It is a common phenomenon. Generally, Church prayer meetings are one of the least attended events. Most people would flock to potluck gatherings and social events. They would go for teaching sessions, especially when some famous speaker is in town. Bible studies are popular too. Just remember to throw in some delicious food and refreshments to sweeten the deal. However, when it comes to prayer meetings, the popularity index drops significantly. Who would want to go to a prayer meeting where people largely sit in one place and not do anything else? Surely, there are more important things to do, like give to the poor, help the needy, and to tend to the sick and ailing? This mindset of constantly on the move and doing something can deter people from committing to a regular time of praying together. Is that why churches tend to become more program-focused rather than prayer-led?
Years ago, I know of a prayer coordinator who would diligently rally people to pray. I saw her recently and noted her dejection when she said: “Not many people want to pray.” I empathize with her. It is a tough position to be in. If you do not have people who want to pray, what is there to coordinate?
The Early Church’s one distinct feature is this:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)
Not only do they gather frequently for teaching and fellowship, their commitment to prayer is equally strong. Unlike the modern Church, the Early Church is a praying Church. The modern Church tends to be active on almost anything except prayer. What if prayer is not some mundane and boring activity, but a crucial element of every activity in the Church? What if prayer in itself is Christian service and is a way in which we serve one another in love?
Richard Foster, the renowned author of Celebration of Discipline has this to say about prayer:
“If we truly love people, we will desire for them far more than it is within our power to give them, and this will lead us to prayer.” (Richard J. Foster, Prayer, Harper, 2002, p191)
As I reflect on this, the more we are active in programs and all kinds of Church work, the more we must arm ourselves in prayer. Foster points out the relationship between prayer and service. We serve because we love God. We love God through serving people. We pray for God to help us serve all.
How then do we go about starting a church prayer ministry? Here is a helpful list of tips from Chuck Lawless and Paul Engle. In their book entitled, “Serving in Your Church Prayer Ministry,” they give a few practical tips.
- Don’t be afraid to start small
- Don’t give up easily
- Do pray (and not talk so much)
Let me share a wonderful quote from Mother Teresa, whose ministry is fueled by prayer.