There's nothing quite like promoting a prayer gathering . . . 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 two, twenty, 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 exhausted moms, busy professionals, active seniors, and plugged-in students 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.
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 prayer in your church or ministry:
1. Plan a one-time prayer event rather than starting a new system.
Calling a townhall-style prayer meeting that addresses a particular topic (a church need, a community problem, a vision, etc.) may engage people in a different way than the more standard, "Ladies, join us for prayer every Wednesday night."
Spend focused time preparing for a special prayer event. 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 involve other leaders or volunteers, and what the outcome objectives of the prayer meeting will be. If you want participation from moms of young children, provide childcare. (Look here for inspiration to facilitate a Concert of Prayer or a three-hour Cry Out! Prayer event.)
2. Think of small groups and 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" to your facilitators, and let them do the rest. Tell them, "In the month of April, 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 sixteen-hour prayer focus on a particular topic, where people sign up for ten-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 people pray "together in spirit" about 2 Chronicles 7:14.
- Issue a 30-day email prayer challenge, where different volunteers 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 ministry or church is engaging with—where you offer the members magnets, books, prayer cards, maps, prayer lists, or even invite special guest speakers throughout that time period 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 their town or city.
- 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. (One option for hosting can be found 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!