Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
Paul, you serve as Prayer Pastor of Central Christian Church in metro Phoenix.
How is a Prayer Pastor different from a Prayer Coordinator or Director? And what is it about the vision of CCC that so highly values prayer?
There is very little difference between a Prayer Pastor and a Prayer Director/Coordinator really, except that I have the privilege of leading prayer full-time. This slight difference I hope will be encouraging for all who read the book, because anyone can lead prayer who has the right heart and is willing to invest the time.
Years ago our elders decided to put Central Christian Church’s core values into writing. They worked on them for months and finally landed on five. They were ready to publish these values when one of the elders noticed, “Hey, we don’t have anything in here about prayer.” To their credit, they decided then and there to make prayer one of our core values. They expressed the value this way: “Prayer. As a community of believers, we seek God’s guidance and direction through prayer in all that we do as a church an in all aspects of our daily lives.”
I am most proud of our elders not for deciding to have a core value on prayer, but for realizing that simply having a core value, by itself, does not necessarily translate into a strong church of prayer. They were prepared for the work it was going to take to make this value become real. Don’t get me wrong, Prayer was already going on, but they believed there was room for improvement.
What I love about this church most is its honesty. They knew prayer was important, and they were willing to make the investments of time and study that were necessary. They even hired me to help bring this core value to life. Instead of merely glancing in the direction of prayer, they took serious steps to encourage growth in this area of the church.
What prompted you to write Threshold? And is this a book for prayer leaders only?
I have had a great burden for the American church. We have all but lost prayer. The average American prays 32 seconds a day. The smallest meetings in any church are the prayer meetings. So, I wrote this book as an offering to God. It was my hope that the book might prompt two things:
1) To inspire people to pray. Americans want to pray, but some feel uncomfortable with it. My role has been to walk with them through the process of learning to pray. I think of Rick, who is very bright. We became friends, and I invited him to join me in the prayer room. He had all kinds of excuses at first, but finally, he joined me. It took some time, but today he leads prayer on one of our campuses. When asked, he often answers something like this, “I never dreamed that I would enjoy prayer as much as I do, and I know there are lots of other people out there who need a book like this to help them get more comfortable with prayer.”
2) Since I am one of the few prayer pastors in America, I get calls and e-mails asking me to help a church or prayer leader with something about which we have learned the hard way in prayer ministry. Questions like,
• How do I start a prayer ministry?
• How can I establish service intercession at our church?
• How do you handle spiritual warfare issues? or,
• What should I do about praying for special events?
After answering these questions over and over, it became apparent that writing a manual might be helpful.
So, to answer your question directly, the book is for both individuals and prayer leaders. I would say the book is one third inspiration and two thirds how-to and methodology.
What does the subtitle, Transformational Prayer; Transformational Prayer Leadership, tell us about the vision and message of your book?
I am one of those people you can’t tell anything to. So, when I graduated from Bible College, I decided to do some experimentation to see if prayer really worked. For 30 days, I did not pray about anything. Then, for the next 30 days, I covered everything in my ministry with pre-operational prayer. I was testing the difference between prayer- backed ministry and life, and personality-backed ministry and life. What I determined in that experiment is that prayer-backed ministry and life is 10 times more effective than personality-backed ministry and life. I realize that this is subjective, but it started me down the road of recording my prayers. And for five full years, I recorded all my major prayers and watched God move. It was astounding. At the end of the five years, I had hundreds of answered prayer that no one knew anything about except God and me. I saw his orchestration in my life, and He was actually moving in my life. Recording my prayers gave me a chance to say “Thank You” for the things He was doing, and it gave me incredible confidence when I approached difficult situations.
Once I learned the power of prayer, it transformed my life. Prayer became more than grace before meals and a quick note before bed. I got serious about meeting with God and inviting Him into my life and circumstances.
It is my hope that the book will help people grasp more of a transformational approach to prayer and then go on to lead others into transformational praying. Transformation doesn’t come because I have some great edge on God’s idea called prayer; it comes when we take it seriously and watch what God intended for prayer to be all along—something that makes a difference, something that is transformational.
I see my role as a prayer pastor as fourfold:
1) To inspire people to want to pray or get better at prayer. We do this through great stories, prayer conferences, schools of prayer, personal contact, exposure to great books, a quality prayer newsletter, and all other means we can think of.
2) To provide easy access for people to experiment with prayer. Too often, the church makes it too hard and has too many scary expectations for people, so they give up and don’t even try to learn to pray, mistakenly thinking they can never get it. At Central, we look for easy access points where people can do prayer and enjoy it. I think of our Easter Prayer Effort. We are a large church on five campuses. We pray at every campus and during every service every weekend. But on Easter, we invite people who want to try intercessory prayer to come join us. Last year, we had 18 Easter services to cover. This allows people who are growing and desire to be a prayer leader to lead a prayer service. It also allows many who would not normally come to the prayer rooms to respond to the call to pray for those who are attending at Easter. Some of those who come to the one-time event get excited about prayer, and they continue to grow in prayer, often joining intercessory prayer throughout the year or participating in the prayer ministry somewhere else.
3) To build teams who pray strategically and effectively. Two of those teams, for instance, are the Web Prayer Team and the UpTeam. The Web team prays specifically for the needs of the church members, and the UpTeam prays for the personal and ministry needs of our pastors and global field workers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
4) To provide a place where God can grow prayer leaders for His kingdom. We hope to send prayer leaders we have trained all over the world as God calls them to take what they have learned about prayer with them to other churches and ministries for His kingdom’s sake.
This is the person who has the vision for prayer in your church and the ability to connect others to the vision. I am not the best pray-er at our church by far. But I do have strong leadership abilities in prayer that others seem to catch and build into their lives. The DNA Carrier provides vision to the people of the church and interacts with the leadership of the church in a positive way. This person refuses to give up when prayer is overlooked or not taught as he or she believes it should be. This person continually believes God for good things.
In the book, we have shared some effective ways we’ve learned to pray to leverage special events and gain momentum.
We have included a chapter on Multisite Prayer. To my knowledge there is nothing else written on this subject.
There is a very practical section on praying in your life group that people are responding to very well.
There is also a list of fresh approaches to prayer; like praying the pictures of Jesus, that people have received very well.
The chapter on building a people of prayer will be helpful to anyone looking to lead a prayer ministry or even just leading people in any arena.
The ideas and insights are not written just so they look good in a book. They are tried and tested in battle. Not only are they tested, but I have endeavored to record them in such a way that they are completely reproducible in your setting.
We want our leaders to understand that spiritual warfare is very real, and yet not begin to see a demon under every bush. God has given us the tools to deal with evil, but many of us have never used those tools and are therefore uncomfortable with them.
I think learning a balanced biblical approach to spiritual warfare is critical. We teach how to understand Satan’s tactics, which when grasped, is most liberating. Our work here is not exhaustive by any means but we include some very solid resources on this subject for those who want to study further.
*Leadership and the ability to transfer vision to others
*An honest attempt at a clean life (Nothing blocks prayer or the prayer ministry like sin in the camp)
*A growing commitment and dependence upon God.
*The ability to work with church leadership well
My experience is that God does not use me to convert people off the street. But He does call me to pray for people who are lost, and we have seen many of those come to faith. When God prepares a heart by prayer for conversion, He prepares everything needed for that conversion. Prayer has been my best evangelistic tool by far.
Share a coaching tip with the Pray! Network community.
Reel in the men. Women will pray more naturally, but men are more likely to need encouragement, inviting, and training to feel comfortable with prayer. If men attend a prayer meeting and it is run by women or even attended mostly by women, the men will move on to something else. Recruiting and training men to take leadership roles in prayer ministry is vital to the success of the ministry.
Paul, please write a prayer we can pray along with you about the call to be transformational prayer leaders.
God, You know that the American church has all but lost prayer these days. Our prayer meetings are the smallest meetings in the church. Lord, please forgive us for looking for methods and gimmicks instead of seeking You. Please have mercy on us, and give us a heart for prayer again. Raise up leaders who understand the value of prayer and will lead our churches back to prayer. Lord, give us transformation.
Threshold: Transformational Prayer, Transformational Prayer Leadership can be purchased on Amazon or Kindle. You can also order the book on either format here >>>
Thank you so much for this good Word!
When I read the part about men and prayer meetings my heart broke. I lead the prayer ministry at our church of about 275 people. We have 3 to 4 ladies that come regularly to our prayer meetings, one man, and our associate pastor comes sporadically. (there is no head pastor at this time) We have prayed for our men to take a bigger role in prayer for years. They do seem to participate better in other prayer activities so we try to focus on those things. But now I'm wondering if passion is enough to lead this ministry. The belief in prayer and passion for it may be all I have. Any suggestions?
May I ask what is the usual format of the meeting?
Yes, of course. I have tried a few different things since starting in October 2012. Some went over pretty good some kind of seemed flat. I try to mix it up a bit as I've read to do so. We have settled on this method for most of the time. I read a portion of scripture or a devotional on prayer. I ask the Spirit to lead us as we then pray back the scripture for various things. Such as, missions, salvations, our nation etc. as we are led. This can take most of the time or sometimes just a few minutes. We then move into praying for the needs of our congregation. We end with praising and confessing our dependence on Him. That's basically it. Of course we change it up as we see a need. We are currently going through a pastor change, so that is on our hearts a lot! Thanks for asking.
I like the way you use scripture and start by asking the Spirit for leading.
Sometimes, bringing in someone to teach/preach on the subject can bring a few more into the prater champion circle.
While reading I thought of Simeon and Anna. They must have felt very alone in their service of intercession, yet the were preparing a welcome for Jesus ...