Devoted to Prayer

It is our custom as a church, at least for the past 16 years, to mark off a week near the beginning of the year as Prayer Week and give special attention to congregational prayer. It runs from Sunday to Sunday, concluding with an afternoon praise service that God always uses to encourage hearts. I use the sermons during prayer week to direct our attention to matters related to personal and/or congregational prayer, but also matters generally related to our devotion to God and service for Him. We don’t do “revival meetings” as a church, but this week always serves as a great time of spiritual renewal at the start of the year.

I love the prayer meetings we have during Prayer Week. Each morning we gather in two groups (men and women) at 6:30 to pray for about 50 minutes. We prepare a prayer sheet built on the acrostic P-R-A-Y (praise, revival, ask, yield), with Scripture and suggested items under each section. I’ve not be in the ladies group, but with the men we make only a few comments at the beginning and then dive into prayer. We work our way through each section with men leading the group as God puts it into their heart to do so. I tell the men at the beginning that I will pray at the transitions between sections so they know it is time to move into the next one. The prayer time flows seamlessly and passes very quickly as we seek the Lord together. After we finished praying as a large group, we break into pairs to pray for each other before head off for the day.

We also have a Concert of Prayer during the midweek service. That name is drawn from Jonathan Edwards’ call for prayer. We cancel all of the regular ministries that happen on Wednesday night so that we can gather everybody together for prayer. We devote the entire time to prayer, some of which is expressed in song to the Lord. The basic format involves praying with a partner, in a small group, and as a full assembly. That requires some organized chaos near the beginning of the meeting where I ask folks to find a partner and then join a group of six to eight people. We separate the men and women on different sides of our auditorium, something which is not necessary, but seems to produce a more comfortable arrangement for praying together.

I lead the Concert from the pulpit, giving some brief instructions about prayer and presenting the subject about which we will pray. I’ll ask them to pray together as partners for a specific topic, and then let them do so for a few minutes. I’ll present a subject for prayer in their groups, and have them pray together for 5-7 minutes. Following the group prayer, we’ll have 1-3 folks lead the entire congregation in prayer for another set of requests. We cycle through this format (partners—group—assembly) at least twice during the course of the prayer meeting. Generally, the first time through focuses on spiritual renewal in our personal lives (partners), congregation (groups), and among Bible believing churches in our area (assembly). The second time focuses on the spread of the gospel through our personal witness (partners), congregational ministries (groups), and missions (assembly). Following each cycle we sing a song directed toward the Lord as expression of our desire to serve Him.

This year we also have used the first two Sunday nights of the year for prayer meetings, mingling prayer in small groups along with having designated men lead us in prayer for specific requests that they were given in advance. There are few things that encourage my heart as much as listening to an auditorium full of people praying together for God’s work and blessing on our lives and congregation. We pray in small groups for a few minutes every Sunday evening, but there is something powerful and refreshing about spending a full hour in prayer together. It’s good for our souls, draws us closer together, and exalts the Lord.

The words of Paul to the Colossians constantly challenge me, “Devote yourselves to prayer…” (Col 4:2a). He’s writing to a congregation, so we should hesitate before we immediately jump to the conclusion that this is a call for private devotions. I think he means that the church was to be devoted together to prayer. We’ve got a long way to go, but by God’s grace, we want to be that kind of church. May He graciously pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication on us and beyond for His glory!

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