Prayer Leader Interviewed Lowell Snow
Prayer Guide: A Manual for Leading Prayer
Lowell, in your
manual for leading prayer, you write "the purpose of this book is to help others
talk with God" ... Who did you have in mind?
Every follower of Christ eventually leads prayer. My Prayer Guide book starts with the prayer basics that a soccer mom might need to lead a prayer on the sideline before the game and concludes with leading congregational prayer in the heart of a worship service. Between those extremes are chapters on many prayer leadership opportunities from leading a Bible study class prayer time to praying for someone who's experienced a tragedy.
I've asked many pastors if they had training in leading corporate prayer while earning their college and seminary degrees. Very few have. This lack of training has filtered down through the laity to the point that most churches don't have anyone who's proficient in this important skill. That's why most group prayer is just an extension of monologue prayer, what I call spiritual speeches aimed in God's direction. That's all folks know how to do.
For many, just a casual reading of this book will open doors of understanding simply because it's the first training they've ever head. For those who are ambitious to lead life-changing group encounters with the Almighty, a thorough study will introduce them to group prayer possibilities they've never realized.
You identify three distinct stages of corporate prayer. What are they and why are they each strategic to prayer leaders?
Virtually every aspect of the Christian life is a pilgrimage. Our pilgrimage of public prayer should progress through three distinct stages of ability: saying, leading, and guiding.
Saying a first public prayer can be one of the most frightening experiences of the Christian life. For some, it rates right up there with witnessing. The insights and practical guidance found in the early chapters of the Prayer Guide book will calm these fears. More importantly, the novice prayer leader will learn to become a channel of God's grace into any situation.
Leading group prayer is the next part of the journey. This may be as private as leading bedtime prayers or as public as a large Bible class praying over a list of requests. With some of the greatest prayer promises being directed at those who pray together in harmony, we should consider this skill central to spiritual life and health.
Becoming a prayer guide is the final and most productive segment of the pilgrimage, but one that many never achieve because they don't realize it exists. Whereas in the previous step, the prayer leader is a kind of prayer administrator, the prayer guide is more of a facilitator. He or she stays in the background, prompting and encouraging as the entire group communes with the Heavenly Father.
Think of it like this. A leader could take a group of healthy people up a path to the summit of a 10,000 ft. mountain. Because the leader is walking ahead, the only requirement of the group is to walk and follow. They may enjoy the view, but won't experience true mountain climbing. To take the same group to the top of a 20,000 ft. mountain would require a guide who was willing to come along side them and actually teach them the skill of mountain climbing.
The first chapter of the Prayer Guide book points out that a conversational relationship with God is the high mountain that the Heavenly Father is determined that we all will climb. To bring a group of people into that kind of life changing prayer encounter is not the work of a novice. For prayer warriors who are ambitious for life-changing group prayer; the way of the Prayer Guide should be their goal.
Play the 1-2-3 game with me;
1. What is the one most difficult barrier prayer leaders face?
In my situation, the greatest barrier is the unconscious belief by most that they already know everything they need to know about prayer. Prayer is talking to God; what else could I need to know?
When I begin a prayer conference, the people are usually expecting me to beat them over the head with my Bible and admonish them for not praying enough or hard enough. When I take them in an entirely different direction, their eyes start to light up and they begin to feel a fresh wind blowing.
I'll never forget a worship leader at one of my first prayer conferences. It was a large contemporary congregation and he was very gifted in leading exciting, powerful, praise. He had been very cooperative and the Sunday services had been really great, but I could tell he wasn't getting it. It was like he wasn't really listening.
On Monday afternoon as I taught the staff about the House of Prayer, he dutifully took notes near the head of the conference table. I'll never forget the moment when the light came on. He spoke without looking up from his notes. He had laid down his pen and was sitting straight up on the edge of his chair, both hands on the edge of the table, starring at the notepad as if peering into the eyes of a newborn baby. "This is a paradigm shift in our understanding of prayer in worship. This isn't what we ever done before."
2. Identify two of the most effective methods prayer leaders should be proficient at.
Two methods I use constantly are Scriptural meditation and prayer by suggestion. They are simple and effective, but seem to be new to most prayer leaders.
Scriptural meditation is simply asking the group to listen to a scripture after they bow their heads. I use short verses that are easy to understand and I usually read them two or three times, putting different inflection on the words each time. The purpose is to focus their attention on the things of God.
Prayer by suggestion is deffinantly a new concept for most. The method here is to guide the group in silent prayers by making suggestions out loud. I usually suggest praise and thanksgiving first, then confession, petition, and supplication in that order. This gets the whole group praying, not just those who are comfortable praying out loud. It also allows folks to talk with the Lord about things they wouldn't pray about publicly.
On my web site, www.leadingprayer.com, I have an audio recording which includes both of these types of prayer.
3. Describe three skills that are essential for guiding group prayer
An effective prayer leader has a conversational relationship with God, understands his role as a New Testament Priest, and is prepared.
Leading prayer has more to do with the spiritual life of the leader than the leader's mastery of any methods or techniques. Being a prayer warrior begins in the closet at home, not the prayer chapel at the church. We learn everything we need to 'know' about God from scripture, but we can't 'know' Him without prayer. A prayer leader will have a hard time guiding a group into the presence of God if he's not a frequent guest in the throne room himself.
The moment Jesus died on the cross; the Heavenly Father ripped open the veil separating the Holy of Holies. That means every follower of Christ has an audience with God which makes us New Testament priests. We should revel in this opportunity to not only pray for the needs of others, but also guide them into the presence of our Abba Father.
There was a time in my life when it offended me if people who weren't living for Christ asked me to pray about their problems. I felt that they should get their lives right with God so they could pray for themselves. I was being a modern Pharisee instead a channel of the Father's grace.
Anything that's worth doing is worth doing well and anything worth doing well requires preparation. Prayer is no exception. Whether it's two weeks of preparation for a cottage prayer meeting or two seconds of preparation before the offertory prayer; the prayer leader needs to prepare their heart and mind before entering the presence of God.
I teach folks to imagine themselves in the throne room of heaven, on their knees, with their group gathered around them. Then they need to ask themselves, "Why am I here?" That's why am I here in the throne room of God, not why am I here in this committee meeting or worship service.
What wisdom can you share with:
-A pastor who wants to saturate his/her church with corporate prayer...
Your congregation wants to talk with God, but they don't want to be bored and most of them don't want to pray out loud. The Barna research group found in a national survey that congregants rate prayer at the top of the list of what they want in worship. Prepare for your Sunday morning prayer time as diligently as you prepare your sermon. Be creative. Dare to be different. Get a vision of the throne room and guide your people to it. In one of the last chapters of the book, I point out that:
* There's nothing nearer to the heart of God than His people's prayers
* There's nothing more worshipful than God's people praying
* There's no better time to unleash the power of prayer than during worship
Look at last Sunday's order of worship and evaluate what importance you gave to prayer. Was there an effective prayer time at the heart of worship or was it used as book end for other things.
If you'll bring effective congregational prayer to the heart of your worship, it will begin to filter into all aspects of church life, which brings me to a second point. Realize that your people need to be trained in effective prayer leadership. I'm sorry to be self serving, but I really believe God gave me the book, Prayer Guide – A Manual for Leading Prayer, to help you accomplish this. Go to my web site, www.leadingprayer.com, and look at the 'Contents' page of the book. You'll see that it's set up for a five week study and even has study questions at the end of each chapter.
-A prayer coordinator who has more responsibility than authority to lead...
Dear fellow servant of Christ,
Just because your pastor doesn't know you exist, doesn't mean your Heavenly Father doesn't. I'm very aware that many, if not most, prayer coordinators are under… well under-everything: under funded, under equipped, under appreciated, and under acknowledged.
However, focusing on that temporal reality only leads to frustration, depression, and doubt. You will do well to meditate on Christ's parable of the talents. The key is faithfulness with the talent He has placed in your hand, not what you could do if He had given you more authority.
Focus on people's needs. Be an under-shepherd to your prayer team. Do your job well and keep getting better. Pay attention to details. Look for opportunities to fellowship with positive prayer coordinators even if it's only online. Stay away from whiners.
Be an information provider. If you see something that would be really helpful to your pastor; clip it, highlight it, and see that it gets to his desk. Don't hand it to him in the hall. Do the same for the Worship Leader, Bible study leaders, etc.
Do what counts and forget the flashy stuff. It's infinitely more important that a prayer ministry puts their heads together and prays, then sends a cheep hand written card to that person in need, than it is to do it in a $100,000 prayer chapel.
-An intercessor who has neither authority or responsibility...
Dear prayer warrior,
Prayer is about needs. Focus on people and their needs. Connect with them in any way that's appropriate. If possible, send them a postcard letting them know how you're praying for them. If you have opportunity, put your hand on their shoulder and tell them that you're praying for them and ask if there's anything specific they would like you to pray for.
Faith counts with God. Believe big. Don't be afraid to pray bigger than your faith. That's how your faith grows and how you get to know God better.
Agreement counts with God too. For the really tough stuff, scripture tells us to pray in agreement with another follower of Christ. Talk with this person, read scripture together, and learn to pray conversationally; that is, pray short prayers back and forth about one subject at a time.
If you have a spiritual gift for intercession, don't let anything get in your way. Continue to be a channel of God's grace and power no matter what goes on around you. Get a vision of the spiritual war that attends your prayer life and go to the front lines.
Lowell, please write a prayer for prayer leaders that will encourage them to move ahead with diligence and determination...
Dear Heavenly Father,
I rejoice in Your willingness to welcome us into Your presence. Your grace and patience toward us continually amazes me. You are so wise, so holy, so strong.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust." (Ps 91:2 NKJV)
I want to pray today for those who've taken on the mantle of prayer leadership. They're Your priests of grace in this rebellious and often cruel world. Some of them are beaten down and discouraged today. I pray that you might grant them a portion of your wisdom and strength.
I pray that they might have your wisdom to see through the haze of this world to the clarity of Your kingdom. May they be able to separate temporal from eternal. I pray that they might have strength to step on their discouragements as stepping stones to perseverance and patience. May our prayer bring glory to Jesus name, Amen.