The GREAT DAYS OF PRAYER are always the first Sunday of any quarter. As you plan for your “Great Days of Prayer” service, you may want to consider the approach you are taking. Here are six steps to help you plan your prayer meeting.
- Mark the date.
- Outline the Prayer service.
- Determine your prayer leadership style.
- Do you need to accommodate “content?” Prayer needs? Or will your meeting be unstructured without a specific focus?
- If you plan content, then what topics do you need to pray about? How many are realistic?
- What prayer models will you use? How will you engage the congregation in prayer? Encourage their participation? How will you move from one topic of prayer to another?
STEP ONE: Choose Your Date and Time. You may want to use the Sunday morning service time, others the evening time slot. Plan for a 75-90 minute prayer experience.
STEP TWO: The Program – Outline your prayer service. Here is a recommendation:
- 5-10 minutes of worship by music. Worship wakes up the heart. But don’t substitute a singing service for a prayer service.
- A 5-10 minute “prayer challenge.” This can be an inspirational idea to inform prayer. It can be instructional. It can be motivational – a story, a fire-starter, a faith-builder. It can be a challenge to pray. It can be a short challenge on how to pray. Caution: Don’t turn the prayer service into a preaching-teaching service. Pray!
- 30-40 (or more) minutes of congregational prayer.
- 5-15 minutes for closure. Allow for congregational sharing, small groups, a pastoral challenge, declarations of faith out of the prayer time, consensus building in terms of what God is saying.
STEP THREE: The Prayer Leadership Style – Determine the prayer style of your actual prayer time. Are you merely providing a time and place for the congregation to meet and pray, individually, yet together in the same room? Or will you direct the prayer service? Veteran intercessors are often “self-directed.” Others may need help in focus and overcoming fears about prayer. Think about the structure of your prayer time along a continuum. On one side, the approach is completely undirected. On the other side, the prayer experience is not only highly structured, but perhaps even scripted. (See the heading, “Styles of the Prayer Meeting” later in this section)
- Undirected – People are called together in the same place, but everyone prays individually. Some sit. Some kneel. Some stay in their seats. Some go to the altar. Some may be prostrate. Some stand or walk. Some pray silently. Some pray aloud. Everyone prays, as inclined, about needs that are as diverse as the individuals. The sound level rises and falls, intensity swells and then subsides. Ideally, no voice dominates. All respect order.
- Facilitated – A leader or leaders facilitate the prayer session. There are themes for prayer, as the Spirit leads. Leaders may sense the mood of the Spirit and call attention to prayer themes that surface. Or hear a recurring topic and call the entire group to focus on that issue. There is a delicate dialectic between the spontaneous and the focused. The facilitators attempt to hear the Spirit echoing from the heart of the people as they pray and shepherd the group gently. They don’t direct, as much as they suggest. They interact with the dynamic of prayer that they sense occurring in the moment. They create space for group moments that don’t occur in undirected prayer. They provide the minimal level of leadership necessary to nudge the individuals into a group prayer experience that puts everyone on the same page.
- Directed – A directed prayer experience is beyond mere facilitation. Here, the leader is very active, very pivotal to the prayer process. He may move the congregation through various themes for prayer, call for silence or even passionate expressions in prayer. He may suggest that groups form for prayer. He is guiding the prayer experience. He usually will have a planned agenda. He may have a number of prayer needs to be covered or even a prayer exercise to unwrap. Still, the directed prayer meeting allows for personal expression and spontaneity.
- Orchestrated – An orchestrated prayer experience is one in which the whole event is scripted. There is an outline with individual prayer roles or pray themes. The content of prayer may be prescribed or recommended. Here, the least amount of spontaneity is allowed. The content of the prayer service is tightly focused. This is great way to introduce new models for prayer, to pray around issues or topics that we typically avoid.
STEP FOUR: The Content Needs – The content of your prayer service is your next concern. Your leadership style (step three, above) will determine your capacity for content. On the other hand, your need to cover certain content in prayer may determine the style of the prayer meeting. Undirected and Facilitated prayer meetings are typically agenda free and are not designed to accommodate planned content. Directed and Orchestrated prayer styles are the best when prayer content is important to the gathering.
CONTENT NEEDS …
- An undirected prayer experience has little planned content. The content of prayer bubbles up. It is spontaneous.
- In the facilitated prayer experience, the content is gently suggested at best. Or some theme is recognized and the facilitator calls attention to it – and may spontaneously offer some insight or direction for prayer.
- In the directed prayer experience, the content is planned.
- In the orchestrated prayer experience, the content is not only planned, but it is prescribed. There may be prayer litanies. This is particularly helpful when you, as a pastor, are in the stage of teaching people to pray. Or when you, as a congregation, are responding to some critical need or situation.
STEP FIVE: Topics for Prayer – Once you determine if your prayer time needs to accommodate specific content, that will dictate your leadership style. You will then need to choose the topics for prayer, the themes, the specific content.
The possibilities are myriad. You may spend an entire evening on repentance or reconciliation. On consecration or sanctification. On the need for character, say, the fruit of the Spirit. You may choose a Biblical passage and pray through the themes in that passage. You may spend an evening in prayer for open doors in the nations, for missions, for unreached people groups, for lost loved ones represented in the congregation itself. Or, you may pray for your city taking an imaginary prayer walk through the city. You may have a list of prayer needs – with Scripture related to each. You may create a series of slides to introduce prayer needs and inspire prayer. What is the Lord calling the church to pray about? You may simply spend some time in thanksgiving, some time in worshipful prayer (letting God love you, and loving Him), in intercession, and then in petition – offering prayer needs, and then close in prayer.
STEP SIX: Prayer Methods – Once you have determined your prayer style and your content needs, you will need to determine how you will pray about and around the chosen themes. For example, let’s say you have decided to pray for your community. You have chosen different community needs – poverty, crime, education, the family-breakdown, joblessness, drug problems, city-leadership. You might have someone take snapshots of different locations that represent the needs about which you are praying. Show the photos via power point. Locate them on a projected map of the city. Describe the precise condition about which you are praying. Have people come forward to a microphone and pray as if they were standing at the designated street-corner. Have those same people make an actual trip to the site beforehand and come to the prayer meeting with a burden they sensed as they prayed in that location.
Or, let’s say you want to pray for the church and its ministries or staff. Again, you might want to prepare visuals – of the staff, the programs of the church, outreaches, etc. You also may want to take a prayer walk through the sanctuary or the church facility, over the grounds. Assign groups to leave the sanctuary and pray in each department. Have them pray in each staff members office. Choose scripture to be read at each location. Teach them to wait. Have them to record impressions, prophetic insights, words from the Lord, promises or concerns. Divide the participants into teams for this experience.
Remember, poor planning often leads to shallow corporate prayer experiences. Prayer plans or resources meant to sharpen the focus of prayer, inform the content or enrich the experience can always be laid aside if it becomes clear that the Spirit seizes the direction and takes the prayer meeting into another direction. But, resources can’t be magically produced on the spot. We lay the wood, build the altar and God sends the fire. Poor planning is like asking God for lightning with no prepared altar, no pre-planning sacrifice, no investment, no wood that will sustain the fire.