By Jonathan Howe
We live in an individualistic society. Our self-reliant culture seems to stress independence at every turn. Americans just like to do things alone.
And prayer is no exception. a 2017 Barna Research study found 82% of praying American adults most often pray silently and alone. The same study showed 2% pray audibly with another person, and only 2% pray corporately in a church setting.
Thom Rainer and I covered the importance of corporate prayer on a recent episode of Rainer on Leadership. Since that episode aired, we’ve heard from several church leaders who have instituted more intentional prayer into their corporate worship gatherings.
Like anything in a church, prayer will not increase without intentionality. Your church won’t become a praying church by accident. It takes focus, repetition, and a sensitivity to the Spirit to see a vibrant corporate prayer life in your congregation. That intentionality can be fostered through these six acts:
1. Stress the priority of prayer.
If prayer is not seen as a priority to the pastor and staff, it will not be a priority for the church members. You have to lead by example if you want to see your church understand the priority of prayer.
2. Designate a time of corporate prayer with clear guidelines.
Prayer times in a church service can often feel scheduled and routine. Everyone knows where they are in the service lineup, and the times are often treated as stage transitions for the next element of the service.
Why not change that? Why not have a dedicated time of focused prayer. Provide a guide or prayer prompts. Ask those who are able to kneel at their chair. You’ll likely be amazed at the results this one small change can make to a worship service.
3. Share stories of answered prayers.
What you celebrate, you become. And if your church is celebrating answers to prayer, those in the church will start seeing more clearly how God is answering prayer.
What some may originally chalk up to good fortune or coincidence, they may now see as God answering prayers.
4. Provide prayer guides in the worship folder/bulletin.
Sure, many churches list prayer requests of those in the church who may be battling illness. But does your church pray for other churches? Does it pray for community needs? Does it pray for evangelism opportunities?
Use your bulletin or worship guide to list prayer points for those in the church to pray for during the week, not just on Sunday mornings.
5. Pray to send people out from the worship services.
Benedictions can be rote and boring. But some churches use the benediction to send out those gathered for worship. This prayer charge commissions the church to go into the world and carry the cross of Christ in their daily lives.
It can be simple, but it can also be quite effective in helping church members understand their everyday role in Kingdom growth.
6. Have people pray during the worship services.
This practice usually takes place in an area outside the worship center. Groups of people pray through the service and for each element of the service as it happens. Prayer guides are often beneficial for this. You can script out prayer points and list prayer requests for those praying to cover.
This practice is often a great encouragement to the pastor and also emphasizes the spiritual warfare that takes place as the Word is preached.
What would you add to this list? Does your church practice any of these prayer points?
JONATHAN HOWE (@jonathan_howe) serves as director of strategic initiatives at Lifeway Christian Resources.