, seasoned pray-ers, you may be able to get by with little preparation. But leading a church-wide prayer meeting takes, well, leadership. You have to think through what you are going to do. Recently I planned the prayer service around the fruit of the spirit. At other times we’ve prayed for different ministries in the church. We’ve used prayer-books and lots of Scripture. We’ve borrowed from ancient patterns of prayer. We’ve even walked through the building to pray. The point is you can’t wing it with 100 people. You have to prepare.
And once in the meeting, you have to lead there too. Direct people. Get the group back on track. Show your people that this is an important event that has warranted your attention, your passion, and your preparation. If you switch to a prayer meeting because the pastor is tired of preaching every Sunday evening, your people will be able to tell. Make the prayer meeting a priority and plan accordingly.
4. Use variety and break the evening up into smaller chunks. Our prayer services go by quickly because we do several things throughout the evening. We may sing a song (just one or two) as a prayer. We may use a form prayer. We may read a prayer responsively. We may have a time of silence. We may have someone lead in prayer from the front. We may break into small groups for prayer. We do a number of different things over the course of 60 minutes. Usually each piece lasts for 5-10 minutes.
5. Make sure your leaders are there. The prayer meeting won’t fly if the pastor is not behind it. This doesn’t mean the pastor has to be at every gathering of prayer. But if you want to start, prolong, or revive an official prayer meeting, people need to see it matters to the pastors and elders. I usually lead our prayer meetings.
6. Keep the kids. I know that keeping kids in the church service, let alone a prayer service, can be challenging. We do have a nursery for infants and toddlers on Sunday night. But one of the best things about our prayer service is that many children are present. They sit in the small group circles (when we break up into groups) and often contribute with the adults. I can’t tell you how pleased I am when one of my kids prays in our circle. I’m just as pleased that they are seeing prayer modeled by believers from outside their family and from every age group. They get to hear confessions, praises, and supplications just like everyone else. We are teaching our children to pray by having a prayer service. We are also demonstrating that prayer really matters.
7. Keep at it. Prayer is hard work. It is a gift, but also a skill to learn and grow in. Don’t give up if it feels awkward at first or if people don’t show. Be faithful and pray continually.”
Hope this counsel will “spur” many of us to gather God’s people more often for corporate confession and prayer. For God’s glory and our great benefit.
Have a blessed week.