#034 PPGs: SUGGESTED GUIDELINES by Mission Houston
>From: “Jim Herrington” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the heart of the Mission Houston effort is an attempt to mobilize pastors to pray across the barriers that have traditionally divided us. I find many have the desire to do this. However, our desire sometimes does not translate into effective capacity to do the thing we desire - and in fact sometimes has the exact opposite effect.
In an attempt to foster the healthiest gatherings that we could, Brian Gowan and Steve Capper of the Mission Houston team convened a large diverse group of pastors and intercessors who represent a good deal of the diversity of the body of Christ in Houston. The result of several meetings is the attached document entitled “United Prayer Gatherings - Suggested Guidelines for Pastors’ Prayer Groups.” You may have already discovered some or all of what is contained here. But, for those who have not, we offer this to the church at large. It is our prayer that the Lord will continue to draw his Shepherds together in united prayer across the city, across the country, and around the world.
Blessings, Jim Herrington for Mission Houston
United Prayer Gathering
Suggested Guidelines for Pastor’s Prayers Groups
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus’ disciples came to Him one day and made this appeal, “Teach us to pray”! In cities and communities around the globe, pastors and ministry leaders throughout the Body of Christ are asking Jesus the same question with one word added, “Teach us to pray together!” This is an earnest request of many that are seeking the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ for the communities where they live. As we enter into this millennium, we find that there are reportedly 30 cities around the world who are experiencing what sociologists and community leaders are calling “community transformation”.
George Otis, in his book, “Informed Intercession,” defines community transformation as “a condition of dramatic socio-political renewal that results from God’s people entering into corporate vision, corporate repentance and corporate prayer.” A vital component to transformation is united, fervent ongoing prayer among the pastors in each of these communities. As pastors and church communities humble themselves and join to pray for and care for each other and their communities, the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ is realized, “Father, make them one”, and the commanded blessing promised in Psalm 133, “How good it is to dwell in unity”, comes to the communities.
The following is an instructional outline compiled from a group of nearly 25 pastors and lay prayer leaders from the Houston area. These leaders, who gathered over a series of weeks, met and compiled insights and suggestions to assist those pastors currently leading prayer gatherings, and for those initiating new ones. It is our hope that these suggestions will serve as a tool of reference for those seeking to establish effective prayer gatherings. May we continue to experience the guiding hand of Jesus in our communities, as He inspires and teaches us to pray together!
CONSIDERATIONS FOR EFFECTIVE PRAYER GATHERINGS:
Someone once said, the 3 principles to effective leadership are “communication, communication, communication”! This principle is vital in initiating and sustaining effective, united prayer gatherings.
· Communicating the Purpose:
The purpose of the pastor’s prayer gathering should be clearly stated in the written invitations and restated by the leader at the prayer gathering. The primary purpose of the weekly or Biweekly community prayer gatherings is to:
a) Create a caring community of prayer and mutual support for local pastors and ministry leaders
b) Pray for the transformation of our local communities and city through the
Gospel of Jesus Christ
· Methods of Communication:
Establish an effective system of communication common to the whole group.
This may include telephone reminders, e-mail or written mail.
Someone else said that the 3 keys to effective church planting are ‘location, location, location”!
Determine the location and time for the prayer gathering to be somewhat central to your targeted group. You may decide to hold your prayer gathering at the same central location. From time to time, move the location to various participating churches. If you decide on rotating locations, be sure to communicate clearly regarding this.
Those leading and participating in united prayer gatherings must be sure to prepare themselves for these gatherings. The prayer leader should plan the agenda - sometimes a brief devotional focus (5 minutes or so) is helpful to set the tone.
No one knows how to pray for pastors better than other pastors do. Designate a time to share personal needs and concerns. Avoid using the prayer time for personal counseling. Utilize time after the prayer gathering to do so. Direct a time of prayer for renewal and transformation of the church and pray specifically for revival, revitalization and transformation of our community through the church of Jesus Christ.
ATTITUDES TO FOSTER FOR HEALTHY GATHERINGS:
Out of the discussion on prayer among the leaders, there also emerged some feedback on what attitudes facilitate healthy group settings for prayer.
· Model humility and unity: Come to the prayer gathering with a willingness to listen, learn and contribute to the prayer process. Humility and unity are attitudes that recognize various streams of the Body of Christ. This may be represented in expressions such as emphasis on the sacramental, experiential, Word centered emphasis and those having a passion for practical helps.
· “Selfless Praying”: As we pray for the needs of those present and the needs of the community, be “selfless” in prayer. Humility is the first requirement of 2 Chronicles 7:14, that will lead us to a healed land.
· Learning Leaders: In order to be a good leader, you must also be willing to listen and learn. Each stream of the church of Jesus Christ has something to teach us about prayer that we are privileged to discover through united prayer relationships. We must continue to learn from each other.
· Following the Leader: Because leaders typically lead, it is sometimes difficult for them to follow. It is important for those present to have an attitude of submission and support toward those designated to lead the prayer gathering.
· Flexibility: A proverb comes to mind, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend, and not easily break”, in reference to interacting with different prayer styles. The apostle Paul instructs us to “pray all kinds of prayer”. At recent pastors’ prayer gathering regarding prayer styles, one prominent nationally recognized pastoral leader said, “God is neither deaf nor nervous!” Whether the prayer style is passionately verbal or silent, try not to be distracted by forms and styles different than your own.
OTHER PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS:
The following is a list of guidelines for you to consider as ‘practical tips” to guide you as you lead others:
· Cast a clear vision in the beginning to remind those present why we’ come to pray.
· Provide clear guidelines to address denominational, charismatic/non-charismatic and cultural sensitivities.
· Lift the person and work of Jesus Christ up as a central focus for prayer and unity.
· Reflect diversity in your gatherings as you prepare and lead in prayer.
Cultivate and offer times of silent prayer. Encourage those present to utilize listening as an important part of the prayer time.
· Offering words and/or bible passages, as one senses the Holy Spirit directing, could be offered as one way to encourage and edify those present.
· Be sure to welcome and orient new members to the gathering in a way that they will feel invited to enter into the prayer time with ease.
· Start and end on time, as we seek to respect each other’s schedules.
· Leaders and prayer participants are encouraged to pray from the heart of God as led by the Holy Spirit. Make God the focus of our prayers and not the enemy”.
· Encourage conversational prayer and listen to each other as you pray.
· To inspire faith in your gatherings, plan to have a time where a brief testimony (or testimonies) is shared.
· Pray with humility, using the principle of confession and repentance as a tool for effective prayer.
· Pray for one subject at a time, not allowing one person to go down the list on all subjects.
· Address problems/concerns in the prayer meeting process as they arise. The prayer group is looking to you as the leader for guidance and to keep boundaries.
· Lead with inspiration. A lack of vision and faith from the leader(s) over time will hinder the prayer group.
· Pray conversationally. Avoid being “teachy” or “preachy”. God - not people - is the focus of our prayer.
· Pray in a manner and setting where others can hear. Divide into multiple small groups if necessary. Small groups can also facilitate maximum participation.
· As prayer for each other, the Church and community is the primary focus, avoid using the prayer gatherings to “center-stage” personal ministry events unless approved/directed by the prayer group leaders.
Creating a Climate of Trust:
As an environment of trust is created, those present may decide and/or need to disclose deep personal concerns. Be sure to respect issues related to confidentiality. The leader should reiterate a group commitment to confidentiality. This is important to protect both the individual who shared the need and to protect the integrity of the prayer group as a “safe place” where confidences are to be kept.
Keeping the Prayer Group Healthy:
How do you measure the success of a pastors’ united prayer gathering? This is an important question to ask of any investment of time in ministry activity several pastors and leaders have offered that “success” or “vitality” should be reviewed from time to time.
Where authentic care for one another occurs in prayer gatherings, where passionate prayer for the church and community occur, participation in these gatherings becomes desired and vital rather than merely required and lifeless.
Keys to Keeping Your Prayer Gathering Vital:
· Implement the above-mentioned guidelines offered in this resource.
· Be patient with yourself and with others as we learn to pray together.
· Identify a few people of diverse backgrounds and cultures to review progress, vitality and direction of the group. Listen to constructive feedback. Be willing to adjust content and direction of the prayer time if a stronger and more viable gathering will result.
· Commitments to personal holiness true humility and biblical unity will also serve to keep us vital and will lead us on the road to community transformation.
· Develop an ongoing plan to invite new participants. Schedule a prayer group retreat to deepen these relationships.
· Avoid attitudes and behaviors that would create a spirit of competition among pastors and churches. Gathering should be for “completing” not “competing”!
Guidelines for Worship:
· Incorporate Christ-centered music that focuses on worship, celebration, repentance, intimacy with God and intercession.
· Sing songs to reflect the diversity of the Body of Christ. Specifically, include traditional and contemporary songs representing the churches and ethnic groups present.
· Offer songs that may be widely known or that can be comfortably learned by all.
· As the leader, orient and introduce a freedom of expression in worship and prayer (i.e.: kneeling, hands raised, sitting quietly, etc). No matter what your worship posture, remember, our goal is to draw attention to Jesus, and not us.
· Utilize recorded music or CD’s if you do not have a song leader. Promise Keepers offers a good variety of contemporized hymns.
· Be sensitive to the music volume (not too loud or soft).
· Include song sheets or overheads to facilitate group participation.
· Incorporate songs that lead into or respond to prayers or prayer emphasis.
· Utilize songs appropriate for the group size - for instance some energetic songs work in large groups, but not in small groups.
· Soft instrumental music can be offered to assist in focusing the prayer and worship climate.
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