Prayer: Moving Ministry from Powerless to Powerful

Sept. 21, 2013 Leslie Bennett

Session Transcript

Leslie Bennett: Well, it's so encouraging to me personally to see God stirring women's hearts to pray. It truly is a passion of mine. And a few months ago, I was reminded of the power of three little words, "Praying for you." I was in the kitchen, and I had an accident involving a vegetable slicer. Ever had one of those? And a great deal of blood was involved. I won't go into all the details with you. But after a trip to the emergency room, I was bandaged back up and was healing. And I was so encouraged and strengthened by so many women in my church who through a text or email or phone call would say, "I'm praying for you." Aren't those the most encouraging words that you can hear? Praying for you.

And so as we begin, what I want you to do is just stand up. Let me tell you what to do first. I don't want you to turn to the person beside you and say, "Praying for you," because that might not be true because you might not know that person. So I want to be truthful when we say we're praying. But I want you to stand up and just give a blessing. And I prefer that you give it to someone you don't know. So you might have to turn behind you or maybe walk a few steps and just pray a blessing. "Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Lord make you an ambassador of His grace." Is that a good blessing today? All right, or something along those lines.

So just real quickly stand up now, give a prayer blessing preferably to someone you don't know.

Woman: Can I give you a blessing?

Leslie: Yes, oh my gosh yes, I would love that.

Woman: And I am not a prayer warrior. Thank You, Father, so much for this sister in faith. Thank You that she is a fellow believer. Thank You that she is a leader in her church and that she's using the gifts that You have given her to encourage, to equip, to train, and just to help come alongside women as they try to walk that same walk and feel just absolutely clueless as how to do that. So thank You, Father, so much for this sister, and I thank You that she's also from the PCA. Thank You, Father, so much because I needed that right now.

Leslie: Blessings back to you, too, my dear. Thank you.

Wow! I just received the most awesome prayer blessing myself. You may be seated, ladies. Thank you, and thank you for that sweet gift I just received.

If you were the speaker at a women's retreat and your father had died very unexpectedly just seven hours before the retreat was set to begin, you'd have an agonizing decision to make, wouldn't you? What would you do? Do you cancel your teaching responsibilities knowing full well that the retreat team would certainly understand that you couldn't lead in your hour of grief? Is there any possible way that you could open your mouth to teach with only a few hours of sleep and precious family members looking to you to make the funeral arrangements? Could you muster the strength, control your emotions, clear your mind to bring truth to hungry-hearted women? Could you? I doubt it. I doubt that I could.

But I have absolutely no doubt that the Lord God Almighty could through the power of prayer, and that is exactly what happened at our church at our spring retreat. So let me tell you about it.

The planning and preparation for this retreat was typical—the same as it is for every women's event. Our board and our event team led by a prayer coordinator had been praying faithfully for months. A seven-day prayer guide leading up to the event was distributed to the participants. Its purpose was to prepare the women's hearts to hear from the Lord and for united prayer regarding all the details.

The day before the retreat, the speaker and the leaders met at the event site for a prayer walk. It was truly an anointed time of just praising the Lord, worshiping Him, confessing our sins, and bold intercession. Each participant who was signed up was prayed over for by name as we walked the grounds. There was a sense of expectancy as the group asked the Spirit to come and do a mighty work.

Well, as everyone departed, Sherry, our retreat speaker, decided to make an unplanned stop to check on her father who'd recently been moved into a nursing home. Their visit was a brief but very sweet exchange of hugs and love between a father and a daughter. And it was later at 2 a.m. that Sherry received the shocking phone call. And at first, she's in disbelief. She had just seen her dad a few hours before, and the sting of the words was just beginning to set in and she realized, There's no denying this truth. My dad is now in heaven with the Lord.

So she rushes in the middle of the night to the nursing home with her other family members. And then she finally returns home to collapse—emotionally, physically spent at 5 a.m. Well, I received a call from Sherry at 7 a.m. in the morning. And after she'd shared the news of her father's death, you know what I expected to hear? I expected her to say, "I'm really sorry. I'm so sorry, but I am not going to be able to come to the retreat." But that's not what I heard. So calmly in her voice she said, "I'm calling to inform you that my father has died. But I'm going to be late to the retreat. I am not going to be able to be present for the pre-prayer before the event began."

Well, when Sherry did arrive, it was just moments before she was scheduled to speak. And she was visibly shaken. She had a Bible like this, and she had to apologize to the group because she wears monovision contacts and she had put them in backward before she came. But there was a sacred silence in that room as Sherry went on in a supernatural composure to deliver a gripping message. And as I watched in amazement as she poured herself out for us, the Lord spoke to my heart, "Leslie, this is what My grace looks like in weakness."

And yes, yes, I knew of God's promise and the living reality of it, but I was seeing it played out right before my eyes. Second Corinthians 12:9 says, "'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me." I've never seen grace like that before. And as Sherry taught through her brokenness and through her weakness, God's power indeed rested upon her in an unmistakable way. Humanly, she was a cracked and broken vessel with nothing to give, nothing to offer. But miraculously, streams of living water came gushing forth.

Well, Sherry noted after the retreat that the Lord knew exactly where she needed to be on that particular day. She would need this group of women to come around her with compassion and tears and pray over her. And that is exactly what we were moved to do as soon as she was finished delivering the message. She remarked that this retreat had been so bathed in prayer that undoubtedly that was the source of the strength and the power that enabled her to serve. The focus on prayer throughout all the planning kept our retreat team from panicking. We knew the Lord had everything under control with or without Sherry.

You see, ladies, spiritual anointing and power are wrought through prayer, is it not? Spiritual anointing and power are wrought through prayer. There is no other way. Without prayer we're operating in the limitations of our flesh, and prayerlessness locks us up in a safety zone where we're comfortable just playing it safe within the realm of what we know that we can do. Ever been there? Oh, I have plenty of times.

It's only when we put on our hard-hats of prayer and tread out of safety zones that we can watch the living Lord Jesus take control and we can expect Him to do the impossible. You see, prayer is the singular path to God's power and presence resting upon your ministry and upon you.

But as women's leaders I often wonder, What would happen if we really got down to the business of praying? This room is undoubtedly filled with praying women, and yet I wonder what would happen if leaders began to pray without ceasing to go before God with unflinching boldness and confidence. Can you imagine what might happen if we prayed as we are urged to in Ephesians 6? "At all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication . . . alert with all the perseverance . . . for all the saints" (v. 18).

And I wonder what we're lacking because we're not asking. James 5:17–18 first underscores this. Have you noticed this in that passage? That Elijah was just a man with a nature like ours. James says that first before he describes the outcome of his fervent prayers at Cherith Brook, that the heavens were shut up for three and a half years. Elijah was a man just like us.

What if we finally put an end to the lie that anything deserves our time and attention more than prayer? What if we prayed as much as we prepared to teach or we planned our next event? What God-possible outcome could be the result? Have you ever wondered that?

You see, ladies, God is issuing a call to us, an urgent call, and it starts right here. It's a clarion call to get down to the business of praying. There's too much at stake. Our women need us to be praying. They need us to stand in the gap for their families, their marriages, their children, their finances, their spiritual and their physical well-being. The bride of Christ needs our prayers. The bride of Christ desperately needs a fresh manifestation of God that demands that our normal life come to a screeching halt. Why? Because God is so alive and manifest and His presence is in our midst. That's the picture of revival.

And do you know what the common denominator is before every revival? No matter what continent, no matter what nation, no matter what city, that common denominator is what? Prayer. It's prayer. And before God begins to act in an exceptional way, He inclines the hearts of His people to pray. Look around this room. Is He doing that? Yes, He is. I believe that He is because even the stirring of our hearts to pray doesn't come from us. It comes from God. It's birthed from Him.

So today, in the time that we have, I want to share with you some strategies for developing and implementing a culture of prayer in your women's ministry. So let's pray and ask God to help us with that.

Oh, Father, we come before You needy, desperately asking for Your grace. We need Your wisdom, for we don't know how to go back and develop a culture of prayer. But I pray, Father, that You would speak to each woman's heart here, that You would give her one or two things that she can implement right away, Lord. And I ask that You would help me, Father, speak clearly and equip these women for the glory of God, for Your sake, for Your great name and renown. And I ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Let's get going.

Well, I've already described how an event can be bathed in prayer. But my next point is most essential. Creating a culture of prayer begins in your personal prayer life. You see, a passion for prayer is at the heart of every Godward leader. People should be able to look to their leaders and see a woman deeply dependent upon God in prayer. You see, ladies, we've got to go into the throne room first, don't we, before we can lead anyone else.

And essential tenet of our women's ministry is that leaders will match their commitment to lead with a commitment to pray for the ministry and for the individuals that they lead. It's sort of a part of the deal. If you're willing to lead, you've got to be willing to match that in prayer.

It's just been over the past few years that God has given me a deeper passion for prayer. I confess to you that I haven't always loved praying the way I do now. And yet I know that I have just barely begun to climb the mount. And I believe that there are countless more heights that God wants to lead you to and He wants to lead me to.

But there's an ugly little deception that we need to demolish before going any further. The truth is, ladies, there is no such thing as the spiritual gift of prayer. Now, repeat that with me, because you might hear me say that but you don't really believe that. So say with me. The truth is, there is no such thing as a spiritual gift of praying. That is so freeing to me.

Prayer definitely comes more easily to some than to others. But I can assure you, the Lord wouldn't say pray without ceasing if there were only a few super-spiritual women up for the task.

A principle that has helped me tremendously I want to pass along to you. And it's the often-quoted words of Benedictine John Chapman, and it's this: "Pray as you can. Don't try to pray as you can't." So more simply put, "Pray as you can, not as you can't." Say that. "Pray as you can, not as you can't."

You see, that gives us the liberty to pray and to function using my life experience, my gifts, my unique personality style as opposed to feeling like, I don't measure up to her and the way she's praying. It removes the pressure of trying to emulate someone else. See, we are to delight in our differences just as the Lord does. So I want you to keep that in mind throughout the rest of our time here at Revive '13—to pray as you can, not as you can't.

Lead as you can, not as you can't. And now I want to challenge you, as we are getting going, and this may very well be the reason you are here today, your key takeaway. And it's a question. Have you ever shown up to speak for God without first having listened to God? Have you led women with unconfessed sin hidden in your heart? Well, if you have, then you're trusting in your ability to lead apart from God. Would you be willing to covenant right now that on each occasion that you're being used as His instrument, that you will first bend the knee to Him and that you will ensure that you are in a right relationship with Him before you minister to others?

And what that looks like is just going before Him, seeking His face, aligning your heart with His, confessing any obstacle that might be distancing you from His grace and would hinder you from the full leadership of the Holy Spirit. Would you confess that obstacle and be washed in the cleansing blood of Jesus?

I'm going to pause just for a minute. If you would be willing to make that covenant with the Lord, that you would make sure you're in a right relationship with Him before you show up to minister to others. If you want to make that commitment now or reaffirm that commitment, I'm going to give you just a moment in your heart to speak that to the Lord.

And I'm reaffirming that same covenant that I made with the Lord the day that I came on staff at church. The Spirit just really led me to go to my knees and to make that promise to Him. It's a divine hedge of protection that every leader needs again for that full sensitivity to the Spirit's leadership.

I love what Pastor Bill Elliff has to say: "Prayerlessness is the worst sin because it is the highest indication of pride. A day without prayer is a day that I can live without Him, and I've told Him so. It speaks of a lack of trust and the vain work of human ability alone."

Well, there are many reasons that leaders can have a lackluster prayer life. Can you just shout out some of those? Busyness. Pride. Okay. Trusting on yourself. Busyness, pride, what else? What are some other things? Exhaustion—we're too tired to pray. We fall asleep while we're praying just like the disciples did with Jesus in the garden, don't we? We don't believe He will answer. Yes. There's unbelief in our hearts, so we don't ask Him. Good. Good. Forgetfulness. Are we too busy or we've just so many things going on and we forget, Hey, I haven't even stopped to pray today. Okay. Fear or shame. We're afraid to come into God's presence, aren't we? Oh, yes. That keeps us away. We don't see the value in prayer. Yes. Is it really that important? Is it that necessary that I would pray? We don't believe it and see it as a weapon. Yes, it is the weapon that we have to use against our enemy. Yes. Laziness. Oh. That's a very good one. Laziness.

How about technology being a time sucker? If we're going to be honest here, let's just say, you get on to check your Facebook and then you look at the clock and an hour has gone by. Technology is robbing precious time with Jesus because we're diverting it by so many other things clamoring for our attention. And when you're a woman and you're in ministry, you have your family, you have your ministry, so many things vying for your time, you feel overwhelmed and that can rob our prayer life.

Well, here's another danger that you didn't mention. And that is that prayerlessness is easy to conceal. Who's going to know? Who's going to know but you and God whether you're praying or not? And you know what? Sometimes it feels like pulling against gravity not to just jump right into my day and start accomplishing tasks when my feet hit the floor rather than sinking my trust and my time into Jesus. You know why? Because tasks give immediate gratification. And if you're a leader, we are results-oriented people, aren't we? We're producers. We get things done. And I wonder if we would take out our calendars and look how many of our calendars might suggest there's really no need to pray as long as I can fix it myself. Or if I can handle it myself, I really don't need to pray in those instances.

Well, you see, the work of prayer is most often waiting for the slow, steady hand of God to work, the slow steady hand of God to move. The Spirit does not roar, does He? He does not roar. He speaks in gentle whispers, which leaders too busy leading cannot hear. The Spirit speaks in whispers.

Robert Murray M'Cheyne is quoted as saying, "I ought to pray before seeing anyone. Christ arose before the day and went into a solitary place. David says, 'Early will I seek thee. Thou shalt early hear my voice.' I feel it is far better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another." Do you agree with that? Oh, yes. Amen.

The Church deserves leaders who will give out Jesus. And after I heard Paul Tripp, I'm going to say give out the grace of Jesus. The Church deserves that, and our women deserve that. But we can only give out Jesus when we partake of His presence in an unhurried fashion.

And I know in my own personal prayer life I experienced the most dramatic growth when I began to rise at a very early hour, an hour that is honoring to the Lord and an hour that I would not normally get up at in order to have time with Him that was undisturbed before facing the day. I did that during Lent one year. And then once I had done it for forty days I just kept going. God grew my prayer life so much and my desire for Him and to be in prayer with Him.

But leaders also need not just daily time with Him, but you need and I need an extended time with Him at least on an annual basis, whether it's two or three hours of uninterrupted bliss while your toddler spends time at a friend's house or whether it's two or three days out of town for fasting and solitude. Oh, it's a challenge to arrange and to schedule, and I know that. But prioritize setting aside a yearly time for worship, for listening to God, for receiving His direction, and for joyful obedient response.

So you might be saying, "Well, what's the real threat for a ministry that isn't praying?" Well, I believe that Matthew 21 gives us a very clear picture of that. You see, Jesus cursed the fig tree. You remember? And He cursed the fig tree for sprouting leaves without fruit. The tree gave the appearance of producing fruit because it was lush with all these leaves. But in reality it was barren of the purpose, the actual purpose for which it was designed. It was designed to produce fruit.

And so a ministry without the engine of prayer behind it is risking attractive, healthy, lush fruit trees but no fruit. Without a priority of prayer, ministry is just a busy man-powered activity lacking the supernatural presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, very attractive on the outside, but quickly fading leaves deficient of eternal fruit. That's the danger.

Neglect of prayer can lead to a subtle creeping in of worldliness into your ministry.

Neglect of prayer cheats your women.

Neglect of prayer pleases one person. Who would that one person be? The devil. It pleases Satan and Satan alone. And I dare say that our ministries, ladies, would be more effective if we attempted to do less and pray more. I'm absolutely convinced of that.

Looking back at our women's ministry, there was a pivotal turning point when Northeast Presbyterian Church began to take the first steps of developing a culture of prayer. And it came when we were studying in our Bible study the Acts of the Apostles. And I began to take notice, and I'm sure you've probably seen it, too, how the early church was gathering together and the results of their united efforts through prayer and fasting. And we saw miraculous healings and jail breaks, missionaries being commissioned.

And Acts 2:42–44 describes a tight-knit community that was fellowshipping together, that was devoted to the teaching and to prayer. They were breaking bread together. And so God laid it on my heart as I studied Acts that we were missing the true heartbeat of ministry by not coming together more corporately in prayer.

Author John Franklin notes this in a book that he has written: "Out of thirty-seven verses that Jesus taught on prayer, He refers to 'you' in a plural sense thirty-three out of thirty-seven times." So in other words, when He says "you," it's plural. Come together to pray. Corporately come together and pray. And only four times was the command or the condition to pray stated in the singular form. So clearly there's a call for us to be praying corporately.

Well, our women's board started out very small, and we were very inexperienced. And we gathered together to pray on a Saturday—just for a couple of hours to pray and to fast. And God provided for us in such a sweet way. There was a lady who came sick. She almost didn't come. It was actually snowing. We contemplated canceling it. You can imagine where that came from. But we decided, "No, we're going to go ahead and do it anyway."

And my friend came who was so sick. But she felt fine the entire time. Another lady who has a physical problem with numbness in her feet, the entire time we were praying she never once was bothered by numbness. And our stomachs didn't even growl. And the Lord has now expanded that very humble, inexperienced beginning to where we meet for an annual prayer and fasting retreat. And I tell you, when it's all said and done, we've ended up praying about half the time as we have been planning. So it's equal portions. Half-time praying and half-time planning for the ministry.

And I will have to tell you that the most creative, divine ideas for ministry have come out of this focused time. There is such abiding joy as you gather around and you watch the Holy Spirit just perform His unifying work among us. It is amazing to see.

I want to tell you a little bit more about that retreat. Friday night is truly the highlight for us, because we're setting our hearts in tune with God by extended worship through His Word. We have a "no interceding" rule. No interceding on Friday night. We're just going to seek the face of God by reading and reciting Scripture as the Spirit leads. And so without a predetermined ending time at all, we don't know when we're going to finish. God tells us when we're finished. We just simply open the Word of God, we pray, we listen, we surrender our hearts to Him, and we express our love for Him and our love for His ways.

And then Saturday morning is another profitable prayer segment as we take up the privilege to stand in the gap for our women as our forefathers did. We arm ourselves for battle with warfare praying to fight for our women, to fight for their marriages, to fight for our men, and to fight for our children.

And we use Isaiah 58:6–9 as a guide for this. Listen: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'"

We stand in the gap for our women. And we invite the Holy Spirit to give shape and form to these prayers, to birth them, because you know what? I don't know how to pray for my women. He does. He alone knows their hearts. So we listen to Him and we invite Him to tell us how to pray for them.

We've also instituted a quarterly women's prayer time called "Fresh Encounter" where we do the very same thing. We're seeking the face of God through the Word, first to worship Him and then we come before Him with intercession.

And I'll tell you something. If you want to love your ladies, pray for them. Pray for them. Intercession is one of the highest forms of loving your women. And I know that I am never loving my women more than when I am down on my knees. Amen?

But you know what? We're going to fall short of that passionate fervent prayer unless we love them like Jesus loves them. And that doesn't come naturally, does it? That's "go to the cross" kind of love. And that "go to the cross" kind of love isn't something that you strive for. It's something that's imparted to you over time as you're beholding Jesus day by day, as you are treasuring Him in your heart moment by moment, because basking in the presence of Jesus leaves an imprint of love. Basking in the presence of Jesus leaves an imprint of love for your ladies.

And as you seek God for taking prayer to the next level, let me tell you what a culture of prayer is not. A culture of prayer is not starting a program. Whew! Relief! You don't have to go back and start a program. But let me tell you how I define it.

A culture of prayer begins and grows gradually as you're interlacing prayer through everything. It begins and grows gradually as you are interlacing prayer through everything you are doing. You see, prayer becomes the first thought, not the afterthought. Prayer is the first thought, not the afterthought. And in a ministry where prayer is the foundation, God does the heavy lifting as we look to Him in prayer.

Can you remember from your school days studying mythology the ancient Greek Titan Atlas? And remember he held up the celestial spheres, and he's down like this and he's holding it up? That's what we're like in ministry when we're not praying. We're doing this instead of saying, "God does the heavy lifting." We weren't meant to do the heavy lifting in ministry, were we? No, God does the heavy lifting as we come to Jesus who says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Oh, hallelujah. We have a Savior to go to do the heavy lifting in ministry.

Well, a culture of prayer rightfully begins with its leaders. And this is the one task that you cannot afford to delegate. Don't delegate that task. And the more we rely on prayer to do the work of God instead of needless activity we will see the hand of God move in miraculous ways.

A true test for our women's ministry came and the test came from the Lord as to whether we trusted Him to do the impossible work. And it came to us at one of our prayer and fasting retreats. Did we really trust God to do the impossible work? That was our test because He laid an assignment on our hearts, and that assignment was pray more, do less.

Wow! That was scary. Pray more, do less. Because I personally feel like my doing is what's making it happen. Right? "It's the doing that's making it happen, Lord." But He's saying, "No, you got it backward. You have it backward. Pray more, do less." So God was clearly impressing upon our hearts, "You need to lay some things down, some very good things down that you were doing, in order to devote yourself more to praying for the ministry."

There are times in the local church where women's ministry parades busyness as akin to godliness. Think about that. There are times in the local church where women's ministry seems to be parading busyness as akin to godliness. We were convicted of that.

Well, we chose to trust God in what might have seemed very foolish on the outside. And for us, that meant cutting back on the number of events that we held. And we didn't do this in a very abrupt fashion, and we're still in the process, right? But we began to just very slowly as God showed us something that might not be necessary—good but not necessary—we began to reduce the number of activities and events that we were holding.

A culture of prayer begins and includes with a deep commitment to praying for women by name. Anybody already doing that? Praying for your women by name? Okay. I'll bet if you're a small group leader, I'll bet you're doing that for sure. Well, have you ever thought about trying to pray for every woman in your church? By name? It's doable. You can do it. I'll tell you how God has shown us how to do that.

We have 642 women at our church. And we divide up those names, and we pray Scripture over those women at our annual retreat—our fasting and prayer retreat. So that's one time during the year when every woman at one time is prayed over by name. But then we carry that out throughout the year because we have a prayer team, a women's ministry prayer team. And our prayer team is comprised of over a hundred women. Now, that's in proportion to our church size and the number of women that we have.

But if your church is smaller, you would want a smaller number. You wouldn't need that many. And it would reflect your church size. But I thought I'd share that with you. And each one of our prayer warriors is assigned six or seven women, and her agreement is to pray over those same six or seven women all year long every single week and to pray Scripture over her.

We also pray over our women on a weekly basis. As we're praying for them by name, we pray a monthly virtue. And our prayer coordinator compiles a one-page, ten-point prayer guide every single month, and then she sends that out by email to our prayer team and to our pastors. And it's just a one-page prayer guide and on it includes just praises for what God has done, prayers for our church—it's not just women's ministry. We want to serve the whole church, don't we? But prayers for our church and its members. We are constantly every month praying for revival. Again we're praying this women's virtue and the specific requests of any ministry programs or events that are taking place that month.

And I'll tell you, when you do that and you really are praying for women by name, it opens up the doors to relationship in ministry. When you can say, "Hey, I prayed for you today. You're on my list. I pray for you regularly." That opens up the door to ministry and to relationship.

So what is your part as a leader? Well, one of your roles is to ask God to give you spiritual eyes to connect the work that He's doing to your prayers. Spiritual eyes to connect those two. Seek, through prayer, God's direction and then listen, active listening, and then step back having your eyes wide open. How much do we miss because we're not looking? Eyes wide open to join what God is doing.

A couple years ago we had an Egyptian pastor come to our church and speak. And he's from Cairo. And I learned this from him, and I've never forgotten it. He said that prayer is an echo. Prayer is an echo because if we initiate it, it isn't the right prayer. It has to come from God first, doesn't it? It's an echo. We hear it from Him, and then we pray it back to Him.

So listening through prayer, listening to God's voice through His Word, allows us to hear His heart and then rebound those prayers back to heaven in cooperation with what He's already planning to do. Isn't that what we want to pray? We want to pray what God wants to do, what He's already planning to do. He's just waiting for us to pray it. That's active listening, seeking His face, and then connecting that to your prayers, joining Him in His work, echoing His prayers back up to heaven to Him.

Another tenet of our women's ministries—as I said our leaders would match their commitment to lead with a commitment to pray earlier. Another one of our tenets is for our Bible studies to meet one extra week after we finish the study. And the sole purpose of this meeting is to ascribe glory to God for all that He's done in our lives. Anybody doing that right now? Just going one more week in Bible study. Could you do it? I bet you could. You could go one more week, couldn't you?

Well, the beauty of this is that it provides a great venue for testimonies and corporate praise. I want to tell you what happened just this past spring when we were celebrating the end of our study of Matthew in our morning study and the completion of Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival, which I have to recommend that Bible study by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We had just completed that in our evening study.

So when I was with the morning group and then I was later with the evening group, there were powerful testimonies. One after the other women were teary and weepy over getting up and talking about, "Here's what God has done in my life through the study of His Word." And as I listened, by the time the night was over and I had gone to the morning and then to the evening, I noticed a reoccurring theme. Forgiveness of an emotionally abusive father—I heard that testimony—forgiveness of an adulterous parent; forgiveness of a pastor.

Do you remember that I told you that we prayed a virtue for the women every month, and it changed monthly? You want to know what virtue we were praying in the month of April? Forgiveness. WOW. When I saw that, and I tell you I didn't even see it that night. I didn't see it until a week later. And just in my time with the Lord, He said, "Leslie, wake up. You're praying this, and this is what I'm doing." I went, "Oh yes, yes, yes. Thank You, Lord. Thank You, thank You for showing me that." How exciting it is to see.

And don't you know that God doesn't always reveal the fruit of our prayers, does He? He doesn't. But when He does, it spurs us on and we can trust that there's so much more than meets the eye and the ear. And as we help ladies connect praying with changed lives, then personal and corporate prayer is emboldened in your church. That's what you've got to do as the leader, help connect their praying to the changed lives and the fruit that you're seeing from your prayers.

I want to share three indicators of a culture of prayer. This morning at 4:30 I got a text. This is just an aside. I got a text from one of my ladies saying, "Praying for you." I was still asleep. And I thought, Lord, that's a culture of prayer. That's a culture of prayer when that first response, that heart passion is to pray. I was so blessed by that this morning.

Well, the first indicator of a culture of prayer is that women are devoted to constant praying for your pastors and their families. Are you doing that, ladies? I know we have some pastors' wives in here, and they would say with both hands raised, "Pray for my family. Pray for my husband." We have no idea the pressure that they are under.

Revive Our Hearts has an excellent guide to use that I use in our personal prayer life, and I give it to all of our leaders and we encourage our women to use it: 30-Day Praying for Your Pastor Challenge. I highly recommend that to you.

And listen to what Jonathan Edwards has to say on that topic about praying for pastors: "If some Christians who had been complaining of their ministers had said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers—had, as it were, risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent and incessant prayers for them—they would have been much more in the way of success." Our pastors need our prayers. And it's up to us as women's ministry leaders to fuel that and to set the pace for that in our churches.

Well, the second indicator of a culture of prayer is that Bible study leaders gather to pray for an extended time of prayer before the Word of God is taught. And we're able to do this in our morning Bible study. And nowhere have I seen continuous revival more evident than during our weekly pre-prayer of our Bible study leaders. You see, we take time. If you came to the prayer time this morning, it's exactly what we did. We take time to praise God, to thank Him for all that He is doing, to recognize all of His benefits, praising and worshiping and then repenting. And these are all building blocks before we begin to intercede for that day and what God wants to do in the women's hearts.

James 5:16 states it very clearly: "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Get your leaders together. Praise, worship, confess your sins before you intercede for the ministry.

And then a final indicator of a culture of prayer is that leaders aren't afraid to admit their need or their weakness. The first time I ever publically asked for prayer from my women was at a time in my life when I was totally helpless and desperate. The enemy had somehow convinced me that leaders should not ask for prayer, because this is my thought process. I'm just being very honest with you. I'm the leader. I'm supposed to give out to them. I'm the leader. I'm supposed to pray for them. If I ask for prayer then that's burdening them in a way that I should not. Leaders need to stand on our own two feet. Well, how foolish and prideful was that that I would believe such a lie.

Our son celebrated his twenty-first birthday, and days after he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. And if you're familiar with that disease, you know that it is a debilitating, a life-threatening disease. There is no cure and moment-by-moment can be life or death for you.

Admitting my need that I could not handle this devastating news proved to be a watershed moment, not only in my own personal prayer life but it also gave other women permission to be real and honest about the things that they can't handle and when they are desperate to cry out for prayer. And it emboldened more women to be bold in asking for prayer.

Jesus' potent words: "My church will be called a house of prayer." My church will be called a house of prayer. Those words ring louder than ever. And prayer-saturated churches exist. I'm sure there are some represented in this room. But I sense that they're in the minority. Do you? So what if your church is not a house of prayer? How does this talk apply to you?

Well, let me tell you. There is absolutely nothing stopping your ministry from becoming a house of prayer. You see, your ministry can be a house of prayer. And in fact, the Lord may spread your quiet influence throughout your church to create a fresh hunger for prayer.

And hear this. Every woman in your women's ministry can be reached through prayer whether she steps one foot in a Bible study or not, whether she ever comes to an event. Every single woman in your women's ministry you can reach and have impact on through the power of prayer. Do you believe it? Do you believe it? I believe it. Pray for every single one of them.

The mighty prayer warrior E.M. Bounds concludes this. And I'm going to paraphrase this slightly for gender, for us today: "We need women whose prayers will set the church ablaze not in a showy, know-it, noisy way, but in an intense quiet heat that melts and moves everything for God." Not in a showy, noisy way, but with an intense and quiet heart that melts and moves everything for God.

Do you want to move your ministry from powerless to powerful? I see some heads nodding. If so, you can take the first step in developing a culture of prayer right now. Ask God to deepen your devotion to prayer and to shape you into an intercessor, because see, ladies, prayer is the singular path to God's power and presence resting upon your ministry and upon you.