Friday, February 25, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 5
(Keys to leading an effective weekly prayer meeting)

I promised that today I'd be sharing about keys to leading an effective prayer meeting.  This post is going to be very practical, basically the nuts and bolts of what works for us at CC. It's just what we have found to be effective for us, not what I believe is "the plan of God for every church."  If something here helps you, take it and run with it.  That's why I'm posting it!  At the same time, if there's something you think I would benefit from in your experience, please comment and let me know. I'm ever learning and welcome your suggestions.

I've been in church all my life, and pastoring the last 24 years.  One thing I've experienced over the years is that prayer meetings tend to be a whole lot of sharing (sometimes even gossiping) and very little praying.  Sometimes people even come to prayer meeting with the intention of talking to those present, getting things off their chest, or spending time with the leader/pastor present.  I have even experienced people coming to prayer meeting to spend time with ME versus spending time with GOD.  How does a leader deal with that?  Well...

This is what we do at Celebration, and 99% of the time (I'd say that's a pretty good percentage!) it's working.

First, we advertise in all of our church publications and video announcements that both weekly meetings (Wednesday night and Thursday morning) are 100% prayer.  We want people to come expecting that.

Once they get there, we make sure the atmosphere is set for 100% prayer before they ever come in.  We tell them to e-mail, facebook or phone in their prayer requests AHEAD OF TIME.  In all of the prayer meetings I experienced prior where things derailed into something besides prayer, I noticed it usually happened during the "prayer request time". When the leader allows it to become a sharing time instead of a praying time, people get a lot off their chests but nobody gets any praying done.  So my goal  when I started leading was to eliminate the request/share time.  The key to this is to have all the requests prior to the meeting.  Each week I compile the prayer list, update it and copy it and put a stack on the communion table for each prayer meeting.  Requests are on the list until the breakthroughs come.  We don't stop til' there's victory.  We tell the people all the time that we're there to P.U.S.H.  (Pray until something happens!!!)

This is a photo of what the prayer list looks like for each week. (Click to enlarge)


This is only page one - there is a second full page on the flip side, but I have just printed page one to give you an idea of how we do it.  (If you want a copy in Microsoft Word, just e-mail me and I'll be glad to send  you one.)   Prayer requests come in from all over the world -- our missionaries e-mail me or call because they know they can count on us!  Friends, pastors, churches, and even many unchurched people who are searching but haven't worked up the courage yet to walk into a church e-mail and say, "can you all pray for this?"  We happily oblige!  At the end of the meetings for the week on Thursdays, I take any leftover prayer lists, and put them on our church info table for anyone who wants to pick them up and remember the requests during the week, especially those who may have missed the prayer meeting for the week.


Both of our all church weekly prayer meetings are for everyone, not just women.  Having a mixed group, I feel is very essential to the health of a church.  I believe men and women should work together and prayer should not be a "woman thing"!

Next, we have signs on the doors for both the Wednesday and the Thursday meetings.  Here is a copy of one of the signs:  (Click to enlarge it)


I find it's essential to use these signs on the doors all the time during the meetings because you have new people coming to prayer meeting all the time especially as the ministry grows.  And you have to keep laying out the expectation or things will veer off and pretty soon the focus of the meeting will not be prayer anymore.

For each prayer meeting, I create a worship "playlist"  on a Zune/Ipod, for each week.  The worship music is not the focus - it's just a backdrop to help us focus in.  I seek the Lord about it prior to the weekly meetings and get a feel for what songs we should have that week, and make about a one hour playlist for each week.  It's important to not get in a rut with the music - change up the playlist.  I use songs that are very specifically focused in the direction we're heading in prayer and as a church.  These are songs of worship but most of them speak directly to breakthrough, victory, prayer, healing, etc.  I also take care as to the order we put them in.  It's really no different than being led by  the spirit as to how to structure a Sunday morning  or Wed night worship service.  

As an example, this is the playlist from this past week's prayer meetings at CC:
Alpha & Omega  (Israel Houghton)
As it is in Heaven (David & Nicole Binion)
He's Already Provided (Martha Munizzi)
Give Me Faith (Elevation)
You Said (Hillsong)
Heaven on Earth (David & Nicole Binion)
Let the Veil Down (Judy Jacobs)
My Nation Healed (Free Chapel)
I Have to Believe (Rita Springer)
You Are On Our Side (Elevation)
Your Latter Will Be Greater  (Israel Houghton)
New Season  (Israel Houghton)

I switch up the songs constantly and use brand new ones, older ones, all kinds of songs.  The playlist above is just one example.  It's important to keep it fresh.

Then for each prayer meeting I come in at least 30 minutes prior and start the playlist (and have it on repeat).  Everything in the sanctuary is set from the playlist on the sound system, to the lighting to the prayer requests on the communion table.  Finally, I get in place...

I start praying about 15 minutes before anyone else arrives.  I do not stay anywhere near the door where they would be coming in.  People strike up a conversation immediately if I do this and we don't end up praying.  Twice I made the mistake of standing near the doors.  Each time, different women came in and immediately hugged me and said, "Oh PD, I really need to talk to you..." and started into a whole spiel.  Not that their issues aren't important, for they are -- but again...this is prayer time, not time to talk about their problems.  Besides that, I believe we spend a whole lot of time talking about how big our problems are and too little time telling our problems about how big our GOD is.  So I avoid the doors.  When anyone comes in, I'm already on my face at the altar, or walking the altar already totally immersed in prayer time, or I might be walking the sanctuary, but not near the doors where they are coming in.  I'm a person who prays out loud - boldly - they don't have to guess, "...is she praying?"  They know.  And, when they come in, they follow my example or the example of those who are already there before them, and start praying too.
Now, what about interruptions?  Despite the signs the announcements we've made, I've still been interrupted a handful of times since I've been leading prayer meeting.  It's never an emergency, always just someone wanting to tell me how their week went, or ask me about a church business matter unrelated.  If they are interrupting to pray for me, great.  I'll always receive prayer!  For anything else,  I look at them and I say very nicely but firmly: "...what's your emergency?"  Instantly they realize, I do mean business about prayer time being prayer time.   I gently let them know, "I'll be glad to talk to you later, but sorry, this is prayer meeting."  And I go right back to prayer.

Amazing things happen in our prayer meetings.  The spirit of God is there in such a powerful way.  Being that we are a pentecostal church in every sense of the word, it tends to be loud...spontaneous...people walking the sanctuary, laying in the altar space, some quiet - even silent, others shouting, clapping, crying to God.  There have been times we've had a healing right there in prayer meeting, or other significant things happen.  But the focus is always...PRAYER.  Nothing but prayer.  Although the worship playlist is on, it's not a music time - that's just the backdrop to stir up the atmosphere.

I pray from the prayer list and just go after God, spending a great amount of the time just lifting Him up and thanking Him.  I pray the Word of God, calling on Him for an outpouring of His spirit, the nations, our community, our leadership, the current needs at Celebration, and all the requests that have come in.  People follow suit and do the same all over the sanctuary.

On Wednesday nights prayer is 1 hour before church.  The first 3/4 of the meeting is spontaneous prayer  in the sanctuary, but the last 1/4 of it I come to the pulpit and lead in corporate prayer over the microphone and everyone agrees in prayer.
On Thursday mornings, the first 1/2 of the prayer meeting is spontaneous prayer in the sanctuary, but the last 1/2 we gather everyone at the altar and read each request that has come in from the internet or by phone and we agree together for each one.  There is not a "share time" nor do we go off in discussion about these people or requests -- we just get down to business and pray.  We're committed to keep it on track.


If I have to be out of town or such and cannot lead the meeting, another leader usually takes care of the meeting in my place and follows the same exact pattern above to ensure that the meeting stays on track. 

Finally I always list "praise reports" at the top of the prayer list.  People get very excited to read the reports of people being healed, and breakthroughs happening through our prayers.  Some of the answers to prayer are with people in our church, others all over the world who have called or written in.  The people get so excited to see the difference they are making through prayer.  Truly, history DOES belong to those who pray.

Happy gatekeeping!  (smile)  

2 comments:

Women of Worth said...

Thank you Pastor Deanna! Really good!

Love ya,
LaDonna

Rhonda said...

WOW! Incredible post - love reading how the Lord is using you and your church!