By Paul Covert
Getting People Started in Prayer
School of Prayer””Each School of Prayer offers topics designed to teach people to pray and time to practice what they”ve learned. At least one of the three sessions is for entry-level prayers. The SOP is held once a quarter.
Prayer Garden””Central has its own Prayer Garden. The garden offers a quiet place on campus for staff, members, and their friends to take a break to pray. There are six stations in the garden with inspirational thoughts for prayer at each station. The meditations are changed regularly, so the experience is always fresh.
Annual Prayer Conference””This conference features some of the finest speakers, authors, and teachers on prayer available. The speakers lead stimulating Friday night and Saturday morning sessions to motivate and challenge participants in all phases of their prayer life.
God has used the conference to bring prayer to the attention of our church and others in the area, even reaching out to other states. After each conference, we have heard of people and churches inspired to pray more, and we can track an increase in participation in our prayer ministry.
24-7 Prayer Time””Each year in November, Central”s prayer team opens a prayer room with 10 creative, interactive prayer stations for members and friends to attend. The prayer room is open 24 hours a day for 7 days, offering a quiet, uninterrupted time of prayer for participants. Many people point to this event as the time they began to grow in their prayer lives.
The key is the interactive nature of the stations. One year we did a station for our homeless ministry. We gathered prayer requests from homeless guests at a church outreach event. We put them on sticky notes inside a large cardboard box, the kind some homeless people call home. We provided a fake fire and a shopping cart with stuffed plastic bags in it and used an old tire for a seat.
People crawled in the house and felt what it”s like to be homeless. Soon they were writing prayers for the homeless on sticky notes, and it was clear that God had moved in their hearts.
Helping People Grow in Prayer
LIFT””Our weekly prayer meeting is not your grandma”s prayer meeting. We approach it as a battleground with territory to be taken for God”s kingdom.
Web Prayer Team””The Web Prayer Team prays for the requests turned in during weekend services and entered online to Central”s Prayer Web site. All requests are available online for interactive prayer times. To get started, all a person needs is access to a computer, brief training, a commitment for confidentiality about the prayers listed there, and a password.
Prayer Partners””After each worship service, prayer partners pray with those who have specific requests. Prayer partners usually serve after the service they attend. This is prayer support, not counseling.
God has done some incredible things during these prayer times, not only in the lives of those we pray for, but in the prayer partners” lives as well. Having prayer partners at every worship service has created a climate of prayer. It is not uncommon to see a small group gathered at the front to pray with one of their members, or a husband and wife joining hands with a prayer partner, or a single man or woman quietly praying with a prayer partner.
Service Intercession””At present we have nine services each weekend, so we have nine teams of folks offering intercessory prayers. Each service”s team has a different theme for the prayers, but all follow the same pattern.
Here is how it works. We begin with spoken confession. This may seem weird to you, but good prayer comes out of a clean heart. Then we move on to praise and thanksgiving. Next we pray for the people in the service and those leading the service.
Finally we pray for a theme that has been assigned for that service”s prayer time. For instance, at the 9:30 am Sunday service in Mesa, we pray for our global field workers. At the 4:30 pm Saturday service in Mesa, we pray for the nation.
Sometimes people come to service intercession because they know prayer is important and they feel called to pray in this way. But sometimes, the people come to pray because they have a heart for the theme of that particular worship service”s intercession time.
Service intercession is an effective training ground for people who want to learn to pray. Joe writes, “Since I joined the prayer team, I”ve gone from treating God like a vending machine to realizing there is a battleground that I am in the middle of. I now believe there really are forces of evil wanting a piece of me, and I am learning to pray more strategically and aggressively.”
Small Groups””Cathy and I teach an eight-week small group strictly on prayer. This is new for us and has worked very well. We present what we think are the most important topics for our participants, and then we take time to practice them in the small group setting. Our students have all grown exponentially, and most have joined the ministry in one area or another.
Prayer Shield””We have several teams who pray specifically for Cal Jernigan and the campus pastors. They meet once a quarter and allow the pastors to share on a deeper level than they could do with the whole church. Then the teams cover the pastors in prayer for the rest of the quarter.
For Those Most SeriousÂ About Prayer
Half Day in Prayer””Originally an old Navigator program, Half Day of Prayer takes people to a remote place to spend three to four hours alone with God. We print some instructions on how to use their time, suggest other materials to bring, and then turn them loose. Many people have never prayed for long periods of time, so this can be a real turning point in their growth.
Uninterrupted Prayer (or UP) Team””Our goal is to recruit and maintain 24-hour, 7-day-a-week prayer covering for Central and its staff, new church plants, and global outreach workers. UP Team members pray one specific hour each week.
Each month, new requests submitted by the staff, field workers, and pastors are sent electronically or by mail to team members. We ask for specific categories of prayer requests from all respondents. These include praise, three ministry requests, and two personal requests with none of them being longer than 255 characters each. That way the prayer requests are manageable in length and scope and the people who pray don”t get overwhelmed.
E-Men”s Groups and E-Women”s Groups””This is a rigorous prayer accountability group that reports to each other via the Internet. Participants work on the disciplines of daily prayer, Bible study, praying with their spouses, exercising, reading, and praying for their neighborhoods. The life-changing groups meet quarterly in person for fellowship and encouragement.
E-men”s participant Tony writes, “By being held accountable, I have seen my marriage strengthened through praying with my wife and have watched my time in the Bible and in prayer move from sporadic to become a daily habit. I know beyond a doubt that I would not have been as consistent in these areas if I were not being held accountable by a group of such caring Christian men.”
Prayer Journeys””Each year, we take a couple of trips to different countries around the world to pray for the work of our global field workers. These are not sightseeing ventures. Rather, participants focus on intercession for the area, and find the experience challenging and rewarding.
Paul Covert serves as prayer pastor with Central Christian Church of the East Valley, Mesa, Arizona.