When I did a readers’ poll a while back, top of the request list was advice on arranging a central prayer meeting.
So let’s have a think – but you folk need to pile in too, because I’m not saying I know how to get this licked. I’m just starting the discussion.
Our pattern is to have a monthly prayer gathering on the first Wednesday of the month 7.45pm-9.00pm, regular as clockwork. We try not to schedule against it, and we actively encourage people to come. It’s not huge, but it’s there, and I think it’s vital.
So here are seven principles that govern my thinking:
I was once part of a church which had quarterly prayer meetings. All round the building were different zones to pray for different things, put together with great creativity and art.
Now please don’t mishear me. I’m not against creativity and art. Nor do I think that prayer zones and so on are wrong – far from it.
But, there is something about the common, agreed nature of prayer which seems to be missing in the approach. ‘Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven’ (Matt 18:19). I find it hard to agree when we are walking around a building as individuals. In the same way, and for the same reason, ‘Amen’ is hard to say in such a setting.
So we need to find a time and place to gather, agree and focus our prayers.
Focussed, because this is the prayer meeting for the church. People can pay for their own issues in their small groups or prayer triplets or wherever. But this is where we come together to pray and praise and give thanks for the needs of our body. Our meetings and ministries, needs and delight.
That means there isn’t so much need for individual sharing here, because there are many other, and better outlets.
This is the balance to being focussed. Most folk pray for their own needs, battles and struggles. Which is right. But together, get people thinking about their area, their village, town, capital city, nation and world.
Life the vision
All sorts of people pray for our churches. Maybe you have a daily prayer bulletin on the notice sheet, or a monthly prayer calendar. Or a daily PrayerMate feed for your church (you should, and it’s free!)
But when we come together, it’s helpful if someone has done the background research. Someone has contacted the missionary for the latest (that day’s) prayer needs, and maybe set up a Skype call so you can hear from her directly. I have a friend who routinely produces short prayer bulletins for his ministry area for use at the prayer meeting. Another churches prints out the outline of the evening with possible prayer bullet-points.
So they can pray intentionally.
‘A staff meeting with the church’
When Richard Bewes was Rector of All Souls, Langham Place in London, he used to call the prayer meeting his ‘staff meeting with the church.’ It’s where people found out the news first, and in greater detail.
Every meetings has some kind of shape, and the last one I led I structured around the Lord’s Prayer (I know, original, huh?). The logic of that prayer is one that gives itself well to that kind of use – you pray the content of the Lord’s Prayer, without actually using those words, if that makes sense. And I think that’s why we were given it.
This is our battle. We meet in the back of a large space, and people find it hard to hear. So we’ve given in and get them to pray in much smaller groups of 4 or 5, all on the main topic, but so that they can hear each other.
Because there’s so much else to do – coffee, chat, welcome and so on.
And I’ve been in a prayer meeting where half an hour was given to a bible exposition.
We need bible teaching. We need coffee, chat and welcome. But we have come to that meeting to do business, and that business is to pray.
So keep the contributions crisp and punchy, to allow the prayers to be rich and thoughtful.
Anything I’ve missed? I’m sure I have! Pile in!