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#033 THE PASTORS¹ PRAYER MOVEMENT
As we take our first steps into a new millennium, the Church of Jesus Christ is experiencing a worldwide prayer movement unprecedented, not just in our generation, but in the history of the Christian Church. Prayer, in a seemingly unlimited variety of formats and styles, is the common denominator of refreshing, renewal and revival occurring on every continent and in nearly every country from Korea to South Africa to Argentina to China, and now, here-and-there in America.
This moving of the Holy Spirit begins within and for the body of Christ but ultimately moves outside the prayer closet taking intercessors and prayer groups into the community and onto the streets. A ³so that² movement, calling the Church into strategic prayer ... so that those who pray receive a new passion to share the gospel ... so that millions of men, women and children of every nation, tribe and tongue begin to follow Christ ... so that, ultimately, God is glorified.
Prayer is becoming prominent but not as an end in itself nor as a measurement of success. This ³so that² prayer, of God, through God and for God, is moving us toward the completion of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20). From prayer meetings to prayer mountains, the Spirit has been calling the Church back to our first priority (1 Timothy 2:1). With prayer calendars and prayer conferences, on prayer walks and at prayer summits the Church of Jesus Christ is being summoned to sit at the feet of her savior and shepherd. The groom desires to love his bride; cleansing her, washing her, presenting her radiant, stainless, wrinkle-free (Ephesians 5:25-27) ... so that she attracts the world’s attention and interest. Sacred assemblies. concerts of prayer. Reconciliation walks. God is cleansing and changing us ... so that the ³light of the world² is no longer hidden under a bushel.
A strategic addition to the prayer movement is the emergence of Pastors’ Prayer Groups (PPGs). PPGs are simply groups of pastors who meet for prayer. No special speakers or ice-breakers. As one of our early invitations read, ³Just Pastors. Just Prayer.² But these unassuming gatherings have an untapped power because they exist for one purpose: to pray to the Father, by the leading of the Spirit, in concert with the Son as he intercedes for the Church to become one.
Shepherds of God’s Church meeting in humility; ³egos and logos² checked at the door, as Jarvis Ward of Mission America reminds us. Humility is the most ignored first step toward achieving the unity Jesus sought from the Father on our behalf. Unity, the essential step we must take ... so that the world has a reason to believe God sent Jesus on a love-motivated mission (John 17:23). If God has an evangelistic strategy, this is it: a humility-forged unity that inexorably leads to prayer-birthed, love-motivated activity. And, as more and more pastors commit to pray with one another, more and more congregations will assume their place in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:23.
Pastors’ Prayer Groups are also unique since they are usually initiated and attended by ³anybody pastors,² unknown servants who faithfully care for the flock God has entrusted to them. Pastors who live to bless God, not the other way around.
An ³anybody pastor² is usually unrecognized beyond the boundaries of his or her local congregation with dreams and goals far exceeding current reality. Somebody yielded in total faith to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Someone hopeful in Christ but desperately praying ³Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in my congregation, in my community as it is in heaven.
The facilitators and leaders of Pastors’ Prayer Groups are not the superstars of Christian television or radio nor have they written a best-selling book. The focus of conversation at a PPG is not who preached the best sermon, had the highest attendance or collected the biggest offering. Seeking the Lord is valued over statistics. Here is where you¹ll find those Jack Deere identified as the ³nameless and faceless² servants God will use to bring a spiritual awakening to our land and transformation to our cities.
Jesus remains committed to his scriptural promise to build his Church (Matthew 16:18). Our problem is we thought Jesus said we were to build his Church for him. So instead of attending staff meetings with the master, a simple way to describe what best goes on at a PPG, we have devised our own programs, which eventually prove to be inadequate substitutes for the presence and the power of our God. Good ideas cannot compete with God ideas.
Where groups of pastors meet regularly and primarily for prayer - all heaven breaks loose! Relationships develop as trust grows. These deepened and healed relationships produce repentance and reconciliation; pastor-to-pastor as well as church-to-church. I¹ll never forget the Sunday evening I stood before the congregation that sponsored our church’s start some 15 years ago. I had to humble myself and ask their forgiveness. We were neither grateful nor cooperative when they assisted us in our early days of becoming an independent congregation. For most of us in the room that evening, those events were either forgotten or had taken place before we arrived at either church. But the Lord remembered. And when I confessed and asked forgiveness on behalf of our congregation and when their pastor released forgiveness on behalf of the sponsor church, ³something happened in the spiritual realm,² as one discerning member put it. But the seed that grew into those public declarations was planted when their pastor and I began to pray together on a weekly basis. ³For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them² (Matthew 18:20).
The humility and unity experienced in a PPG is contagious. Invariably, the congregations of the praying pastors want to experience the same blessings they see showered on their spiritual leader. They want to pray together, worship with one another, even become enthused to serve the needs of the community as one.
One PPG I was involved in led a Halloween night concert of prayer, an annual Thanksgiving eve multi-church praise service and a combined church food pantry. These five or six pastors of average-size congregations are making a disproportionate impact on their community. Half a dozen congregations anointed with a fresh vision for the kingdom of God, not merely their own church family.
Pastors’ Prayer Groups are a movement of ³anybody pastors² who want Jesus to be the star. PPGs are for pastors who want to meet regularly with their captain in the presence of other lieutenants and colonels. Pastors’ Prayer Groups are for pastors to meet together in humility and unity, seeking strategy and authority, doing ministry throughout the city and declaring the victory that Jesus has defeated sin and death. May those who look back on the first days of this new millennium read of a prayer movement that captured the hearts of the shepherds ... so that the sheep were led to perform the greater works their great shepherd told them to expect. And may hundreds more ³anybody pastors² take the courageous first step of gathering even one or two others to plant the worldwide prayer movement in their community.
The pastors are ³key² to the prayer movement, James Dobson said on a ³Focus on The Family² radio broadcast. If it takes the Church-at-prayer to spark revival throughout our world, then we should expect to see the pastors and leaders of the Church being drawn together. Drawn together to pray first, plan later. As I look around, I see the chief shepherd using a variety of methods and means to draw his shepherds together, and when he does he stirs us to prayer.
Nearly a decade ago I did not know any better. Unknown and unqualified, I simply invited nearby pastors to meet for prayer. At first, a half dozen of us began meeting weekly. A year or so later we sent several hundred invitations to meet on the first Thursday of May for the 1992 National Day of Prayer. When nearly three dozen pastors actually showed up, I began to see in my mind a map of Chicago, dotted with tiny lights, each representing a Pastors’ Prayer Group (PPG) scattered throughout the city and suburbs. As time went on and several PPGs began in different communities, I began to see the map of Illinois and to ask the Lord to place a Pastors’ Prayer Group within a 20-minute drive of every pastor in our state. Soon after, I started seeing the map of our nation - like the kind airlines use to show their routes from one city to another. The dozens of lines arching out of Chicago expanded my horizon. I was now asking the Lord to spread this vision throughout the country and, dare I say, around the world. Little did I know that already PPGs were surfacing in towns and cities all across the nation. The Lord was giving the same assignment to pastors like myself. In fact, the National Pastors’ Prayer Network was started not too long after that to connect and assist communication between these groups and those who pray for their cities.
Here are some steps to take when starting a PPG in your community or city—
You must have known that would be primary. (1 Timothy 2:1) Simply ask the Lord How?, Who?, When?, Where?
Petition the Lord to identify intercessors who will work with you to make this a prayer-birthed strategy that leads to a prayer-based ministry, which results in prayer-bathed activity.
Most pastors are too busy to respond merely to a letter or flyer. Letters or flyers should include your personal invitation, describing your intent, and then should be followed up with a personal phone call. Like everything else in ministry it’s about relationships.
. Pastors are gathering all over the country. Many groups have already seen the blessing of God. I know I would benefit from praying together with you and other pastors from our area.
. Pastors’ Prayer Groups have proven that when a small group of pastors meet to seek the Lord, their people receive a passion for prayer and for the unity of the body of Christ .
. The Pastors’ Prayer Group vision is that every pastor in every state will be invited by another pastor to a PPG that meets within 20 minutes of their home or office.
. If we keep focused on prayer, I believe Jesus will meet with us as often as we are willing to gather. And as we do, he will deepen our fellowship with the Father and with one another.
Qualifications for a PPG Leader:
. A Christian who believes Jesus is the only Savior for the whole world; God in human flesh.
. Committed to the “complete unity” the Lord Jesus desires for his Church. . Prays for revival - an awakening and empowering of the Church that attracts the world to the gospel.
. Willing to call the pastors in his/her area to prayer. . Is a catalyst challenging the PPG to meet regularly; quarterly, monthly, weekly.
. Responsible to contact at least 12 pastors each time the group gathers.
. Willing to recruit one other pastor to begin a PPG. . Prepared to ensure that their PPG cooperates rather than competes with local ministerial and denominational groups.
. Is responsible to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit by balancing both spirit (freedom + diversity) and truth (scripture-based prayers + petitions).
Phil Miglioratti facilitates the National Pastors’ Prayer Network and serves
on the National Prayer Committee. This past July he began serving as city
coordinator for Strategic Focus Cities in Chicago, Illinois
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