National P astors' P rayer N etwork

 

Connecting Leaders for Prayer and City Transformation
 

Inner~View #042: ReFresh Your Church with Fresh Prayer Ideas & Activities

Phil Miglioratti interviewed Diana Davis



author of Fresh Ideas published by B&H Publishing.

Cover Image

 

Phil ~ Diana, I noticed you included a section on prayer in your new Fresh Ideas book on how to grow a thriving and energetic church. Books on growing churches rarely mention prayer - How did it get onto your radar screen?

 

Diana ~ How could it not be on the radar screen!? I've had the joy of serving alongside my pastor/husband in growing churches for over thirty years. Prayer is the foundation of everything else in the church, and it begins with the leadership. My husband had regular times of prayer with his deacons and/or leadership of the church. Every gathering—from worship to fellowship events—was begun with prayer. Every church plan or decision was wrapped in prayer. We prayed together as a couple for our church.

The results? Each church where Steve pastored grew numerically and spiritually. God answered prayers, and we celebrated His answers. Each church strongly supported missions, both with money and actions. Each one planted new churches and set records in baptisms and evangelistic outreach. These were not merely the result of a great orator or donated dollars or growing communities. They were a direct result of prayers from God's people as they knelt and asked His direction and blessings for His church.

Growing churches must be firmly rooted in prayer.

 

Phil ~ Several ideas in the prayer section relate to a Prayer Chapel...

 

Diana ~ There's probably not a wrong way to have a prayer chapel. Over the years, we served in a small church, a medium size church and a large church. One of the first things we began at each church was a prayer chapel. When we planted a new church, our prayer chapel was scheduled for a few hours each Saturday. At a larger church, we had a 24-hour-a-day prayer chapel, staffed seven days a week with church members praying.

Like anything else, a successful prayer chapel will take a champion—someone in the church who God gives a passion and commitment to make it work.

The purpose? A prayer chapel sets the foundation for the church. When small and large requests and praises are brought before a great God, He hears and answers.

 

What is a Prayer Chapel?

Certainly prayer chapels may be organized in dozens of different manners. Our church's prayer chapel was a simple, quiet room, with a desk, a chair and a kneeling bench. On the desk was a rol-a-dex of long-term prayer requests, a notebook of short-term prayer requests, a church directory, and a page of suggested ways to spend an hour in prayer. Walls held Scripture plaques and missionary maps. An artist in our church created a gorgeous stained glass of praying hands. Stationery was provided for prayer notes. For the 24-hour/7-days prayer chapel, a direct incoming telephone line for prayer requests was well-publicized in our community, so people with needs could call the prayer chapel to simply request prayer. The prayer-warrior who answered the phone would listen to a brief description of the prayer request, then pray aloud with the caller and log the request in the notebook.

Church members would commit to a regular prayer time. For example, you could take Tuesday mornings from 6-7 a.m. You would come every week at that time, praying briefly with the person praying before you, praying individually for an hour, then praying briefly with the person relieving you before leaving. Prayer time is unstructured, leaving each person to pray as they wish. The lists of suggested prayers may help direct prayers. For example, our notebook held a list of all public officials, from the local school board members to the President of the United States. It contained lists of missionaries supported by our church and lists of leaders in our local church.

Logged prayer requests were dated when God answered them. A church directory was available, and a paper clip marked where the last pray-er stopped praying for members.

Some churches offer a larger version of a prayer chapel, complete with areas to direct prayer for specific topics, such as missions, local community requests, church family requests, salvations, etc. Still other churches provide a prayer chapel that is simply open for "drop-in" prayer.

 

Phil: How can a small congregation with no empty rooms create a place for prayer?

 

Diana: In one church where we served, we literally cleaned out a small closet to create a tiny prayer chapel. No more than one person could fit in that place! But it was a powerful place when God's people prayed. Someone hung a pretty stained glass cross on the wall above the tiny desk.

If room for a prayer chapel is not available, a prayer chapel could function in the sanctuary. Set it up exactly as a prayer room, allowing the assigned prayer warrior to kneel or sit on the front pew as he or she prays.

 

Phil: What about a church with a very tight budget?

 

Diana: A prayer chapel will probably not strain your church budget hardly at all. If the electric bill for that room is a problem, perhaps the prayer hours could be scheduled at the same hours as other church activities. The minimal furniture, décor, and supplies are one-time expenses and could be donated. A prayer chapel at one church used a lovely antique bench from its original church building. A prayer chapel will take much more time and effort than money.

 

Phil: Most pastors assume a Prayer Chapel ministry will only attract highly motivated pray-ers. Is that what actually happens?

 

Diana: That's definitely what happens!

But it also attracts brand new Christians.

And young couples.

And teenagers.

And widows.

And singles.

It attracts the lonely, the poor, the rich, the hurting.

A prayer chapel attracts mature, faithful, serving Christians and growing, baby Christians and even inactive church members.

Oh, yes, a prayer chapel will attract highly-motivated pray-ers, (and they will be a great stability)

but those newer Christians and less-mature followers will discover the joy and value and results of prayer.

 

Phil: Many church members assume they need to be able to pray for an hour in order to participate- Is that true?

 

Diana: Your church will design the prayer chapel uniquely as God leads. In our church's prayer chapel, prayer warriors were asked to commit to be in the prayer room for one hour each week. Many tools were available to help remind them of prayer needs, but each person spent their prayer time as they pleased. We used a rolladex for prayer requests and answered prayers. We provided cards and envelopes for pray-ers to write notes to remind those on the prayer list of their prayers. Maps on the walls showed visually where our missionaries served, as a prayer reminder. There were prayer scriptures and prayer songs and prayer suggestions. They could use all of those or none of those.

First-time pray-ers are amazed at how quickly an hour passes when time is spent in prayer with God.

 

Phil ~ One of the creative ideas you propose is a prayer labyrinth - This is a new method to many. How does it work? Is it scriptural?

 

Diana - A prayer labyrinth is simply a room or series of rooms set up for focused prayer. Our prayer labyrinth was set up almost like the prayer chapel, but with two exceptions. It had distinct prayer stations to encourage specific prayer, and it was for a short-term, targeted prayer time. It was a come-and-go atmosphere, where people could stop by and pray for a few minutes or hours. It could be done in conjunction with a special need or crisis, or for a national day of prayer, etc. It could be planned for a youth Bible class or a whole church.

The purpose is to encourage God's people to pray intentionally. One area might have a church directory, with instructions for the pray-er to pray for each church member and mark the name where they stopped praying. Another station could have a Bible opened to a Scripture about prayer. Another could list missionaries supported by our church, with a challenge for the prayer to pray for that nation and that work. A praise area could provide an artistic area where pray-ers could list names of God and praises to Him. There could be a kneeling bench, an area for confession, intercession, thanksgiving, adoration. For example, one prayer room used computer images of missionaries for the area where pray-ers were invited to pray for the nations. A note beside a simple rocking chair next to an exterior window invited them to look out at God's creations outside and praise Him. Lighting and music can enhance the atmosphere.

One church's prayer labyrinth was very artsy – with opportunities to draw praises and list prayer requests and kneel before a "throne," symbolic of God's presence. If the purpose of the prayer labyrinth was to pray for a specific thing, such as a revival, stations could be planned where people would list lost people they were praying for, pray for the speaker, pray for specific results, etc.

Because the entire purpose is to call God's people to pray specifically, your church's prayer labyrinth should be designed to fit the people who worship there.

Scriptural? God instructs us to pray. I suppose if we wanted to get really scriptural, we could add a place to lay prone on the ground to pray to Him! (Mt 26:39, Deu 9:25)

 

Phil ~ You integrate prayer into other sections. Talk about how prayer can be integrated into: community outreach, blogging, revivals, children/youth/schools, citizenship, church anniversary and fellowship.

 

Diana ~ You name the topic in church life, and prayer must be involved!

 

Community Outreach. In Indiana, our state convention has challenged every Baptist church to prayer-walk every street in their cities, with the intention of sharing Jesus with each person in each house within the next five years. By mapping their community, and intentionally prayer-walking (or prayer-driving or prayer-biking!), a church can bathe its community in prayer.

 

Blogging. If church leadership blog, that can be a great place to remind church members of prayer needs. A pastor or church leader can call readers to prayer about specific events. Because a blog is very public, care must be taken, of course, to use discretion about personal requests.

 

Revivals. Consider planning a 24-hour prayer on the day before revival begins, inviting church members to sign up for half-hour time-slots and providing a list of specific prayers.

Would your church members commit to meet for a one-hour prayer time at a home in their area of their town? Section off a map, recruit a home in each section of town who will allow their home to be used for prayer, and ask church members to sign their name on that section of the map to commit to come for that one-hour of sincere prayer for God to bring revival. Pastor Bill Bailey (Parkside Baptist, Columbus IN) challenges every church member to commit to pray for three lost friends for six weeks before a revival, then to do whatever it takes to bring them to a revival service. Those prayers are often answered, as those members take their friend out for dinner and then bring them to revival services to hear about God.

 

Children - Youth – Schools

God hears the prayers of his children and youth! One pastor regularly asks the children in his church to pray for him. Those children understand the importance of their prayers to God.

Some prayer warriors in our church occasionally brought their children to their prayer hour, modeling and including them in prayer.

One mother at our church brought her children to the church building every Saturday, and together they walked through the hallways praying aloud for those who would gather for Bible study on Sunday. They would pray in the sanctuary for Sunday's worship service and for the lost who would attend. And then they would go out for hamburgers! A brief, but very impactful Saturday tradition gave those children a heart for prayer.

Challenge teens and their leaders to meet the weekend before school begins and prayer-walk their school parking lot. Encourage teens to participate in your church's prayer chapel.

We once delivered a very nice basket of homemade treats to the local school's teacher's breakroom on the first day of school. Attached to the top of the basket was a card stating, "Members at First Baptist Church are praying for you today." I later learned that they used that basket for the entire year to hold snacks, complete with the prayer note!

We also planned an annual prayer event on the first day of school, advertising and inviting all women in the community to drop off their children and join us for a brief time of prayer for the children and school faculty as they begin their new year. It was always a great success!

 

Citizenship. Our church prayed for policemen for decades. We called it "Shield a Badge with Prayer" and I believe that program is actually written up through North American Mission Board. Individual church members committed to pray for a specific policeman (or fireman) for an entire year, and they send occasional notes to remind the officer of their prayers. The police department hung a plaque over a break room door to remind officers that our church members were praying for them.

I know several churches who challenge their church members to pray every Friday when they hear their city's siren testing. They simply use that weekly reminder as a time for all the church members across the town to pray for their town.

 

Church Anniversaries: The culmination of any major church celebration can be prayer. For example, for a ground-breaking, use base-line chalk to outline the walls of the new church building, and invite everyone to stand around those lines for prayer. For a church anniversary, invite all former ministers who attend to stand together, join hands, and pray for the church. Or invite every guest at the anniversary to write a brief prayer, and bind those prayers for the church library as a reminder of their prayers to God.

 

Fellowship. Here's an example: At our church's women's ministry, we assigned prayer partners each year. During fellowship time each week, women made a point to casually visit with their prayer partner. Friendships developed, and those women prayed faithfully for one another. Nothing enhances fellowship like praying for one another!

Another example: I served for a few years in our church's young single adult Sunday School. They planned numerous times of fellowship together—sometimes every day of the week! They would form a co-ed softball team for the community league. They'd bowl and picnic and go to ball games and hang out at the coffee shop together. And, though the total purpose of those types of events was fellowship, they faithfully began or ended each gathering with prayer. That simple prayer impacted many young adults, demonstrating to newcomers that God is real, and setting the pace for a God-honoring, Christian-friendship-building event.

 

Phil ~ How can a pastor or prayer leader begin to think creatively that results in prayer being integrated in all the ministries of their congregation?

 

Diana ~ The best creative ideas come from a team who loves the topic. Gather a small team of age-varied church members, and brainstorm how prayer could be used during worship or how to incorporate prayer into major events and decisions or weekly church plans. Team members could read books about people of prayer and churches of prayer. Challenge that team to find ways to integrate prayer at their church. For example, a church who is seeking a new pastor could call its members to weekly prayer at a specific time. Consider a prayer retreat…a prayer room…a prayer chain…a prayer relay…a children's prayer event… That brainstorming team will give you more ideas than I could!

In our women's ministry, our leadership team had an annual "marathon planning meeting." (See my new book, Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry). That very important meeting began with a time for those leaders to pray together. That season of prayer set the spiritual priority for the entire year's planning.

 

Phil ~ Diana, please write a prayer for church leadership ready to increase the impact of prayer upon their ministry and throughout their community.

 

Diana ~ Father, we adore you and praise you. We thank you for your blessings in our lives and in our churches. I pray for church leaders across our nation and our world, asking your wisdom and guidance and strength for their task. Lord, give your church leaders joy as they serve you and lead your children. Give them a great desire to call your people to prayer. Remind them of your generous invitation to spend time with you, praising your name and bringing all our needs and concerns to your feet. Amen

 

Diana Davis writes a regular "Fresh Ideas" column for the Illinois Baptist. She is author of Fresh Ideas--1000 Ways to Grow a Thriving and Energetic Church (B&H '07) and Fresh Ideas for Women's Ministry (B&H '08). Her husband, Steve, is executive director for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.



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