A) Always Begin Prayer Meetings with a Worshipful Tone, ala the ACTS method. This will pre-focus the attention of all, on God Himself, and thus brings all which we would pray about, into the proper perspective. It helps remind us that nothing is impossible for God, thus encouraging us to start believing, and confidently asking Him for the impossible. It reminds us that God loves us, is for us, and wants His best for us. Sometimes, it helps to start with a 1-5 minute period of silence, during which each is encouraged to thoroughly focus on God Himself. [2Cor 10:5] Another idea, is to invite a worship leader, from your local church, to lead the prayer group in two or three worship songs, before prayer begins. Like I said on the Key Elements page, if we first get our eyes on our BIG God, our problems suddenly don’t look as hard, for, we’ve engendered the faith that God, for whom nothing is impossible, will face these problems for us.
B) Many believers like to have a short preliminary discussion, to decide what the group should pray about, before prayer begins. It’s good to be aware of special prayer needs and requests, to get our hearts ready to ask the Lord, and agree together about them. If somebody volunteers to log these prayer requests on paper, they may be covered more thoroughly during the prayer meeting. The log may also serve as a reminder for anyone who decides to follow up on these requests, with more prayer in the days to come, and/or praise reports concerning the Lord’s answer to them. However, I caution to keep this discussion to an absolute minimum, because, it often leads to more talking about prayer, than actually bringing these things before the Lord in prayer. It also tends to get our minds focused on our requests, more than on God Himself. Limit such discussion to about two or three minutes maximum, for, the Lord “knows what things you have need of, before you ask him”. [Matt 6:8], [Is 65:24]
C) It usually helps to have the two most mature believers “start”, and “close” the prayer meeting. That means one of these persons is the first to pray out loud, and the other is the last. The one who starts prays with an “opening” tone, and the one who closes prays with a “summarizing” tone. It’s usually best to decide ahead of time, how long the prayer meeting should last. The person who is closing should be the only one keeping track of time. The rest should do their best to completely forget about the clock, and focus all their attention on God.
D) Encourage everybody to participate. I believe the Lord wants each person to be blessed, by participating in corporate prayer, very much akin to the Holy Spirit’s work, when He distributes the gifts of the Spirit. [1Cor 12:11] The best way to insure this is to take turns praying out loud, such that all may hear, and to encourage each person to take at least one turn. This can be done in a specific order, or, randomly, as each person feels the Holy Spirit is prompting them to speak out, toward God. This presents us with two difficulties, which must be addressed in love. Most prayer meetings have both brethren who are shy to pray out loud, in front of others, and, those who are, shall we say, a little too comfortable praying out loud, in front of others. The shy ones are afraid that they may speak out to God in prayer, but, not under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They fear that their verbal prayer may not minister grace to others, and so figure it might be best to keep quiet, and listen to other, more mature brethren pray. On the other hand, the “too comfortable” brethren tend to use up all the allotted prayer time, such that others are not given due chance to participate. Both may suffer from the fear of man, but, more so, the one who “preaches a sermon” with his prayer. Even when sincere, Holy Spirit filled brethren are confident the Spirit is inspiring them to participate out loud, a “polished” delivery tends to make those shy brethren even shyer to participate — ala, “how can I possibly top that?”. We must remember that we are all learning to let the Holy Spirit inspire our prayer — to “pray in the Spirit”. We are all at various levels of spiritual experience and maturity, in this regard. We must therefore be very patient with each other, and encourage each to participate. The shy ones must be encouraged to speak out to God, believing He always accepts their prayer offering. The “prayer hogs” must be encouraged to patiently allow others a chance to pray, and to listen for the Spirit’s voice through others too. [1Cor 12:22], [1Cor 14:26], [Eph 4:16], [Rom 12:16] Whenever anyone takes a turn to pray out loud, the rest should pray silently, for the Spirit’s help, upon that person praying. One very practical remedy is to encourage each person to offer short, spontaneous, one-sentence petitions (some like to call this “popcorn prayer”). This keeps prayer hogs in check, and presents the shy ones with a less formidable task than trying to imitate them. Another remedy is to sit in a circle, and have each person pray in order (clockwise or counterclockwise). However it may be accomplished, let each person endeavor to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, through others, and in themselves.
E) Do Not Serve a Meal Before the Meeting. Some people tend not to be on their best alertness, immediately after a meal. It should make wonderful fellowship (and scriptural [Acts 2:42]), at a future time, but, prayer meetings should focus on the Lord, in prayer. In the words of Spurgeon, “the saints are not so inclined to pray, when they are filled with meat”. Ever wonder why the scripture often mentions “fasting and prayer” ?
F) Always seek your pastor’s advice before starting a prayer meeting that will meet regularly. I highly recommend that you pray much and often for him, in your personal prayer time, before asking for his advice. Prayer meetings must be orderly, and should be consistent with your local assembly’s doctrine, and general philosophy of ministry, if you wish your local church family to benefit from them. Your pastor is very concerned for the welfare of your church family. You need his oversight, to make sure all is in order, accountable to eldership in the body, and to encourage the rest of the body to participate.
G) Once a Prayer Meeting is Established, Maintain the Focus of Prayer. Sometimes zealous brethren, with good intentions, will insist that the group needs to experience more “outreach”. They may suggest meeting downtown for street witnessing, or visiting the sick, or having a BBQ and inviting the poor, etc. My experience, unfortunately, is that few things will drain your energies to pray more subtly. As the focus of the group shifts from prayer, to such activity, you will first see the desire to pray begin to wane. The desire to participate in the new activity will begin to wane, after the desire to pray has vanished. If you want your prayer meeting to continue, insist that such a worthy expedition should take place at a different time, or perhaps after the prayer meeting. If the expedition is to street witness, I strongly suggest that some remain behind, to pray for those that go out. In the words of A. J. Gordon, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed”.
Prayer needs to become a habit of our lives, that is, something we do every day, very consistently. It grows deeper, and more fervent, as we learn to know God’s presence more intimately. Over the long term, we learn to treasure time with Him, more than with anyone else, and wonder why we wasted so much time on temporal things. We need both to pray at set times each day, and to cultivate an “attitude” of continual prayer, throughout the day. But, it starts with a small commitment, and grows. Here are some practical steps to help you get started : 1) Commit yourself to start praying for at least ten minutes, every day. This may seem hard, at first, but, as your communion with God grows, you will certainly find yourself spending more time, just because the Lord is SO good, and His love for us is greater than we can ever imagine. [John 3:16], [Eph 3:19], [1Jn 3:1], [Jer 31:3], [1Jn 4:16], [1Pe 1:8], [Rom 5:5-8], [Eph 2:4-7], [Rom 8:38-39] Certainly, ANY amount of time spent in God’s presence is better than none, so start with ten minutes. Use a clock to track your prayer time. I highly recommend using the ACTS method, with your bible open to Ephesians chapter six. Spend at least one minute on Adoration, and one minute on Confession. Then at Thanksgiving, spend a little time truly considering each part of the Armor of God, from Ephesians 6:14-17. Then ask God for two things in particular, 1) To fill you with His Holy Spirit, and 2) To help you maintain an attitude of continual prayerfulness, all day long. Then let your requests be made known to God.
Ask God to bring to mind those particular petitions He would have you pray about. When 15 minutes feels natural, add more time, more petitions Jesus asked His disciples about spending one hour with Him [Matt 26:40]; that’s my personal goal, one hour a day ; and, by starting with just ten minutes, several months ago, I’m now getting very close to an hour. So close, that I’m actually looking forward to setting a new goal for two hours, once I find myself consistently spending an hour with God! Careful Note : It is not so much the amount of time we are concerned about here, so much as definitely starting on our way toward a wonderful, Godly, eternally rewarding, life-time commitment to pray.
2) Commit yourself to pray at the same time, same place, every day. This is how to develop a habit. Psychologists say it takes about 90 days to burn a habit into our brains, deep enough to make it stick.
“A habit has been defined as an act repeated so often it becomes involuntary. There is no new decision of mind each time the act is performed. Jesus prayed. He loved to pray. Often praying was His way of resting. He prayed so often it became part of His life. It was to Him like breathing — involuntary.” – Dick Eastman
“Without set times of prayer, the spirit of prayer will be dull and feeble. Without the continual prayerfulness, the set times will not avail.“ — Andrew Murray
3) Eliminate all distractions. Distractions cause our minds to wander from focus on God Himself, to something else. Everybody finds their mind wandering at first. That’s OK, because we’re just learning to pray. (As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered, just get back on track, by starting just where you left off. If you are following the “ACTS” method, this won’t be hard.) But, the vast majority of this tendency to mentally wander can be eliminated, by simply finding a quiet, solitary place to pray. Jesus often found such a place to pray. [Mat 14:23], [Mark 1:35], [Mark 6:46], [Luke 5:16] I’ll conjecture that Jesus once even suggested a closet. [Matt 6:6] Though certainly this wasn’t the main point of the context, once you find how hard it is to keep from wandering, you’ll perfectly understand my liberty with this text. MANY things can become distractions, when we are trying to pray. Distractions, such as noise (background conversation, radios, traffic, etc.), fast moving objects (such as cars, airplanes, or even flying insects, etc), fluctuating environmental conditions (wind, cold, heat, etc), ALL these things, generally do not occur in a closet, do they ? Brethren, whatever it takes, eliminate distractions.
4) If possible, pray immediately after reading the Bible. God’s Word does not return void, but, accomplishes the work He intends for it to do. [Is 55:11] [Ps 19:7] The Word of God is “faith-feeding”. [Rom 10:17] By meditating on God’s Word, our tendency to mentally wander is drastically reduced. By renewing our minds in His Word, our thoughts get aligned with His, and it becomes much easier to discern His voice [Rom 12:2][Ps 19:14]. I like to read until He definitely has shown me something special, just for me, just for the day, and then I start praying about that very issue. Also, since the Psalms are about 80% prayer, they make great pre-prayer meditations. Getting into His Word gives God a chance to get our attention, focus our thoughts on Him, and then praying is a lot easier. (URGENT NOTE : If you are not reading the Bible every day, you are likely to encounter great difficulty developing a deeper prayer life. God’s Word needs to guide our thoughts in prayer, always. Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness by knowing the Word of God [Matt 4:1-11] If you do not read the Bible daily, I urge you to start sincerely asking God to give you a burning desire for His Word, and then commit yourself to read one chapter a day. [Jer 15:16], [Ps 119:9-11], [2Tim 2:15], [Matt 4:4] I recommend starting in Luke chapter one, and then go chapter by chapter, all the way through to Revelation …in time, it will naturally become two chapters a day, because that’s how effective God’s Word is, that’s how good He is.)
5) Commit yourself to pray with other Christians once a week. When we can agree in prayer over requests to God, He promises to fulfill them. [Matt 18:19,20] You might start by confiding with close brethren (perhaps your spouse, elders, pastors), that you would like prayer for “a better prayer life”, and then agree together in prayer about it. Jesus will be there in your midst, to produce results beyond what you might ask, or even think. [Eph 3:20] Praying with other Christians is an essential element of the Christian life. [1Ti 2:1], [James 5:16], [Acts 2:42] One of the most effective corporate prayer methods, is the pre-service prayer meeting. If your church doesn’t hold one, just show up to a church service at least 20 minutes early, and ask whoever is standing around idle, to agree with you in prayer. Quickly find a quiet corner, vacant Sunday School classroom, backstage broom closet, or whatever, and pray for the pastor who is about to speak at the service. Pray that he might be a willing, prepared vessel, in the loving hand of God, and speak as the Spirit leads. Pray that the congregation will be open to the Lord’s Word, instruction, exhortation, encouragement, edification, and direction, through his address. Pray for the song leader and worship team, that they would be sensitive to the Lord’s leading, on how He would be worshipped. You will be surprised at how much MORE you will get out the service, from the Lord, by doing this. You will even notice that you will feel closer in Christian love, toward the person who agreed with you in prayer. Jesus prayed in John 17, that the Father would make us all one, as He and the Father are one, that the world would know that the Father sent Jesus. [John 17:21-23] I believe that Great Revival is the result of the church becoming of one mind, one heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and I believe this happens primarily through praying together. I believe that is precisely why Jesus tells us to “agree” over prayer requests ; It forces us to pray together. Instructing us to “pray one for another” [James 5:16], is one way the Lord builds the body together in love.
I will briefly review some guidelines that have helped me, and direct you to some other sites which I am finding very helpful and practical.
Years ago, I was taught to order my prayer after the “ACTS” method of prayer, which stands for :
- Adoration - Praising, worshipping God, for Who He is
- Confession - Asking God to cleanse us from sin
- Thanksgiving - Believing, acknowledging God’s grace
- Supplication - Our specific prayer requests
Adoration -The first, and, most important Element is always begin prayer, by getting our heart, soul, mind, and strength fully focused on our GREAT BIG GOD ; our problems will soon look NOT very big in comparison. This is the Adoration stage : it always comes first. This is essentially practicing Jesus’ command to “take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.“ [Mat 6:31-33] The kingdom Jesus refers to here, is our heart’s surrender to Him as King, ie., acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, Savior, our Good Sheppard [John 10:11, Ps 23:1], our faithful High Priest who continuously intercedes for us in heaven [Hbr 4:14-16] [Rom 8:34], acknowledging His Father as our heavenly Father, “my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in Whom I will trust” [Ps 18:2], etc. In other words, acknowledge God for EVERYTHING He is to us, and focus our thoughts on Him alone. By temporarily pushing our specific requests out of mind, and first focusing on God Himself, and our relationship to Him, we offer the Lord time to comfort us by His Holy Spirit, to convince us that He hears us, and that He is able and willing, to deal with the requests we would bring before Him [Mat 6:8]. Beginning prayer with Praise and Adoration is a powerful way to get focused on God. A few minutes of quiet meditation in God’s Word beforehand, will help tremendously, at this initial stage of Adoration, and sometimes even short, exhorting sermon bits are helpful.
Confession - Next element is the Confession stage, where we purposely seek the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, that we might ask God for forgiveness, and trust Him to cleanse us by the blood of Christ [1Jhn 1:9] ; We do this so that our prayers will not be hindered by sin. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me].” [Ps 66:18] See also [Ps 139:23-24], [Mat 6:12], [2Chr 7:14], [Ps 51:17].
Thanksgiving - The next element is Thanksgiving, that is, acknowledging that all the blessings come from God alone, plus believing, and receiving these blessings. When I reach the Thanksgiving stage, I begin to “put on the full armor of God” [Eph 6:10-17], while thanking the Lord for all that He has already done for me in Christ [Eph 1:3].
Supplication - NOW we are ready to ask God for specific things. Now we are standing in the power of His might. [Eph 6:10] Now is the time for Supplication. Immediately after describing the Armor of God [Eph 6:10-17], Paul directs us to be “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints“ [Eph 6:18] This is where God’s armor ultimately triumphs, it is how we wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places. This is the ultimate use of the armor. Standing “in the power of His might”, we must pray “in the Spirit“. We must pray within a state of full faith and awareness of God’s work in Christ for us, that His Spirit would lead us into extraordinary victory in prayer.
Now, the first thing to ask God for is that He would fill us to overflowing, with the Holy Spirit [Luke 11:13], [Acts 1:4-8], [John 7:37,38], [Eph 5:18], to help us absolutely focus our complete attention on Him. [2Cor 10:3-5] We are asking for a “Spirit led” state of prayer. We are now ready to “pray in the Spirit”. We are now fully in the presence of God.
Now begin to make your requests known to God. Just start expressing what’s on your heart to Him. You will notice that, once we are in God’s presence, in this manner, that He begins to grant us faith to ask Him, for greater things than we ordinarily would be inclined to ask. We have entered the presence of the One for Whom nothing is impossible, and suddenly, everything seems possible! He in fact, begins to guide our prayer, by His Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” [Rom 8:26]
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. – Deuteronomy 31:8
If you ask the average person on the street what state the world today is in, chances are you are not going to receive a very positive answer. One of the world’s largest media empires is engaged in a highly immoral phone hacking and police bribery scandal, which has caused the resignation of people as high up as the head of Scotland Yard. To top it off, one of the main men who originally leaked the story was found dead in his apartment.
The United States and Canada have been suffering from an oppressive heat wave, which has caused roads and bridges to collapse and power grids to shut down. There have even been cases of death and tons of reports of heat related illnesses pouring in.
Protests are still raging all across the Middle East and Northern Africa and regime crackdowns result in reports of death on a daily basis.
With all of these things and more it is completely understandable that people who don’t know the joy that comes with Jesus would be discouraged, but we as believers must remain steadfast in his promise!
Psalm 9:9-10 tells us that “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”; and it is now more than ever that we must hold on to that promise.