Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
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?
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).
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.”
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 ]