Let Us Pray
Make prayer a focal point of your services
Leslie began attending Chicago Tabernacle when it was only a few years old and soon became one of our most faithful workers. As her pastor, I loved seeing how eager Leslie was to draw closer to God, especially through prayer.
Since my wife, Chrissy, and I planted the church more than 20 years ago, we’ve called our prayer meeting the most important meeting of the week. Today, hundreds of people gather weekly to pray.
But in those early days, it wasn’t uncommon for just a few to come together with one focus: calling on the name of the Lord. Leslie rarely missed a prayer meeting.
Our congregation has always been diverse. Leslie was a young, affluent, single woman with a rising career. In our prayer meetings and worship services, she prayed fervently with people from a wide variety of backgrounds, crying out to God on their behalf and asking Him to intervene in their situations.
Years ago, Leslie told me, “I would have never crossed paths with the people I know now at church — let alone have such a bond with them — if it weren’t for the fact that we pray together.”
Leslie’s experience should not be a rare one. Prayer is one of the things all God’s people should have in common when we come together (Mark 11:17).
Our Heavenly Father wants His Church to reproduce praying people. That means we must be intentional about training people to pray.
Although many congregations perceive prayer as simply one ministry within the Church, I believe it should permeate everything we do. What would it look like if our entire church were inclined to pray? What if every ministry made prayer a priority?
As impactful as the prayer meetings and altar times were for Leslie, it was her introduction to a churchwide culture of prayer that made the greatest impression.
Prayer is caught more than taught. It begins with an emphasis on seeking God whenever we come together.
The more you talk about prayer, the hungrier people will become for it. Start emphasizing it in your sermons and other communication, and those who long to pray will surface within the congregation.
Elevating prayer in our worship services elevates prayer in individual lives. When congregants sense prayer is a priority, they will respond. As pastors, we have a calling to lead by example in every spiritual discipline, including prayer.
Modeling prayer can be as simple as pausing in the middle of a message to pray about one of your application points. Such a moment can powerfully impact your culture and create a new mindset within your congregation to prioritize prayer in the corporate setting.
Take time in each service to stop and pray together — for your community, your government, the youth of your church, an event you are planning, or some other area of emphasis. This helps congregants develop a habit of praying.
Prayer is a powerful insertion in any gathering. It brings people closer to God and one another. If we cannot interrupt a worship meeting to stop and seek the Lord, perhaps we have missed the point.
Every time we entreat the Lord from a praying posture, we are asking Him to work in and through us.
When God answers a prayer, be sure to acknowledge it, as the psalmist David did: “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him” (Psalm 34:6).
Pausing to pray with your congregation is wonderful, but it’s just as important to pause and celebrate what God has done.
Psalm 34:3–4 says, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
Talking about answered prayers is a part of exalting God’s name together. Therefore, we should make space for it in our gatherings.
Time and again, we have presented dire situations to our congregation at a prayer meeting or during a worship service and seen God answer our prayers — often in miraculous ways. Sharing these testimonies builds the faith of our people and brings glory to God. How, then, can we keep answered prayers a secret?
Bragging about what the Lord has done will inspire people to pray with greater expectation and praise with more enthusiasm. It will energize your corporate worship.
As a pastor, one of my favorite moments on any given Sunday is when I walk through the spaces of our church an hour or so before service begins and see the ministry teams huddled up — praying together for God to use them for His glory and bless the services with His presence and power.
Your ministry teams should see themselves as prayer teams first. This mindset changes the way people experience ministry. It impacts everything — from the greeting in the parking lot to the passion of the worship band.
Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Every time we entreat the Lord from a praying posture, we are asking Him to work in and through us. Prayer turns the emphasis toward God and helps people begin to see their potential in Christ.
Every believer can and should pray. Have staff members as well as lay leaders come forward to pray for those who respond to your message during an altar call. This ministry should not be reserved only for pastors and elders. Psalm 32:6 says, “Let all the faithful pray to you.”
Some Christians think of prayer only as a private activity. But the Bible teaches it is also a vital part of corporate worship. In 1 Timothy, Paul began his instructions on worship by saying, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (2:1).
James told his readers, “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” (5:16).
Releasing people to pray reminds your congregation the goal of the day is not hearing a good sermon but seeking God in response to His message.
If we commit to these disciplines when we come together for worship, the people of our churches will find common ground and become even more fluent in the language of prayer.
When the Church begins to pray, God’s kingdom advances and Satan’s plans retreat.
Make prayer a central part of every service, and watch God work in your congregation and community.
This article appears in the Summer 2022 edition of Influence magazine.