Read an Excerpt
My House Shall Be a House of Prayer
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2001 Pray!
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePower House How Prayer Can Saturate the Life of Your Church By Glen Martin and Dian Ginter
The year is 1971. Belmont Church of Nashville, Tennessee, is dying. It has about 60 members, no pastor, and is located in a transitional neighborhood. By all church growth principles, it is doomed. There is much talk about closing down. The situation seems hopeless, but God has other plans.
He brings to the church Pastor Don Finto, a man of vision for renewal, a man open to prayer. Because Finto transferred from a local Nashville church, the small group of about 12 who had been meeting with him regularly decided to transfer with him to Belmont. Prayer becomes the undergirding for everything at Belmont. This foundation, along with a close adherence to the Word and listening to the Spirit's direction, is credited for the 3,500 who worship there today.
Prayer saturates Belmont. Every weekday, members gather there at 5 a.m. to pray for one hour (or more) for personal and church concerns. Staff and leaders pray together weekly. The church offers a variety of other prayer opportunities: prayer cells, a weekly intercession group for children, women who pray for their families and husbands, a group that intercedes for Israel, prayer during Sunday school and church services, and missions prayer groups, to name just a few.
The church frequently calls special prayer meetings forspecific causes and concerns in the congregation. It teaches often on the subject of prayer, including an annual prayer conference with an outside speaker.
Belmont has needed persistence to resist the enemy's attempts to discourage them from prayer; but the rewards have been many as they have pushed through the roadblocks.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church
A quarter of a million dollars in debt and only eight members! In 1979, this is what Terry Teykl faced when he accepted the pastoral call to the newly planted Aldersgate United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas. Not the ideal scenario for building a congregation into the more than 1,000 that attended weekly by 1993. Teykl confesses, "It was out of desperation that I first began to be really serious about prayer."
From that beginning, the Lord positioned prayer at the heart of the church. Like Belmont, it offers many places and ways for its people to be involved in prayer. Aldersgate also offers prayer at the altar for those who come forward at every service; prayer cover for the staff; a prayer room in which members commit to an hour a week to pray for the church, their schools, government, etc.; a monthly updated prayer list of members and visitors; "Aaronites," who have covenanted to pray one hour a day after being trained by the pastor; weekend prayer vigils; prayer seminars; and prayer that the city will be taken back for God. These prayer opportunities did not come into existence overnight. But, through the years, they have expanded beyond the "basics" of praying for the survival of the church and the needs of its members to praying for what lies outside its doors as well.
Teykl sums up their success: "We've learned what Jesus meant when He said, 'My Father's house shall be a house of prayer.' As we've organized prayer, the Holy Spirit has blessed our church in more ways than we can number; but especially, people have come to Christ and lives have been transformed. Any difficulties or setbacks in mobilizing the church to pray are well worth it to see the Holy Spirit bring people to Christ. For the sake of the kingdom of God, churches need to be on this cutting edge of praying the price."
Belmont and Aldersgate are not isolated examples. Similar accounts are being heard across the United States-accounts of churches that have placed prayer strategically at the heart of their ministry, with significant, even overwhelming, impact.
A powerful house of prayer is a church that understands that prayer acts as an oil upon it. Prayer will maximize all of its ministries; it will maintain a smooth-running operation. Prayer acts as a shield against the enemy's attacks on ministries and relationships.
There is a distinct difference between a church that has a prayer ministry and a church that is a house of prayer. A prayer ministry involves only a portion of the congregation-usually those with the greatest burden for prayer. This ministry may take the form of missionary prayer circles, an open Wednesday night prayer meeting, men's/women's/youth's prayer meetings, a prayer room, an intercessory team, prayer ministry before/during/after the church service, or a prayer chain. In such cases, prayer will be done by some but not all of the membership. It will be one of the important ministries of the church, like evangelism or choir.
While a prayer ministry is not a house of prayer, it is nevertheless important, because it can lay the foundation for becoming a house of prayer. Once a church acknowledges the strategic importance of prayer as a ministry, God can build on that to bring it to the next level.
In a powerful house of prayer, prayer will be foundational to and saturate every aspect of its individual and corporate life. Significant prayer will be top priority at every gathering, whatever its purpose. Prayer will be taught from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, and in small groups. People will go to prayer first when they face a problem. Every member of the congregation will be involved to some degree.
Mindset is important. A church may have a prayer ministry, but a mentality that prevents it from taking the next step. In the ideal scenario, a church will first develop a strategic prayer ministry as a necessary and appropriate step. Then, when everyone is being encouraged to participate in one form or another, the church is on its way toward becoming a powerful house of prayer.
House of Prayer Characteristics
There are nine elements common to churches that are houses of prayer.
1. Prayer is visible from the pulpit. The church believes in prayer as a change agent and reaffirms it as a solution every Sunday. Preaching in the church will show how prayer is a vital attribute of biblical character and shines the way through personal struggles and trials. Writing to Timothy about essential leadership qualities, Paul says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone" (1 Tim. 2:1, emphasis added).
Prayer will be a key, not a suggestion at the end of a sermon. The congregation will appreciate the importance of prayer in everything they do because they've heard repeatedly how it has been an integral part of the lives of Jesus, biblical characters, and their pastor.
2. Prayer saturates every aspect of the service. Members have prayed throughout the week for the Sunday services and activities; several pray with the pastor before he speaks, and they pray during the service; people are available after the service to pray with anyone who desires it.
3. The leadership is committed to prayer. The leadership, staff, and key lay leaders have a burden for prayer and sense of expectancy from it. They are convinced of its effectiveness. It is a way of life for them, and they devote significant periods of time to developing it in their personal lives.
4. Prayer is an agenda item. Every group meeting-from leadership meetings and Sunday school classes to the least important board or committee meeting-will spend time praying. In addition to significant prayer at the beginning of meetings, they will stop and seek the Lord's face for wisdom, guidance, and oneness of mind when difficulties arise.
5. Prayer is part of Christian education. Periodically, Sunday school classes and/or small groups will do teaching series on prayer (in addition to their regular prayer commitments). They'll make learning about prayer a priority and they'll strive to make it meaningful for all.
6. The pastor has a strong prayer covering. Church leadership will receive unfailing prayer support for several reasons. First, leaders are prime targets for attack. Satan seems to watch for the best time-often landing blows right after a significant victory or when the leader is tired. Second, even the most godly leaders have weaknesses and cannot win the battle alone. Third, the people need to see and imitate leaders praying and being prayed for.
Prayer teams should pray daily for the pastor; for and during both morning and evening worship services; for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual life of their shepherd and his family; for protection over him, his family, possessions, and reputation.
7. Prayer is the first step, not the last resort. Groups of people pray spontaneously together about problems and interests. Prayer is always the first step in finding a solution. Thus, prayers are available after services for those who have specific needs. A prayer room may be designated for those who desire confidentiality or need a longer prayer time.
8. Intercession is an integral part of the church life. A variety of times and places are available for people to gather for prayer-in the early morning, during lunch, or after work; at church, in homes, or at a restaurant over a meal; at a business, or with other business people in the area. A strong and efficient prayer chain is in place to serve the congregation's emergency needs, as well as a mechanism whereby people can share the answers to those requests. Prayer looks not only inward at the church, but will be a dynamic, powerful, and tangible means of influencing the city, state, government, and world.
9. The church has a recognized prayer leader other than the senior pastor. As a church becomes excited about prayer and its developing prayer skills, it will seek more direction. A director of prayer (either paid staff or lay leader) will develop ministries and annual seminars that impact the local body and create a greater sense of awareness of the need for prayer. The church that is increasing its outreach to the community will most likely have a prayer director that is paid staff.
It is no simple task to become a powerful house of prayer. Satan will fight every step of the way. If prayer is going to pervade the church of the 21st century and communicate the gospel to our world, however, innovation and perseverance must be employed. Jesus spoke of the gospel as "new wine" that could not be contained in "old wineskins." So break the traditional mold for prayer in your church. Get "radical" and aim precisely at what our Lord has set before us. Strive to become a powerful house of prayer that brings God's people into alignment with His principles and spreads the truth for His glory.
Excerpted from My House Shall Be a House of Prayer Copyright © 2001 by Pray!. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.