Continuing on our recent strand of posts about corporate prayer, Michael McKinley at the 9Marks blog has posted Six Ways To Help People Pray:
Pretty much everyone would agree that prayer is an important part of the Christian life. And pretty much everyone would agree that most Christians don’t pray as much or as well as they could. Here are six ways you as a pastor can help your people become more faithful and enthusiastic in their prayer life:
1. Set aside a lot of time in your gatherings to pray.
We pay lip service to the importance of prayer, but in many of our churches the prayer time is quick and unfocused. The message we may be sending unwittingly is that prayer is not quite as important as other more immediately productive activities.Prayer requires discipline and as such extended periods of corporate prayer (5 minutes? 10 minutes?) may be difficult for your people. But like a muscle, the pain that comes with use will cause a lot of growth.
2. Pray different kinds of prayers in your gatherings.
Scripture is full of all sorts of different prayers. Don’t just ask for the things you want God to do for you, lead your people in prayers of confession, praise, and invocation. Teach your people all sorts of different was to pray.
3. Pray big prayers.
Think beyond the hospital visitation list. Pray prayers that reflect God’s sovereignty over the whole world. Pray for the spread of the gospel in foreign nations; pray for an end to human trafficking worldwide; pray for religious freedoms to spring up in oppressive regimes.
4. Put work into your prayers.
Don’t get up there on Sunday and wing it; you wouldn’t do that with the sermon or with your music program. Put some thought and effort into choosing subjects and words that will be helpful and clear. Don’t buy into the idea that spontaneity indicates sincerity and preparation indicates artifice.
5. Tell your people that/how you are praying for them.
All pastors pray for their people (or at least, they should). But not all congregations know that their pastors pray for them. Take time to communicate with the members of your church (email, call, note) that you are praying for them. It’s also nice to let them know how you are praying for them (“I was praying for you today, particularly that…”). It’s a simple gesture that encourages people and helps keep prayer for each other in the center of your church’s life.
6. Give your people good resources.
There are a lot of good books on prayer out there. The one that has most shaped my prayer life (and the one I give to church members the most) is D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation. In it, Carson looks at the prayers of the Apostle Paul recorded in Scripture and give guidance on using them as models for our prayers. If our generation doesn’t know how to pray as previous generations did, what better place for us to learn than from the Word of God?