Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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Thoughts on Transformational Prayer and Prayer Leadership
The Experiment that Changed My Life
“My first ministry after graduation was in Lawton, Oklahoma, where my role was to serve with the youth in a great midsized church of five hundred or so. Western Hills was one of the most dynamic churches in Oklahoma at that time, and I was thrilled to be on the staff.
Soon after arriving in Lawton I put my experiment into action. For the first thirty days I did not pray about anything we did in the youth ministry. I didn’t pray for the weekly meetings, the special events, the church services, or even the people in the ministry. Then, at the end of thirty days, I switched my methods and began to pray for everything. My goal was to pray over each event, meeting, and opportunity for a full thirty days before it occurred. The intention was to determine the difference between prayer-backed ministry and personality-backed ministry (ministry done in our own strength and talents).
After the allotted time was up, I made an assessment of the value of my prayers. I noted that the ministry we’d conducted without prayer seemed flat and lifeless; not much of significance had resulted from it. We had our appointed meetings and did our studies, but to little avail. But the prayed-for ministry seemed to be filled with life and purpose.
I distinctly remember one prayer-backed Saturday night when my wife and I decided to have the youth group over for a movie. It wasn’t the most creative event we had ever planned, but we decided to open up our home and just see what would happen. The kids showed up late as usual and hung out. Then, in the course of the evening, one girl opened up about her parents’ struggles and her inability to cope with their fights. She revealed the significant fears their conflicts stirred up deep inside her. One of the younger boys revealed some of the issues he was having with a friend. At the end of the night I was astounded at what had transpired. That simple movie night had become one of the most fulfilling and meaningful youth events we experienced during our time in Oklahoma. So why was our ministry so much better? (And “better” is the only word that fits.) I concluded, somewhat subjectively I realize, that the only possible reason was that God had moved in response to all that prayer, and had shown abundant grace to a twenty-two year-old youth pastor who didn’t have much experience.
I became personally convinced that prayer-backed ministry and life are much more effective than personality-backed ministry and life. Again, I realize this conclusion was based on my subjective observation, but it has proved true over the thirty years of ministry I have experienced since then. From that time on, I have been a believer in covering ministry and life in prayer, preferably at least thirty days of it.
And I’m convinced that by backing your life and ministry with thirty days of prayer you can have a confidence that is extraordinary when you go into a difficult meeting or event. Thirty days of prayer will make a vast difference when you preach, teach, and encourage people, or when you do whatever work you normally do. You may not have thirty days to work with, and that’s of course not the point. God has obviously not laid down any legalistic lines here. The principle is to consistently back what you are doing with prayer. In fact, instead of saying we should “back” our ministry with prayer, it
might be better to say we want to “front” it with prayer. Thirty days of fronting all we do by speaking to God about every aspect of it, asking Him to move through it, humbling yourself before Him about your role in it, and turning it completely over to Him.
If I wanted to build an effective ministry of any kind, I knew that prayer must be at the foundation of my work. Oh, I could get a crowd without prayer; just give away something electronic (today it would be an iPod or an iPad), and they’d come out in droves. But it goes without saying that lasting impact and life change are connected with paying due attention to the most important things. True ministry has always required time and energy and getting your hands dirty, so it follows that true ministry should also require a foundation of time and energy in prayer, investing in the spiritual elements of ministry. Unfortunately, because of the difficulty and time demands involved in covering events and life in prayer, few are willing to make the investment. Many try the shortcut that leaves the prayer foundation out, but I am convinced this will never produce all God intended. See Matthew 7:24-29.” 1
The experiment above changed my life and view of prayer.
The next experiment for me was to begin recording my prayers. For the next five full years I recorded all my major prayers and watched what God did. At the end of those five years, I had thousands of answered prayers that no one in the world knew anything about but me and God. It was breathtaking to see His hand actually working in my life and orchestrating my future.
We record the things that are important to us. We know generally how much money we have in the bank and when we were married because these dates and numbers are important to us. Recording our prayers is equally important. I have been recording my prayers now for years and years. This has helped my faith more than anything else I have ever done.
You will begin to see transformation in your life and the lives of those you work with when you begin serious recording of your prayers. Teaching people to record their prayers is like pouring lighter fluid on the smoldering coals of their spiritual lives.
1 From Threshold: Transformational Prayer; Transformational Prayer Leadership by Paul Covert
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