Our Church’s Number One Need in 2016
by Sam Geli, January 3, 2016: Our number one need in 2016 as individuals and as a church is prayer. Prayer, praying, is what we need more than anything else! A friend recently came to me and asked if there was one thing I would wish for the Adventist church to have more of in these days of uncertainty; my immediate one-word response was prayer. The Adventist church is never more like the New Testament church than when it is praying. Our prayer meetings have declined in quality and attendance.
The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. The prayer meeting is a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. The simple fact is, we are too vague and, as a consequence, too indifferent in our prayers and prayer meetings. We do not seem like people asking for what they want, and waiting for what they ask. This is what destroys our prayer meetings, rendering them pointless and powerless, turning them into teaching or talking meetings, rather than earnest prayer meetings.
When we come together with a group for prayer meeting service, usually on Wednesday evening, it is helpful to have a purpose and plan for our time of prayer. This purpose can be defined by a particular event, person or activity that you are praying for. Here are seven prayer meeting ideas that will help plan more effective prayer meetings. They are not new and they are simple ideas. But, just as the Nike commercial says “…just do it…” and see what happens!
- Use a Prayer List
This is a list of names or events that you are praying for. You may be able to assemble part of the list before the prayer time starts. If you already know specific things you will be praying about, have this list pre-populated. You can do that by giving people a prayer request slip at a previous meeting so that you will have time to create the list to give to those in attendance.
Make sure everyone in the group has a prayer list, and give an opportunity to add new requests from the group. One person can write the new requests on a whiteboard or blackboard. Optionally you can distribute pens and pencils with the lists so that people can add the new requests to their own prayer list. If you are praying for a specific person or event, make sure everyone knows the important information to pray for. Allow the Lord to lead in the prayer time, but try to keep the focus on the main purpose for the prayer meeting.
- Pray in Groups
Many churches have a prayer meeting in which one or two people pray aloud. Certainly that is fine, but if you broke up into smaller groups of two to four people at a time, you could have more people calling out to the Lord in a shorter period of time. I’m pretty confident He can understand 10 (or 10,000) people praying at once.
- Distribute Information
Often we are told to pray for the missionaries, but we don’t know what the missionaries need prayer for. If you are praying for a particular missionary or country it would be helpful to include some pertinent facts and prayer points about the country or missionary family.
When praying for a missionary or a group of missionaries, have recent prayer letters available for people to read. Many churches have missionary letters posted around the church. Take time to read the letters and jot down specific prayer requests the missionaries have. This will help you pray more effectively for their needs and requests.
- Pray for an Unreached People Group
There are various agencies which have compiled information about unreached people groups around the world. The one I use most of the time for information is the Joshua Project. They have an unreached people group that they emphasize every day. You can visit their website and read about the group of the day or search for information on a people group you are interested in. Also, you can check out the video for more information on the goal of the Joshua Project.
- Pray for Leadership
Each time you meet, have a plan to pray for someone in leadership. This can be someone in government or a church leader. In one church I attended, they had a weekly prayer bulletin in which they highlighted a church staff member, a government official and a government agency to pray for. They would give us the name and position of the person, or in the case of the government agency they would simply give the name. Specifically, we were praying for local police, fire and rescue agencies.
- Keep a Reminder of Answered Prayers
You can keep a journal for the group of the requests and when the prayers were answered. This can be visually represented in many ways. You can add a pebble to a glass jar each time a prayer is answered. Each request can be written on a separate paper or note card and be placed in a file box or stack in a common meeting area. This will allow people to read the request, when you started praying for it and when God answered the prayer.
- Assign Prayer Requests
If you are praying through a list of requests you can break the list down into smaller chunks and assign these to different people. This prayer meeting idea will ensure that everything on the list gets prayed for during your prayer meeting. You will eliminate the problem of everyone’s praying for the same three requests and forgetting the other ten. Assigning people to pray also cuts down on the awkward time in many churches where the pastor says, “Whoever feels led to pray, speak up.” That can create long moments of silence when no one is praying. I know we should all pray during a prayer time, but those moments of silence are awkward and people stop praying silently because they don’t know if it is time to stop, if someone else will start praying, or if they should be the one to start praying aloud.