There’s nothing quite like promoting a prayer meeting … and then arriving to discover you’re the only one in attendance! It’s happened to me more than once, sadly.
Of course, it’s still worth praying, whether 2, 20, or 200 are participating. But how can we encourage the kind of revival prayer we believe is so important? How can we create a context for busy moms, distracted dads, and plugged-in teens to really engage personally with God?
There’s certainly no “one size fits all” answer to this question—and there shouldn’t be. Prayer is ultimately a conversation we have with God because we love Him, we’re seeking Him, and we’re obedient to Him.
My experience has been that many believers aren’t opposed to prayer, but they don’t really feel effective while doing it, the contexts feel boring, they don’t have time, or they just don’t know what to say. So, here are a few ideas to jumpstart church prayer:
1. Plan a one-time prayer event, rather than starting a new system.
For example, calling a townhall-style prayer meeting on a Sunday night that addresses a particular topic (a church need, a community problem, a mission vision, etc.) may engage people in a different way than the more standard, “Guys, join us for early morning prayer every Tuesday.”
Spend more time preparing for that special prayer event than you do for your normal services; think about how to creatively engage people, what tools people need in their hands, what types of worship or conversation might help set the context, how to hand off facilitation to lay leaders, and what the outcome objectives of the prayer meeting will be. (Important if you want participation from younger families: provide childcare, or clearly explain how children/teens will be meaningfully engaged in the prayer experience.)
2. Think of small groups and Sunday classes as prayer meetings.
As you train small group leaders and teachers, infuse them with ideas and tools to help build more prayer into the rhythm of their meetings. For example, you could email Life Action’s free PDF of “Prayers That Birth Revival” (available here) to your facilitators, and let them do the rest: “In the month of October, we’d like our groups to take a few moments each week to focus on praying for spiritual renewal in our church. Would you be willing to distribute the attached prayer guide and utilize it in your group?”
3. Use creative opportunities to foster different kinds of prayer.
Not every prayer focus needs to involve “meetings.” There might be other ways to get people praying who wouldn’t otherwise have engaged.
Ideas for Creative Prayer
• Plan a 16-hour prayer focus on a particular topic, where people sign up for 10-minute segments throughout a certain day.
• During a certain month, have everyone set their phone alarm for 7:14 each evening, and at that time the whole congregation briefly prays “together in spirit” about the Bible verse 2 Chronicles 7:14.
• Issue a 30-day email prayer challenge, where different members of the church write out a prayer for revival or missions that gets mailed out each day to all who sign up for the list.
• Initiate a season of prayer focus on something specific—for example, an unreached people group your church is engaging with—where you offer the congregation magnets, books, prayer cards, maps, prayer lists, special guests, etc. throughout that month to prompt learning and interest.
• At key church or community events, ask people to sign up to be on a backstage “prayer team” who will pray before or during the given event.
• Schedule a Saturday prayer walk throughout the community, starting and ending with fellowship, food, etc. Hand out lists of prayer requests and send people out in small groups to pray for homes and businesses as they walk around town.
• Offer a prayer conference call, where people can dial in and pray with fellow members of the church on a given evening of the week (option for hosting at FreeConferenceCall.com).
There are many other creative ways to get people praying (and even fasting) together. However, as leaders, we need to recognize that creating a culture of prayer first requires creating a context for that culture to grow. That’s our challenge!
What prayer initiatives have worked well for your church, or in your personal life?