Inner~View #65: Seasoned Leader on How to Make Prayer the Heartbeat of Your Church

Prayer Leader's Phil Miglioratti interviewed Doug Small on the release of
Prayer: The Heartbeat of the Church.


Phil ~ The release of this new book coincides with a new ministry role in the Church of God. Tell us about what God has you so passionately pursuing...

Doug ~ God backed me into the prayer movement. Years ago, on a phone call about prayer summits with Terry Dirks, now with the Lord, I felt that God clearly whispered to me, “You will do this!” I had no idea what that meant. My involvement with pastors in some 100 prayer summits and now with my denomination, has been more of a blessing to me, than to anyone else. Why the passion? I think I finally figured out the difference between what I was created to be and what I was called to do. For most of my ministerial life, I have pursued what God called me to do – preach, teach, pastor, minister, disciple and train. And I have subordinated what he created me to be and do to my calling. I was created to be with him, to walk and talk with him, to live in unbroken fellowship with him. And that is the essence of prayer. Tragically, I have gone to my creative purpose, to find strength for my calling. The calling is temporal. The creative purpose is eternal. I have had them backwards. And this is not merely a philosophical difference. When you make ministry function and performance the essence of your life – you have just fallen into the cultural trap that plagues our society. When you make pursuing God the center of your life, you enter a transformational dynamic. The Western church is obsessed with doing – the power is not there. It is so hard for us to get this. The power is in being. It is in the return to what we were created to be – walk with God.

Phil ~ Your new book, and the companion 40-Day Devotional Guide, are beneficial for Christ-followers of any denomination ...

Doug ~ Yes, of course. The earlier book, Transforming Your Church into a House of Prayer also has a DVD companion with support materials. It is a book for serious prayer leaders who want a blueprint for a 3-5 year process of bringing prayer to the heart of all they do. This book is more of a primer for a general audience. It begins by answering the simple question, “What is prayer?” It moves forward by addressing – Personal Prayer, Family Prayer, Intercession and Evangelism, the Church at Prayer and finally, Longing for a Great Awakening!

The companion DVD series is recorded in 15-18 minute clips which are meant to be starters for the teacher. In addition, there is a leader’s guide, a resource guide full of wonderful materials that are practical in nature keyed to each chapter. The devotional offers a prayer a day along with suggestions for prayer outreach.

It is designed as a complete package. Some pastors are using the book and the DVDs, then introducing the devotional guides and the resource guide to make this a longer program. It can be used as a church-wide study. We have heard of some churches using this on Sunday mornings, for Sunday School, for a special Sunday evening prayer emphasis or for small groups. In some cases, local church prayer teams are using the materials.

The book is now also available in Spanish.

Phil ~ You write: "Prayer has transformational power. Prayer has resurrection-renewal-restoration power. Prayer is the heartbeat of the Church!"

Doug ~ Prayer does have resurrection – renewal – restoration power because it appeals to the resurrected Christ, enthroned on David’s throne, though in exile, and more importantly, a throne now connected to the divine throne itself. Out of the resurrection and on the basis of the acceptance of Jesus in the heaven’s as both a representative of man, the last Adam, and as the divine Son, the ultimate apostle returned from his mission – the power that raised him from the dead, works in us and through us. It dances on our preaching. Without it, we offer a philosophy, a fanciful story that is devoid of power and quickly shelved along with mythic data.

Phil ~ What can we learn about God's intentions in prayer by examining the first few mentions or occurrences of prayer in Genesis?

Doug ~ Because we see prayer as acquisition, we have tended not to see the encounters between God and Adam as prayer. If we understand prayer to be larger, the communion and communication environment in which encounters and exchanges between God and man take place, then we have a better understanding of prayer. Prayer isn’t talking. It isn’t words, even though it demands words. It isn’t merely a means for requisition. It isn’t a transaction. The potential and promise of prayer as a transaction, rest on and rises out of the power of prayer as a transformational relationship. “You may ask,” Jesus tell us, “if you abide in me.” We plug ourselves into and out of prayer like we do the branches of an artificial Christmas tree. And in our short moments of connection, we make requests. And then we wonder why we don’t get more answers to our prayers.

Here is the astounding, almost contradictory reality. God has designed prayer as the means by which he blesses. “You have not, because you ask not!” And yet, the great blessing of prayer is not is prayers answers. God does answer prayer. In the Biblical record, the majority of prayer requests recorded are answered. But the greater blessing is not in answers – we don’t even know what we should pray for, or how to pray. The greater payoff is in the rewards of praying – and rewards are not the same as answers. Seeking God, not merely things from him, opens us up to the rewards of prayer. Only then, when we have shifted prayers focus from ourselves to God’s will, to wanting to please him, can we be trusted with the rewards he would offer us.

To the point above, if we see prayer as the larger venue in which God comes to man and man encounters God, we have to see Gen. 1 and 2 as prayer. In both the initial interactions between God and Adam, man says nothing. Instead, God takes the initiative. And in Gen. 1, he comes blessing. He is not a God with a tight fist. Prayer is not the means by which we wrestle things from the hand of a resistant God. He comes blessing – and the blessings include the capacity to be fruitful, productive; to be empowered and not live in a victim state; to ‘have’ and not merely ‘to take’ authority, and the greatest blessing of all – the Sabbath, the gift of his rest out of which we will labor, and the privilege of walking with him. In Genesis 2, he comes with boundaries. The boundary is meant to protect the blessing. One boundary, one commandment. Man violates that boundary and forfeits the blessing. Moses gives us not one boundary, but ten. The Law then exponentially multiplies boundaries. Why? The dangers have increased in a world of sin and death. Christ, the last Adam, comes to restore the blessing. He begins his ministry blessing and ends it offering blessing.

The Christian life is not about the acquisition of the things of this world, it is about the pursuit of God, mysteriously, the God who pursues us. When we shift our passion, and our focus comes to rest on Him – not even on building a great work here for his name, which is really often for our names – something radical happens. He can now trust us. Rewards come. Blessings multiply. Now, we will use them for his Kingdom.

Phil ~ What is the difference between (and why is it so vital to be) praying in the Holy Spirit and praying in the name of Jesus?

Doug ~ Praying in the Spirit or with the Spirit is praying with divine enablement. The best praying is when we, standing on the earth’s surface, offer to God in heaven, prayers that are in perfect agreement with the father’s will. This is done when we finally reach the point that we are giving voice to the Spirit, articulating the will of God for our lives, our churches, our cities and nations, for the earth itself. Like a courtroom, God, the Judge of the earth, wants humans, with the residue of Adam’s authority, to declare their desire for new management, to cry out that the hostage state of the planet be ended, that the dark revolution that has enveloped us be over, that a divine intervention be launched from heaven.

Praying in the name of Jesus, gives us access to heaven. We come because Jesus in his perfection, has proved the human race worthy of redemption. Adam sinned, he did not. In his death, he sealed his perfect obedience. In the descent and resurrection, he declared to the grave and all in it his authority over death, and therefore sin’s hold. In his ascension and enthronement, he secured David’s throne and was received into heaven as the Son of God, and as the son of man, of Adam. We come in his name, because in him, all that we lost in Adam is restored – and more. We come in his name because he now has all authority. We come in his name as his bride partner, left in the earth to declare that he is not dead, but alive.

Phil ~ You identify three "Great"s in the New Testament. What are they and how do they flow from the first to the second to the third?

Doug ~ The Great Commission involves the last command of Christ to carry the message, to tell his story, to the ends of the earth, more importantly, to make disciples, to bring men under his Lordship. The real emphasis in the Great Commission is neither in the “going” or the “preaching” and the subsequent conversions. It is rather in the making of disciples. Conversion is a transaction with God! Sadly, that is where we leave people. We have offered salvation as a commodity to be acquired. The Bible offers Christ as a Savior, to be invited into one’s whole life and sphere – that requires discipleship.

The Great Commandment is the heart of where real discipleship should take people – to love God with all their heart, soul and might, and out of the dialectic of that love, to love others. You can’t take people where you aren’t or haven’t been. The Great Commission flows out of the Great Commandment. Only Great Commandment people can be authentic Great Commission people. Anyone can memorize an evangelistic presentation. But the Great Commission can’t be completed with information about Jesus, it can only be completed by people in a transforming relationship with Jesus. We are doing transactional evangelism with pieces of truth. The greater truth is the love of God. It isn’t an idea, it is a person. When lost people feel God’s love, they become open to truth. To say it differently, it is not the proclamation of the gospel that is in view, but the incarnation of the gospel. It is not our love – but his love.

If the completion of the Great Commission requires that we incarnate love and truth, we can’t do that. It is not our love improved, but his love imputed. And that requires a relationship with him – prayer. That is the Great Commitment. Prayer opens the doors for the gospel (Col. 4:2), but it also transforms us the presenters of the gospel. As is often said, “We are the message!” it is incarnational. Transformational.

The more we spend time with God and pray, in that time not merely for ourselves but for others – for kings and leaders and people in authority, therefore, for nations and people movements, for the social condition of our cities, that we might live in peace – and this cosmic praying. Not merely praying for our narrow slice of pain. The more we engage in this kind of Kingdom praying, the more we end up loving the people for whom we pray. Joe Aldrich used to say that you can’t pray for people long without loving them. And it is that love, that changes the texture of the Great Commission. We have been doing Great Commission work outside the spirit of the Great Commandment, and without evidentiary power in and on our own lives, that comes out of the Great Commitment. You have said it often – here is the trilogy of the church’s mission: Prayer, Care, Share.

Phil ~ You declare these four elements are critical to establishing a prayer ministry: At-Home -- Daily Prayer -- The Church @ Prayer -- Identify Intercessors -- Prayer Evangelism ...

Doug ~ I don’t think that mere prayer activities, though noble, at the church are enough. We need to cultivate a spirit of prayer, and live in that spirit. The family altar needs to be restored. Family worship needs to take place. Prayer can’t be a rare thing that our children only see us do in the strange building with the colored windows. It has be natural and normal, laced into our lives, our first response to good things – thanksgiving our first response to challenge – petition and intercession. Children want to pray. It is easier for them, but parents need to take them beyond a “Now I lay me down to sleep …” prayer. One of the most interesting phenomena in the world, is the child intercessor movement. God is calling our children to prayer. We need to join him. So, at-home prayer is critical to any legitimate prayer movement.

Every church needs a church-wide prayer meeting, monthly, if not weekly. No preaching. No teaching, other than incidental moments. A directed, fervent prayer meeting – typically led by the pastor. Prayer can’t be delegated. The pastor has to lead, to model. Here, at this prayer meeting, like going to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness where there was always fire on the altar, here, we catch “prayer fire.” We learn to pray by praying. We listen to veteran saints pray. We see their tears. We come to understand how to weave Scriptural promises into the language of prayer – and yet, this is not about words, phrases or techniques. We catch the spirit of prayer in prayer. And we take that home. Church prayer meetings have succeeded when home prayer fires are burning brightly. Back and forth we move – from church to home, and home to church – all the while praying, living in the Spirit, praying without ceasing.

In addition, to the church-wide prayer meeting, a plethora of small prayer groups need to be started. Groups of 3-5, 8-10. You are not looking for size, but for specific focus – the daughters of lost Mothers, former alcoholics praying for other alcoholics, a group praying for the peace of Jerusalem, fathers of young sons. Any configuration imaginable. These groups come and go. Like any small group, their life cycle is 18-36 months. No one group with a specific focus is large enough for the church. This is not the engine, but a series of pistons. They live, they die. Each of them may feel that their prayer call is the secret to revival in the city. Thank them for their passion. Encourage them.

Overall, the Moravian principle is so important – “No one works unless someone prays!” The church prayer ministry is more transactional in nature. We are unashamedly praying for the hand of God to be on all we do. For his power. His anointing. Behind every worker should be an intercessor. In fact, every worker should be required to recruit a PIT crew – Personal Intercessory Team. I think it was Cheryl Sacks that first coined that acronym. As the Moravians said, “An intercessor for every worker, and every worker any intercessor!”

This requires the identification and mobilization of intercessors. These people have been ignored. We identify elders and deacons, singers and teachers, but we have assumed that prayer and people of prayer will take care of themselves. I don’t see intercession as a spiritual gift. I do feel that certain people are “called to the ministry of intercession” in a special sense. Ultimately, all of us are to be intercessors. God the father, was and is an intercessor. He wondered that there was no intercessor, therefore his own arm brought salvation. Jesus came as an intercessor. The Holy Spirit ever lives to make intercession. We can’t be like God, without being intercessors. And yet, I believe there is often a core of people who graced in this area, called to it. No church will succeed in its prayer ministry without identifying and mobilizing these people, anymore than you could succeed in building a music ministry without the people who sang and played instruments. Here the steps – call them together, identify them. Then offer training. Discover the ones who are teachable. Then, team them – not to prayer together in one place, so much as to agree together in prayer and confer. Direct them. This is a neglected area. Intercessors need to be informed. This means that some need to be taken into confidence to pray with intelligence. Finally, debrief them. Read their night-watchmen reports. Pay attention to their hunches.

By identifying intercessors, you push your prayer process forward – in a major way. Who is already praying at home? Intercessors. Who are the most likely people to support your church-wide prayer endeavor? Intercessors.

If all prayer is internal in focus, then we have only trapped ourselves deeper into our current dilemma of being internally focused churches. Good prayer is at its heart, worship, and at its edge missional. The 4th dimension in a local church prayer process is outward, it is prayer evangelism, prayer for the unreached – next door and abroad. It may involve prayer walks, prayer missions, a prayer wall, prayer treks, vigils, etc.

At home prayer is, or should be transformational, going after the face of God. At church prayer is more often than not transactional. We are doing business with God about his kingdom, his church. We are going after the hand of God. Intercessors are the “seeing” dimension of prayer, here is often found a prophetic interface. God reveals things to intercessors. He talks to them. This informs the prayer and evangelism process (Acts 13). Here are the eyes of God. Then prayer evangelism is going after the world in behalf of God. Here is the heart of God.

Phil ~ I noticed several key statements ...

Doug ~
1. "Prayer is the mark of a Christian" ... Luther said “As a shoemaker makes a shoe and a tailor a coat, a Christian prays.” One of the first notices of Paul after conversion was, “Behold, he prays!” He had prayed as a Jew, but now something was different. Christians pray – it is the identifying distinguishing mark of being in a relationship with God. We talk to him, and he talks to us. I think, sadly, many people have a relationship with the church, are decent people, try to live by Christian ethics, but have no vital relationship with God, through Christ – they are lost in the church.

We need a new reformation. One that replaces the church with Christ in the lives of his followers. Not one that displaces the church altogether, but redefines it.

2. "If God came to town" ... All over the world, God is changing whole cities. Some 600 of them by count now. Some are virtually all Christian. It is happening everywhere but here in the West. What if God came, not to our churches, but what if he decided to take a walk through our cities, like he did in the days of Great Awakenings. We have never seen such a phenomena. Almost 70% of those saved in the Hebrides revival were saved outside of Church. A powerful move of God, one like Acts 2, that brought a reverential fear to the whole city, is what is needed to restore a respect of morality and bring genuine conviction. Unless God comes to our American cities, I see no hope for the nation to continue. We are will experience a revolution, we’ll lose the nation.

3. "Good prayer is prayer over an open Bible" ... The Bible is our prayer book. We have no other basis on which we can make an appeal to God. Who do we think we are that we can ask God – the Almighty – to do things for us? Christian prayer is such an extraordinary privilege, we have no idea how unique it is. What other faith offers such open access to a loving God who offers himself to us as a father? None! But this privilege has perimeters. We have access to God through Jesus, and only through Jesus. We are heirs, through the will of Christ. His will and testament became valid at his death. We can’t ask the court of heaven to give us what is not in the estate, in the will. We are to pray according to his will, that is found in the Word, the New or last Testament. Early in Acts, when the church first tasted persecution, their prayer is recorded for us. That’s strange considering we already have a copy of that prayer. They were praying Psalm 2. I think that is in Scripture, not because God needed to repeat Psalm 2 in the New Testament, but because the Lord wanted us to see that good prayer is rooted in Scripture. The Psalms are essentially a book of prayers. The Bible offers us the best language for prayings.

As a boy, I can remember seeing the men of the small church I grew up in on their knees, with open Bibles, praying scriptures back to God like they were preaching.

4. "His exiled kingdom breaks into our time-space world" ... this was the desire of Jesus, he taught us to pray – “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven. Jesus is our king. Acts 2 declared that he was on David’s throne. His kingdom is in Exile, like a King who has retreated momentarily in the midst of a revolution, but has not abandoned his designs on his homeland. Jesus, the last Adam, is our king. We pray for his return. And in the mean time, we pray for kingdom manifestations to take place, definitive signs of his life, proof to a watching world that he is alive and not dead. This is a part of our call as witnesses. In such moments, the Kingdom comes, though it does not fully come. These flashes of light in the darkness are declarations that he lives. They call men out into the light. They offer them hope of the full-blown coming of Christ.

Phil ~ What would your first few action steps be if you were a prayer leader/praying pastor of a congregation?

Doug ~ Have an envisioning evening. Call people together. Show the harvest video or a segment of one of the Transformation videos. Talk about the prayer process. Dream together. Prayer your dreams. Ask, what would it look like if our church were a praying church? If God came to our city.

Out of that envisioning evening, I would identify a team of leaders who started moving the prayer process forward. Some pastors make a mistake of taking their lead intercessor and appointing them over the ministry of prayer. You need someone with leadership gifts – and also a passion for prayer.

My ideal team would be a potential leader, a trainer-teacher, someone to assist in eventually creating and operating a prayer room or center, someone to work with the intercessors, someone to work specifically on the prayer-evangelism piece.

P. Douglas Small, President
Project Pray, PO Box 1245, Kannapolis, NC 28082-1245
704-938-9111 Office / 704-996-5091 Cell
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