When I accepted the job as women’s ministry director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, I was excited and scared to death at the same time. Even though I had served for ten years on staff with Cru and had just graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), I had fears: fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of rejection. What if I can’t do the job? What if they don’t like me? God, I don’t know what I’m doing!
Yet I was confident God wanted me to say “yes” to this position.
I emailed the alumni placement director at DTS to tell him I had accepted the job, and I shared with him how I was feeling. His response impacts my life to this day.
Crickett, that’s a great place to be—scared to death—because that will keep you on your knees the first few years of your ministry. And if you’re wise, you’ll stay in that position for the rest of your life. On your knees in prayer.
I’ve never forgotten his words.
Because of that sense of inadequacy and fear of failure, I started every morning on my knees, asking God for wisdom and guidance for the ministry He had entrusted to me. I knew I couldn’t lead in my own efforts and strength; I needed Him to work through me. That has kept me on my knees in prayer—not just the first few years, but every year since I said “yes” to this ministry.
Prayer is the key to a successful ministry.
Success may look different in our eyes from God’s view of success. We can plan, strategize, and host big events. But without prayer, they are just our plans, not God’s. When we bathe our ministry in prayer, we see God work in ways that only He can.
A successful ministry is not about numbers; it’s about changed lives. And God changes lives through prayer.
How does God use prayer to impact our lives and ministries? Here are five ways I’ve seen God work through prayer.
1. Prayer brings us in line with God’s plans.
I’m always asking God: What do you want to see happen through this ministry? How do you want me to lead? Which direction do we go? What can we do to spur women on to a deeper relationship with You? God guides us as we pray. He aligns our hearts to ask for His will to be done, not ours.
When we stop seeking God in prayer, we step out with our own plans instead of following His plan.
2. Prayer keeps us dependent on God.
Our self-sufficiency keeps us from looking to Him. When we pray, we are acknowledging we need Him and can’t do this on our own. No matter how many years we’ve been in a position, we still need to seek Him instead of relying on our own abilities and strength. When people ask how they can pray for me, I always tell them, “Pray I stay dependent on Him.”
When we stop seeking God in prayer, we believe that we’re self-sufficient and no longer need God’s help.
3. Prayer deepens our relationship with Him.
As we spend time in prayer, we pull away from the busyness of life around us and enjoy being alone in His presence, pouring out our hearts, and listening to Him through His Word. The more time we spend in prayer, the more we get to know the One to whom we are praying. Our intimacy with Him deepens through prayer.
When we stop seeking God in prayer, our relationship with Him becomes distant.
4. Prayer strengthens us in hard times.
We will have challenges in ministry. There have been times I wanted to quit. And I have friends who have left their positions in ministry because of the challenges they faced. We want to please the people we’re ministering to, but we can’t please everyone. For every person satisfied with a decision we make, we displease someone else. There is only one person we need to please—the Lord Jesus Christ. If we’ve followed His leading in the decisions we’ve made, we can have peace, knowing we’ve pleased Him.
When we stop seeking God in prayer, we can become overwhelmed and discouraged in the hard times.
5. Prayer allows us to be part of God’s work.
God is sovereign, and He has a perfect plan. People have asked, “Can my prayers change God’s will or plan? If not, why pray?” No, our prayers can’t change God’s will because God is sovereign. He has a perfect plan and knows how He will bring it about. But God can use our prayers to change circumstances and accomplish His work. He gives us the privilege of being part of His plan through our prayers.
The night Judas betrayed Jesus, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
His prayers didn’t change God’s plan. But while He was praying, He surrendered to God’s will and was willing to be used by the Father to carry out His perfect plan. That’s a great example of how we should pray.
When we stop seeking God in prayer, we miss the opportunity to be part of God’s work.
Prayer is the key to a successful ministry, as we seek guidance from the Father and yield to His will.
We all have ways we incorporate prayer into our ministries. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a day with your women’s leadership team to pray and plan. My team does this when we’re ready to plan the next programming year that begins in August. We begin in the morning with a short time of worship together, and then spread out for a couple of hours of extended time alone with God in prayer. I provide a guide to use during that time. After lunch, we plan and strategize how God wants us to move forward with the ministry as a result of our time alone in prayer with Him.
- Do a prayer walk around the room where you’re going to have an event or speak. I sometimes walk around the room where I teach, and I pray at each table or chair where women will be sitting. For our Christmas event, I circled the room with some of my leaders, praying for God’s Spirit to work that evening through the speaker or musician.
- Pray over every name who signs up for an event or Bible study, asking God to work in their lives.
Prayer is the key to a successful ministry. Let’s stay on our knees as we lead the ministries God has entrusted to us.