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Changes in personal, corporate prayer can freshen up church’s prayer ministrycomment (0)

April 9, 2009

By Donna J. Wright

Has your church’s prayer ministry become stale? Has the initial excitement died down and energy dwindled? Does it need revitalization?

A fresh look at this ministry can help your church start again or begin one for the first time, according to Elaine Helms, prayer/spiritual awakening coordinator for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). And your new start might look completely different than what you first had in mind, she said.

“God blesses obedience and not technique,” said Helms during the Great Commission Prayer Conference sponsored jointly by NAMB and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and held Feb. 6–7 at First Baptist Church, Montgomery. “Your prayer ministry may not look like any of the rest. The first step is to seek Him first. Pray for God’s vision.”

Often churches attempt to “re-do” their prayer ministry by simply repeating what they have done in the past. But the culture and community around the church is changing, so those old methods may need to be updated, she explained.

Helms offered these suggestions for a renewed prayer ministry:

• Expand the options.

Prayer ministries oftentimes focus on a location, such as a prayer room at the church, but prayer can take place anywhere, so that allows for more options, Helms said. To increase participation, she suggested expanding the opportunities past the pastor’s prayer partners or those who pray during the services.

“The key is to make the ministry appeal to a wide range of prayer interests and availabilities,” Helms said. “Some will want to focus on missions, others on the lost, still others on health needs. Making the focus too narrow will leave out the passion of some prayer warriors. Any focus that increases prayer is a positive.”

• Keep participants updated.

Promote the ministry so that members know how to get involved and how to share and update their prayer needs and answers to prayer, Helms said. “Prayer rooms are great, but prayer needs lists often can become outdated if follow-up is not made. People are quick to request prayer but often do not call back to report results.”

Keeping request lists updated is something volunteers should do to help prayer ministry participants see how God is answering their prayers, Helms said, adding that e-mail and text messaging can also help keep intercessors informed without having to travel to a central location.

• Consider changing the way corporate prayer is handled.

“Some of the common complaints of corporate prayer time are that people cannot hear each other pray and the prayers are often too long and on a variety of topics,” Helms said. “Prayers in a circle often result in people thinking of what they are going to pray rather than agreeing in prayer with the other intercessors.”

Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that people can join together and focus on the same topic, she said.

“It is hard to admit prayer is boring. But if you can’t hear and someone prays so long that you cannot participate, there is not another word for it,” Helms said. “Popcorn prayers work well because groups of people can pray for the same topic together. They don’t have to wait their turn and prayers are shorter and to the point. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct your prayer.”

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