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Watchman Prayer Ministry spurs ‘growth’ in churchescomment (0)

June 7, 2007

By Cheryl Sloan Wray

Imagine knowing that someone is praying about your concerns throughout the day and even while you lie in bed asleep.

This scenario is typical at Ridgecrest Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, where members are involved in a Watchman Prayer Ministry based on Isaiah 62:6–7. The prayer ministry organizes church members to pray at different times throughout the day, allowing a church to have a prayer warrior, or "watchman," standing on a symbolic "wall" of prayer at any time.

Founded in 1992 by Larry Thompson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and former pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church, Mobile, the ministry currently operates in more than 2,000 churches across the nation.

Ridgecrest Baptist adopted it in 1994 in an effort to give a more concerted effort to prayer in the church. Following a lay renewal weekend at the church, small groups were given the task of praying for how various ministries might work better. One group suggested the Watchman prayer ministry.

According to Pastor Jim Headley, the idea behind the ministry is a powerful one.

"It is a ministry where people sign up to pray for one specific hour a week for a period of one year," he said. "[The] idea is to have at least one person praying each hour of the week so that our nation and church is prayed for continually."

A week is made up of 168 hours, so if a church fills each of its hour slots in a week, then it completes one prayer wall. Some churches may choose not to have someone praying literally every hour, but they would still work to have 168 people praying for an hour each week. A church can have as many walls as it would like, but that decision is often based on the church’s size.

Ridgecrest mans one wall and calls its ministry the Hour of Power. Headley said a varying number of people are involved in prayers from 5 a.m. until midnight each day.

At times, the church has opened a second wall, with as many as 200 people signed up to pray.

Cottage Hill Baptist Church, Mobile, in Mobile Baptist Association operates four walls with people praying around the clock. For one of the walls, volunteers man a church prayer room that receives prayer requests by phone.

All church members are encouraged to be watchmen, and couples, families, singles, teenagers, college students and the homebound are involved in the ministry.

"A watchman is a prayer warrior answering God’s call to commit to pray for our Jerusalem — that is, Cottage Hill Baptist Church, staff and ministries and the Mobile area," said Jim Robinson, associate pastor of preschool ministry.

Each watchman prays for a designated hour each week and then calls the watchman after him or her to pass along the watch.

Robinson organized the Watchman ministry in 2004 at the request of Pastor Keith Thomas.

"God is wonderfully blessing Cottage Hill," Robinson added. "We, the staff, believe that the results we are experiencing — salvations, baptisms, Bible study attendance, etc. — are directly related to God’s people faithfully kneeling before God and interceding for their church and staff."

At Valley View Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Association, there are currently 140 hours filled with watchmen.

"The ministry (which began in 1994) is very powerful and has really impacted our church," said Brett Burleson, Valley View Baptist’s pastor of spiritual maturity who oversees the program.

Operating such a substantial ministry can be challenging, especially for smaller churches, but Headley said organization is the key.

One major task is determining and implementing a way for church members and others to share their prayer requests.

"We provide space for prayer requests on our guest/member cards that are placed in our weekly worship guides on Sunday morning," Headley said. "We also provide the opportunity for people to share their requests on our church Web site or by calling our church office."

The Watchman ministry at First Baptist Church, Scottsboro, in Tennessee River Baptist Association is in the sign-up phase with plans to kick off June 1. And Keith Burnette, worship pastor at First, Scottsboro, is already confident because he has seen the ministry work in two of his previous churches. He noted that the schedule provides both a flexible atmosphere for prayer and strict accountability.

"The beauty of it is that [the watchmen] are tied to the hour, not to the place. They can pray on the road, while they are out of town, at home or wherever," Burnette said. "But there is a built in connection of accountability, too. You get a call and you make a call."

Still another consideration is providing watchmen with guidance and up-to-date information.

At Cottage Hill, folders with instructions and prayer ideas are given to each volunteer. A prayer alert is published monthly and mailed to the volunteers with the specific prayer requests from the pastors and ministry leaders of the church.

At Ridgecrest, weekly updates of prayer requests are available to all church members.

Headley said this ministry has been the "catalyst that has resulted in the growth of our church, both spiritually and numerically."

"The ministry has involved so many more of our people in specific ministries, brought revival to our people and sustained our church through some very trying and difficult times," he said. "We have seen people come to Christ as a direct result of this ministry, and it has developed in our people a tremendous love for God and each other."

For information on starting a Watchman ministry, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org, click on the LifeWay link and search for keyword "Watchman."

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