Pastors, how do you begin a prayer meeting?
In the past I used to put a different prayer focus on each slide of a PowerPoint presentation. This would run throughout the meeting, giving constant direction for prayer, but leaving the meeting itself unstructured. Another model I’ve used is to set a quiet, personal atmosphere in the room by turning the lights on low, turn on some instrumental or intimate worship music.
In each case, those attending were welcome to come and go as they please. There was no opening or closing prayer. One could enter, pray or worship or read their Bible, and quietly walk out the door when finished. Occasionally we might have prayed together, but not regularly.
I have discovered the power of leading the group into prayer. Remember, I’ve led prayer groups for over fifteen years, and I’m no stranger to the prayer meeting. I’ve also seen it done a few ways that I have chosen not to employ in my own ministry. But recently I’ve stumbled on some of the benefits of being the pastor and leading the group in prayer.
We begin by asking if God has spoken to anyone in our prayer meetings. I encourage our people to bring a notepad, reminding them that God speaks to and through them as well as the pastor. I then write down any requests, keeping them in an entry in my own prayer notepad. I personally pray for each and every request, then I pray for our community and our church, before fading off my prayer to allow our attendees to enter their personal prayer time.
I believe the following is happening as a result of asking and praying for requests, and by leading the group in prayer for our community and our church.
1) By taking note of each request and taking the time to pray for every one, people get to see that I genuinely care for their needs and the happenings in their lives and those of their friends and family.
In many prayer meetings we leaders have a tendency to pass on requests to people around a circle or we pray for only a few key requests. At other times we purposely cut asking for requests from our agenda.
By writing down and standing in the place of intercession for each request, we can bind our hearts together for our people. The concerns and burdens they bear become our own, and we help bear one another’s burdens. Not only that, but our people feel that they mean something to us – and they do! What a simple way to communicate that we truly care.
2) As we lead in prayer for our community and our church, we share our heart in front of all in attendance. They get to hear what our hopes and dreams are for those areas. Those things that God has deposited in our hearts are made public to them.
Do you know what comes of doing this? Hearing us pray these hopes and dreams deposits them into the hearts of those listening. We spread the fire within us to them, setting them aflame for the same desires. Suddenly we hear our own prayers echoed back to us through the prayers of our people.
These are two simple but profound truths that grow out of leading in prayer. Bind your heart to the hearts of the sheep in your care by personally praying for their needs. Pray your heart openly and honestly so it spreads into theirs. Build the highway of relationship by leading in prayer.