In retrospect, prayer meetings are romantic. After all, what seems to be common to every revival and season of gospel renewal? People praying. God moves a few people to begin praying and then he powerfully answers them. Consider Charles Spurgeon, arguably one of the most influential preachers in church history, when asked about the secret to his success, he reportedly said, “My people pray for me.” God uses prayers. God uses prayer meetings.
If they are romantic in retrospection then prayer meetings are also intimidating in planning and seemingly complicated in execution. Several months ago I wrote a post arguing why prayer meetings were important and why pastors should lead their churches by insisting on regular meetings of prayer (Why You Should Attend a Prayer Meeting). I received a lot of feedback, none negative but most discouraged. People universally agree on the need for the meetings but get discouraged by the tone or the direction of the time.
In this post I want to highlight a few areas that I believe are important to helping get a meeting off the ground. These are items that grew organically out of our own context as we wrestled together with what we are trying to build. I sat down with another one of our pastors and we analyzed why our meeting was not being well attended and thriving. We had to ask and answer some hard questions. A lot of it came back to us as leaders. In the last year we have seen our group steadily increase and become a vibrant band of men who regularly sacrifice time to meet early in the morning for the purpose of frontline prayer. It is awesome. God is using it greatly!
Here are some important considerations for a prayer meeting:
1) Pray. That’s right pastor, pray yourself and then pray that people would come. You can’t expect guys to be committed to something that you aren’t committed to. Also, you may not have something because you are not asking for it (James 4.2).
2) Plan. Take some time before the meeting to think about what you are going to say to encourage the men who come. Don’t just attend the meeting but lead it; plan to make it a prayer meeting.
3) Think Big. In our meetings I write three words on the white-board: “Specific”, “General”, and “Global”. In the first we identify items that are related to specific needs that we are aware of. In general we pray for gospel-renewal in our city, state and country. We push our vision of making and training disciples upon other churches in our city and our city itself through prayer. We pray for other churches who share this vision. We pray for revival in our church. Every single week we hit this. We also identify places to pray for around the world. We have a couple of men who have lived abroad as missionaries in our group so we have some first hand issues to pray for among the nations.
4) Read the Bible. After we fill up the white-board with prayer requests we read the Bible together. The chosen Scripture serves to provide a framework for our praying. We use that passage as a pallet to paint our prayers before God. (This is especially helpful as it shows guys how to integrate Bible reading into prayer while also encouraging Bible reading itself).
5) Promote it. We talk about men’s prayer all the time. We are always inviting men to join us, bragging about how God answered prayer, and referencing it in casual conversation. When leaders are behind something it becomes more visible. If you believe in the prayer meeting then act like it; promote it! Also, we have found that the prayer meeting is a perfect entry point for new people to the church. When someone asks how they can get involved we’ll invite them to come and pray with the pastors on Tuesday mornings. In turn they get to meet other guys and see the heartbeat of the church.
6) Set the Tone. Prayer meetings can often degenerate into a petry dish for grumbling, self-righteousness, and negativity. Leaders must labor to set the right tone here. In our setting one of our leaders prays first to ensure that a gospel-rich, adoring, tone has been struck. (note: I added this point after initially posting the article based on some good feedback on Twitter from Dr. David Murray. I’m thankful for his pastoral wisdom here.)
If you want to establish a culture of discipleship then prayer is a must. You must pray for it to happen but you must also pray to sustain and support it. People learn to pray by praying.
As we look at history prayer meetings are romantic. But you’re on the clock now; it’s time to make some history, it’s time to write the story.