By Dick Loizeaux
1. Rekindle your prayer passion.
Seek fresh input by reading books, like Fresh Encounters by Daniel Henderson; The Prayer Saturated Church by Cheryl Sacks; Partners in Prayer by John Maxwell; The Radical Prayer by Derek J. Morris; Intercessor by Norman Grubb; Forever Ruined for the Ordinary by Joy Dawson, or the “Fresh” books by Jim Cymbala. Ask your pastor friends what their favorite prayer books or resources are.
2. Develop powerful sermons on prayer.
Teach people how to talk to God and how to listen to God. Give them biblical and real life examples of the power of prayer. Move them past “asking and getting” to see prayer as an act of spiritual warfare that builds the kingdom, builds our hearts for the kingdom, and bonds our hearts to the King of the kingdom. Make prayer a life and death issue, because it is. Give people “next steps” to pursue after your sermons like a book to read, a prayer seminar, a prayer devotional guide, or an invitation to a prayer event.
3. Kill whatever is killing your church prayer.
If your prayer meeting is so energy draining it is killing prayer, then kill the prayer meeting and try the items below. If using a formula (like ACTS), no matter how valuable, is killing spontaneity or passion, then kill the formula. If gossip is killing your church prayer, kill gossip. If a focus on “doing, achieving, growing” is killing “praying,” then rearrange your personal priorities and your church priorities to recognize the source of our power and protection. If “busyness” is killing prayer then build prayer into every aspect of your church life so people are prayer saturated even without attending a specific prayer meeting.
4. Issue a church-wide challenge.
Select an important event in the life of the church, for example, your Easter outreach. Then, after a sermon on warfare prayer, challenge people to volunteer to pray for your church 3-5 minutes every day for the 2-3 months until that event. Explain prayer is needed to protect your church from attack and to empower the spiritual success of the event. Each person who signs a commitment card will receive a prayer calendar (hardcopy or electronic) listing 4-5 things to pray for each day. In addition to Easter outreach items, the list covers church leaders, staff, missionaries, and church ministries. Challenge them so see if this does not make a difference in their lives as well as in the church. It is not unusual to get half the church to volunteer. Make sure to collect and share prayer stories along the way. This will often help you identify who your prayer warriors are, as well as build support for additional prayer initiatives.
5. Set a church-wide example.
Stop thinking “prayer meeting” and instead think “prayer saturation.” Build prayer into everything you and your staff do so people can learn by example. Prayer should be a part of every church meeting, ministry, and small group. Stop and pray with people during discussions in the hallway and lobby. Interrupt staff or business meetings to pray about what is under discussion asking for guidance, giving thanks for progress, requesting assistance, or asking God to empower implementation of your decisions. Consider prayer meetings before the worship service, prayer intercessors during or after the worship service, prayer partners for each staff and church leader, prayer visitation teams, prayer retreats, prayer walks, and prayer emails or text messages.
6. Build a prayer action team.
Select a few men and women of prayer and ask them to become the core of a prayer team. Share your vision of its importance and mission. Let them set criteria for anyone else to become a member of the prayer team. Set the bar high making it a privilege that requires high commitment. Let the team brainstorm possible actions to strengthen prayer in every aspect of church life, and empower them to work with staff to implement the ideas. Let the prayer team organize and run ministries such as prayer intercessors, prayer partners, or prayer events. Depend on them to become prayer advisors and partners to the church leaders and staff. A powerful prayer team can become the cheerleaders who will light a fire of prayer in your church.
7. Conduct Concerts of Prayer or Nights of Prayer.
For a Concert of Prayer, weave worship and prayer together into a one to two hour event so moving that people will look forward to the next one. Include time for corporate prayer, group prayer, personal prayer, spontaneous prayer and planned prayer. Pray around specific topics. Create sentences people can finish in prayer (“Lord I thank you for…. Lord I love you because… Lord I need you because…”).
For a Night of Prayer, have people volunteer to come for one-hour time slots between 7p.m. and midnight. Sometimes a small group or a ministry team will volunteer to take an entire time slot together. Each person gets a packet of index cards with one prayer item on each card. Include church ministries and their needs, church leaders and staff and their needs, missionaries and their needs. Include visionary church items, community needs, and national concerns. Give every person in the church an opportunity to submit personal prayer request cards to be included. Make an index card with the name of every person in the church, or attending a church ministry, so by the end of the night every person will have been prayed for by name.
8. Link prayer to fasting.
Use some of the many excellent Fasting Resources on the Converge MidAmerica website including: "Fasting: A 30-Day Guide", Fasting Resource List, A Quick Study on Spiritual Fasting, Eight Basic Guidelines for Fasting and Strengthening Your Prayers Through Fasting Prayer Life.
9. Make prayer fun and exciting for all ages.
Show parents how to teach their young children how to pray and listen for God's voice. Run a children's prayer workshop so kids can learn to have fun praying together. Consider prayer as part of your teen lock in. How about an all night prayer session for the youth where they pray on a particular topic for ten minutes, then sing a few songs before breaking into smaller groups?
Make sure the kids are included in regular prayer gatherings and are encouraged to pray and participate.
10. Collect and share the prayer testimonies and stories at every chance: on Sunday mornings as interviews or sermon illustrations, in newsletters or emails, and on your website. The prayer team, staff, and small group leaders can be responsible for collecting these stories. And make sure you have personal stories of your own in the mix on a regular basis.