I am a church traveler. I’m not a church shopper. I believe in staying with one church family and loving and serving them well. But, I believe that you should be able to recommend a church to a friend or seeker in any area near you. And so, I travel around, visiting churches, getting to know their strengths and weaknesses.
One of the weaknesses for a lot of churches is prayer. Dry, horizontal, routine, formulaic prayers are extraordinarily common. Congregants who feel like they don’t know how to pray are also common. It’s no surprise, therefore, that workshops on prayer tend to be highly attended events in church bodies. Everyone feels like they’re doing it wrong, and almost everyone feels like there’s something more that they’re missing out on. For those who are gifted in intercession, this draw to prayer, and feeling of insufficiency, is even greater.
Enter Prayer 101.
At a church my husband and I once attended, there was a class called Prayer 101. This class was wonderfully helpful to both of us. It was just an entry point to learning how to pray, but it was a great foundation. Here’s some of the most helpful ideas they shared with us:
1) Know Why You Pray: You pray to call on the power and presence of the most High God. This is no piddly thing. We don’t just offer God some simple little words from our hearts. Prayer is a time for people to connect and to respond to a God who is working in their life.
2) Know What Prayer Should Do: Prayer should cultivate intimate relationship with God. Period. If people don’t connect with the God that loves them, then we’re not praying. We are counseling or guiding them under the guise of prayer. That’s not okay. That’s not right.
3) Prayer is to Minister to the Whole Person: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people ask for prayer for something specific (finances, health, relationships), and the prayer minister (for lack of a better title) would repeat back whatever the petition is and then just send them on their way. DON’T DO THAT! Prayer is a time for God to interrupt us a bit. The person may be asking for help with finances, but God doesn’t just want to respond to the immediate need. He wants to go to the root of the problem. Be open to praying for something different than what they are asking for in that moment. If you are praying for yourself, let God talk to you and go deep with you. Remember, God convicts; Satan condemns. You don’t need to fear that God will make you feel ashamed.If it’s God, and He’s calling you out on sin, He will do it lovingly and give you a courageous spirit to correct that sin pattern.
4) People Should Feel Loved: If prayer is communication with God, and God is love, than you, or people you are praying for, should walk away feeling loved, encouraged, built up, and more desiring of time with Him. We/Others should not feel “slimed,” condemned, shut down, powerless, or confused. You should always seek to protect the dignity of the one you are praying for. If you are praying about sin in others lives, remember that Galatians 5 commands you to restore the person in a spirit of gentleness, humbly acknowledging that YOU too can fall to that same sin. Remember always that Jesus was motivated by compassion (Matthew 9, Mark 1). If you don’t have compassion for the person, maybe you shouldn’t be the one praying for them.
5) The Bible helps. A Lot. Some strictly conservative Christians are worried about interactive prayer with God because they believe it invites a eastern mysticism into prayer. More specifically, they worry that it opens us up to a spiritual realm that we can be deceived by. But, if you are person who knows God, and knows God’s word, then you should be able to confirm or reject the words you want to say by asking the question: Does this statement line up with the Word of God? If it doesn’t line up, then you shouldn’t be speaking it. Some will ask, why not just stick to speaking bible verses over people then? I would say that there’s nothing wrong with that. But I would also lovingly suggest that not trusting yourself and your God to be able to speak freely is a form of fear. We don’t see the apostle Paul just repeating the words of scripture exclusively. We see him interacting with people, in their native languages and within their cultures. (Acts 17:16-32 is a great example of this interaction.)
So, there you go. This really is just prayer 101. Please feel free to ask questions for further clarification. And as always, let me know if I can pray for you.