The Proximity Factor

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Ways to Spark Your Church Prayer Meeting

At our house, my three sons and I love using the fireplace. Through trial and error, we have discovered that the key to a good fire is setting the logs in close proximity to each other.

At the church where I pastor, we have discovered something similar: that the fire of prayer in our lives burns strongest when we are in close proximity to each other. Praying together enables us to feed off of each other’s faith and giftings. It also helps us to see the bigger picture. It moves us from me-focused prayers to kingdom- focused prayers—for revival, evangelism, and city transformation.

Regrettably, corporate prayer seems to have become the Achilles’ heel of the modern church. We are the first society in history to boast of growing churches and shrinking prayer meetings. We have become so individualistic that we teach our people how to pray alone, but we often fail to teach them to pray together. When we do come together, we gather more often for Bible study, group discussion, or support groups than for prayer.

Teaching a group of independent pray-ers to pray corporately is not easy, but it is certainly worth the effort. Here are a few things I’ve learned about leading corporate prayer.

Arrive at the meeting prayed-up. Spend time beforehand in private prayer, petitioning and interceding for the things that are close to your heart. When leaders and participants are faithful to do this during the corporate prayer meeting, they are freed up to pray about broader issues impacting the church, city, nation, and world. Spend time in advance repenting, praising God, and seeking His heart about the prayer focus for the meeting as well. Never assume that a corporate prayer meeting is a substitute for personal prayer.

Begin with worship. Sing songs, read Psalms, and speak words of adoration to the Lord.

Pray Scripture. Encourage the group to speak out truths about God from the Scriptures. These statements become the foundation for faith-based prayers that align with God’s character and will.

Spend time on a single topic. As the leader, ask the Holy Spirit to help you recognize significant prayer topics. When someone speaks a prayer that strikes a chord in you, affirm that prayer and announce to the group, “Let’s continue on that same theme” (and name the theme). When I wrote this article, we had just met for prayer on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7. As we prayed that night, the Holy Spirit prompted us to pray for protection from secret attacks by the enemy. We asked God for protection over our church family and ministries. We asked Him to protect any unguarded place, to make us sober, alert, watchful, and vigilant. We took turns praying on this theme for more than an hour. I doubt that any of us would have had that kind of enthusiasm praying by ourselves.

Vary group size. Provide opportunities to pray in small prayer clusters of three or four as well as in the larger group.

Acknowledge God’s answers. Celebrate in prayer the victories that are won in corporate prayer. We pray regularly at our midweek prayer meetings that visitors who attend our services will sense God’s presence. God answers that prayer regularly. Just last week a man who was new to our church told me, “God’s presence is so strong on Sunday that it is startling.” When I hear clear answers to prayer like that, I pass them on to the midweek pray-ers, knowing that they will encourage them to pray all the more.

Lead with joy. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with His fruit of joy that will fuel others in prayer. Joy goes hand in hand with corporate prayer: “I will . . . give them joy in my house of prayer” (Is. 56:7).

When people learn to pray corporately, they get more than they bargained for. The spark of fire in one intercessor passes on to another, until before long, even those who were feeling cold ignite. The fire of God’s presence burns brightest when we come together before Him in prayer.

–by Fred A. Hartley III

Used by permission of Pray! Copyright © May/June 2006, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved.

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