The first order of business is that a church makes a priority of gathering corporately for prayer. The church of Jesus Christ must be known as a house of prayer, and one of its defining characteristics must be that it prays together. Assuming, then, that the church is gathering for prayer (which is not in any way a safe assumption to make), here are some things to keep in mind: (Note: This is not meant to be an authoritative list of commands but a list of suggestions given my experience at prayer meetings. Hopefully, some bits and pieces might be helpful in your fellowship or small group.)
- Set a regular time, preferably at least once a week.
- Start immediately on time and end on time (If some want to stay and pray longer, let them do so, but make it clear that the meeting is over so that others who need to go don’t feel guilty or awkward for leaving).
- Have order to the meeting (have a designated leader, ideally an elder, though hopefully all of the elders are there).
- Consider taking a few minutes (but not so much as to eat into the prayer time) to instruct briefly on a certain matter pertaining to prayer (e.g. what is intercessory prayer, to Whom do we pray, why do we pray, what are God’s expectations for our prayers, what keeps God from hearing our prayers, etc.).
- Avoid small talk that eats away actual time in prayer.
- Try not to overspecialize the meeting so that the only things prayed for in the allotted time are health issues or one matter of business or one particular ministry. The time is precious so prayers need to be varied from topic to topic (that said, should the Spirit clearly show that a certain matter needs to be prayed for at the expense of others, do it).
- Be sure to include time for praising God at the beginning, leading into praying for the kingdom to advance, leading into praying for needs, leading into praying for any confession that is necessary (though some need to be just between us and God and/or the person offended; confessions go as far as the breach of the offense), and concluding with praising and thanking God. This is all according to the Lord’s Prayer.
- Be sure to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Allow and encourage interjections of the Scripture and an occasional song. Yet do not let this detract from the focus in prayer. If a prayer meeting is for several hours or all night, then there ought to be more interjections.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut, singing the same song or praying in a rote routine. Let the Spirit lead out of the order that God has ordained.
- Consider taking some time to break up into smaller groups and pray. Prayer can be for one another in the group as requests are shared in the group or for the church as a whole.
- Actively pray with an intercessory mindset, calling out to God for revival, effective evangelism, and change in the community and nation.
- Pray for all that God has commanded us to including political leaders, church leaders, and all the saints.
- Pray in faith for healing of the sick.
- Have someone keep a log of past prayer so God can be praised for answered prayer.
- Don’t let one person dominate the meeting, praying for too long. Be sure to let others pray as the Spirit leads them.
- Cover all of the bases of the ministry of the church (pastor, elders, preaching, ministries, children, marriages, parenting, evangelism, missions, etc.).
- Call out to God for conversions and pray for specific individuals who are unsaved.
- Let the elders set an example in prayer of where their burdens are as the Lord is leading them so that others can feed off of their lead in prayer.
- Keep the praying on topic. Don’t jump from one thing and then back to another. Consider having a list to pray through so items are not forgotten.
- Prayer is a desperate plea, so let it be that.
- Have great faith. Don’t limit God because of unbelief.
- God’s will is for men to be saved so pray like it.
- Be informed about needs around the world so that the church does not become self-absorbed and ethnocentric. Pray for missionaries already supported and the needs made apparent through the work of their supporting organizations.
- Consider gathering in a place visible to the community such as a park or city green as it may open a door for witnessing.
- Let people take the list of prayer requests home so they have something to pray for during the week. They will be more likely to ask about the requests the next time they gather corporately.
- It is essential that the church as a whole knows about the needs as they arise. It is frustrating to hear somebody pray for a need and not have been informed about it, especially when it is very serious. Perhaps some requests could be emailed in advance, or the elders could share of any needs that have arisen in the last week.
- Avoid phrases like “just be with them” and “help them.” Rather, pray specifically so that answers can be known or God can lead for an alternative direction in prayer.
- A prayer gathering is not a cozy, nice religious event. Its purpose is not merely to “build community.” It exists to praise the living God as a community, to intercede on behalf of needy brothers and sisters, and to call to God for conversions, for purity, and for revival. It is wartime. Intercessory prayer is urgent and battle-minded. It intends to take ground from the devil.
- Stay in tune with world and community events so that they are prayed for.
- Believe that the prayer gathering is changing the world, and don’t stop believing that. If that belief is there and God’s will is prayed, the kingdom will advance.
Again, the most important thing is that the church actually gathers and that their theology teaches them how absolutely important and vital prayer is. The life of the church and the advancement of the kingdom will falter and fail without prayer. We battle spiritual forces of darkness, and they are overcome in prayer.