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Body Building Column ~ Appoint A New Prayer Leader

By Phil Miglioratti

Whenever I teach or consult with church leaders who want to reinvigorate their corporate prayer life, I expect to be met with puzzled looks. That’s because I immediately suggest that they appoint a new prayer leader.

Am I proposing wholesale change in every prayer ministry? Do I expect even small congregations to find a more highly skilled leader? Do I dare make such a suggestion when I haven’t even met the current prayer leader?

Yes, yes, and yes. And I even know the name of the perfect person for the job: the Holy Spirit!

Most believers agree to the need for Spirit-led prayer. We believe the “Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Ro. 8:26) and desire to build ourselves up in our most holy faith as we pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20). The reason our corporate praying isn’t what it could be isn’t doctrinal but psychological and sociological.

It is psychological because our culture values assertive leaders. We eagerly follow people who take charge in the decision-making process because dependency and humble uncertainty are not viewed as positive leadership traits.

We also have a sociological blind spot because our culture readily delegates authority to people who give the impression that they know exactly what to do and precisely when to do it. Generally, if someone can make a group feel confident, that person becomes its leader.

Based on these mindsets, many churches typically select leaders for prayer ministries based on a person’s popularity, faithfulness, recognized ability to pray, and spiritual maturity. While these qualities may be good to have, they don’t necessarily indicate a person has the ability to hear the Holy Spirit, which is the main requirement to shepherd, facilitate, and lead a group in prayer.

So how do we begin the process of appointing our new prayer leader?

Demotion

The first step is the most difficult. Whoever currently leads prayer meetings, pastors or lay leaders, should intentionally surrender to the Spirit their authority to make decisions and set goals. These people don’t have to step down altogether, but they do need to realize that they are merely assistants. From now on, the Holy Spirit is in charge. When planning ministry activities or facilitating corporate prayer, prayer leaders will start to lead according to Acts 15:28: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

In reality, this demotion is actually a promotion, since the values of God’s kingdom are upside down, from a human perspective. We no longer just invite the Spirit into our prayer ministry or meeting to assist us; we now accept His invitation into the heavenly prayer meeting of Jesus interceding to the Father (Eph. 2:6; Heb. 7:25).

Declaration

The pray-ers (and the entire congregation) need to know of their leaders’ change of status and their commitment to seek the Spirit before, during, and after times of prayer. You can communicate this new direction in a variety of ways.

For example, in a sermon the pastor can say something to the effect, “As we move forward in our mission, the leadership is committed to hearing the voice of God before we make any decisions or set goals.”

You could write on a prayer list, “Ask God’s Spirit to tell you how to pray for each name and need.” Or if you are teaching a class, take a moment to explain, “When you pray, begin by declaring your dependence upon the Holy Spirit for the wisdom and the words of how to proceed.”

Demonstration

Transitioning to Spirit-led praying is a process that may take some time. Here are a few simple steps you can take in leading groups into a more Spirit-led way of praying:

• Begin prayer times by inviting the Spirit of God to fill, inspire, and reveal God’s will from His Word.

• Explain why you are directing in a specific way or are making a change, such as moving from praise to petition. Express your sense of the Spirit’s leading, perhaps by saying, “Let’s go back to praying for our youth. We’ve moved too soon to other topics.”

• After a prayer session, ask for feedback on what people experienced as the group prayed together. A debrief segment allows the Holy Spirit to emphasize what He revealed or released during prayer and to affirm next steps and goals.

By becoming the Holy Spirit’s assistant, the human prayer leader’s focus shifts from the printed prayer list to the issues written on God’s heart. The group is able to pray with the mind of Christ because it is filled and led by the Spirit in an exciting adventure everyone can look forward to week after week.

Ask the Holy Spirit to be your new prayer leader, and start the journey!

PHIL MIGLIORATTI lives in outside Chicago with his wife, Carol. Most people would be surprised to learn Phil is a big fan of The Beach Boys.

[ This Body Building column appeared in the January/February, 2009 issue of Pray!. Copyright © 2009, The Navigators. All rights reserved. To subscribe, visit http://www.praymag.com ]
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Comment by Linda Fegins on July 5, 2010 at 3:34pm
Thanks. I have Hendersons' book on "Prayzing" and his DVD on "Fresh Encounters". Thanks for the encouragement. Old habits of I can pray like I want in corporate prayer are hard to break. However, I have been introducing prayer focused/kingdom focus prayers during our First Wednesday prayer service.
Comment by Phil Miglioratti on July 5, 2010 at 2:10pm
OOPS ... My eyes went past your question to your closing prayer ...

Your question is fundamental for prayer facilitators!

A few comments (hoping others will share their insights, experiences and even strike-outs):

* Change takes time. And repetition. Share your vision for a different style of corporate praying as you introduce the prayer session, and the beginning of each new segment (a brief reminder; one sentence: "As we move from repentance toward intercession, let's remember to continue the prayer focus of the person our prayer follows ...") and at the end ("Let's take the last 2-3 minutes to discuss how the Holy Spirit led us in praying; did we flow conversationally? How did we do at listening to the Holy Spirit by listening to his voice through the person who prayed before us?"(.
* Preparing (at the outset), guiding (in the process; not waiting until after all the praying has concluded) and evaluating (not judging others' prayers but learning from our common experience) are opportuntiies to teach as-we-go.
* Some of us use new terms to explain this different style of praying (following the leading of the Holy Spirit):
>Spirit-led: explain how the Holy Spirit has come into each of us and is with all of us to help us pray. We do not know how to pray, no matter how long we've been at it (Romans 8)
>Scripture-fed: as a leader, provide scripture passages as the launching pads for the group's praying
>Corporate-bred: explain that our individual prayers are to be connected in thought to the prayers of those who preceded us. No longer are we merely taking turns going around the circle and down our personal spiritual shopping lists.
* Intersperse songs that are also prayers (lyrics directed to God) and explain how they are an aspect of our praying
* Daniel Henderson has written on the subject as have I.

Your response?
Comment by Linda Fegins on July 5, 2010 at 1:28pm
I certainly will give a report (I have reprinted the comment I sent earlier ) I would you like you to address my end question of my comment.
Phil thank you for pointing out to prayer leaders what we should be doing in our roles as prayer leaders- Always be lead by the Holy Spirit when we lead corporate prayer. That means we should be seeking to hear from the Holy Spirit prior to the prayer service or meeting so that we can make sure we are hearing His voice and not our own or the attendees at the meeting.
One subtle conflict that exists at prayer services is that many times people do not want to pray by the Holy Spirit although they say they do. Instead of moving as the prayer leader believes the Holy Spirit has directed or is leading in corporate prayer, attendees want to get off the prayer focus and pray petition about their personal petitions or lists rather than adhere the corporate focus. Many will believe the prayer leader is being insensitive or wrong not to allow the person to pray as they want instead of keeping in the flow. Phil how do we address that issue?

Lord I pray that the Holy Spirit becomes the new prayer leader at my church in Detroit. As the leader of the Prayer team let me lead the group to pray with the mind of Christ and let it begin with me.
Linda ..RSS
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Comment by Phil Miglioratti on July 5, 2010 at 12:35pm
Linda,

Let us know what progress you see in pray-ers yielding to the Holy Spirit's leading ... and tell us how you did it!

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