It must have been a comfort for first century Christians to know the apostle Paul didn't forget his new brothers and sisters in the faith once they were saved. Preaching the gospel, teaching, warning, correcting, and loving these saints wasn't enough for this evangelist. Prayer was (and still is) the essential ingredient in a ministry invaded and empowered by God's Spirit.
Consider Paul's letters to his friends in the faith:
Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers (Rom. 1:9–10).
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (1 Thess. 1:2).
I remember you constantly in my prayers day and night (2 Tim. 1:3). (See also 1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 1:16, Phil. 1:3, Col. 1:9, 2 Thess. 1:11, Philem. 1:4.)
Would those we lead see the same evidence of a fervent prayer life in us?
E.M. Bounds puts it this way, "What the preacher [or leader] is in prayer to God—for himself, for his people—so is his power for real good to men, his true faithfulness, and his true fidelity to God—for time and for eternity."
The Call for Prayer
If that's the case, and it is (Ps. 99:6–7), let's first admit prayer is a common struggle for leaders. Pressing deadlines, pressure to take action, and distracting interruptions far too often chip away at our sincere desire to bring women before the throne of grace. Has a similar thought nagged you . . . We really should be praying more for women—not just filling up the ministry calendar with great activities.
Could it be that an overly active ministry calendar has squeezed out the ministry of prevailing prayer?
A ministry that places a high premium on prayer can be confident that an all-powerful God is at work in each and every life, regardless of whether a woman enrolls in a Bible study, shows up to serve the elderly, or takes her seat at the spring event. (For proof, recall the outcome of earnest prayer when Moses pleaded before God for the golden-calf-worshiping Israelites and when the church interceded for Peter while he sat shackled in prison.)
So is it possible for a ministry to reach all the women who could be participating but aren't?
I believe the answer is yes. Here are two calls to action that will expand your reach.
1. Expand ministry reach through personal prayer.
First, add to the top of your job description, "pray for women." Then be faithful to cultivate a deeper personal prayer life. I use a simple index card system to record prayer needs of women I lead. As a habit, I ask how I can pray for them. What is shared in response might be a one-time prayer at that moment, or it could mean that I anguish alongside her for months or even years. Stick to your promise, and remind her she isn't forgotten. It only takes one minute to encourage someone of your prayers through text or a social media message—a golden minute well invested.
When you're leading a large number in a church or community-wide Bible study, you may wonder, Is it feasible to regularly pray for each woman? Maybe not. But perk up your ears for a second call to action.
2. Expand ministry reach through team prayer.
Prayer is never a task to be delegated, but ministry impact can be multiplied by developing a prayer team. Here's one way:
- Mobilize as many prayer warriors as you can. Ask God to provide women who are willing to wear out their knees.
- Divide up all the names of women and distribute equally.
- Each month, select a Scripture passage that reflects a godly virtue to be prayed over each one. Post or email it to the team, along with a specific prayer.
- To get started, consider these Christ-honoring characteristics: gratitude, humility, repentance, holiness, forgiveness, hospitality, lovers of God's Word.
Leaders have the privilege of not only leading, but interceding for women. The apostle Paul's advice to the young church leader Timothy—and to us—is:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . . . This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1–4).
Paul shows, not just tells, how to be constant in prayer (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17). If we long to witness God-sized, Spirit-generated results in ministry, sisters, let's take to our knees like the example of Paul—and get busy praying!