By Mike Chance
Every Apostolic pastor dreams of a congregation that is devoted to prayer. Prayer is the key to true Apostolic revival. Programs and outreach ministries are fine, but without a ministry of prayer, they will profit little. I believe that God spoke to my heart some time back and impressed upon me the need to make prayer, above all else, the preeminent priority of the church. This has become my passion and purpose.
It is vital that every church has some kind of a creative prayer program. Prayer meetings, unlike revival meetings, are not just something you schedule three or four times a year. Instead, a true ministry of prayer is meant to be a continuous, on-going process. Unfortunately, this also means that you run the risk of your prayer program becoming mundane or monotonous. It is therefore essential to develop a creative, fresh approach to your church’s prayer ministry; something that will motivate your saints to develop their own consistent, daily prayer life.
I have tried every technique my imagination could invent to keep prayer fresh and fruitful. I’ve scheduled prayer relays, meaning we divide the church into small teams (a family or several individuals) and each team prays for an hour or two around the clock. The youth have prayer meetings and prayer lock-ins regularly. Occasionally I’ll call all the men or all the women in the church together for group prayer.
We implemented a departmental prayer program where each ministry leader meets with his or her workers for prayer meetings. Plus, I meet regularly with all the church ministry leaders for group prayer. The result has been a stronger unity and team spirit.
I also have tried to get prayer out of the church building and into the harvest field. This gives those praying a greater sense of focus and purpose. Our single adults have divided into four groups and gone to the four main entrances of the city and prayed for God’s blessing upon all who enter or leave. Occasionally I will call a prayer meeting down by the river like they did in Acts 16, which has become especially popular with the men and boys in the church.
Some weeks I’ve had the saints choose a prayer partner and meet for prayer at home or church. I’ve had prayer chains, prayer journeys, you name it. When one approach starts to slow down we go on to another. The key is to keep a person praying long enough and consistent enough until they truly fall in love with Jesus Christ. Then their prayer time becomes the most important aspect of their lives.
To help coordinate all this prayer activity I have appointed a prayer ministry director. This individual assists in planning and promoting all church prayer activities, which has been a tremendous help. It has been my observation that when the church is practicing consistent prayer we experience a consistent move of God. But when we relax our prayer program, we see a relaxed move of God. My prayer director helps keep us consistent.
I have to confess, though, that all this prayer activity has yet to inspire the kind of prayer that I feel God truly wants us to achieve, We have caught glimpses of it, but we have yet to reach, on a consistent basis, that deepest dimension of prayer that shakes the very foundations of the soul and spirit.
Prayer cannot become just a spiritual exercise. We, as pastors, need to impress upon our saints the significance of truly meeting God and once meeting Him, to enter on into that deepest dimension of communication, which we call intercession. Too often we become satisfied with merely a heavenly touch, a few goosebumps, talking in tongues, and running about the church. More is needed; much more.
The deepest dimension of prayer comes only from reaching the place of true intercession. When Jesus came to the garden to pray He went a step beyond the other disciples. The scripture tells us that, as He prayed, an angel came to Him and strengthened Him, giving Him a heavenly touch. Yet, He did not stop praying. He was not satisfied. He needed more. The scripture goes on to say, “and being in agony, He prayed more earnestly (Luke 22:44).” Jesus left ordinary prayer behind and entered into a deeper dimension of prayer, a dimension of true intercession.
Like Abraham, we must teach Apostolics to meet God at the altar. Abraham’s first altar was between Bethel, which was a place of consecration, and Ai, which was a place of failure. Joshua later pitched his army in this same place and built an altar of sacrifice unto God. Likewise, our altar must become a place where we turn during times of personal devotion and need. The altar has tremendous power, and that power is critical to our reaching the deepest dimension of prayer. We must stress to our people the significance of having a place to meet God regularly and the importance of praying until we reach that deeper dimension in prayer.
It is important to teach that sacrifice is an essential part of our time with God. Not just a sacrifice of food or money, but also giving up the things the flesh enjoys and putting God and prayer first. Paul said that “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient (I Cor. 6:12).” Too often we steal time from God to do the things we enjoy doing like fishing, boating, or hunting. Even though these things are not sinful, it is not always good for me to enjoy these things. A day at the golf course may not be wrong, but still, it is of this world and can become a stumbling block to my time of personal prayer commitment, I need to put prayer first. It needs to be a time of personal sacrifice. I cannot ask my saints to pray and seek intercession with God unless I am willing to sacrifice my time also.
Reaching total, continuous revival will require a total, continuous commitment. I am firmly convinced that nothing short of a complete reorganization of our priorities must occur, plus a renewed commitment to God and prayer, if we are ever to achieve the results in the Spirit that we so desperately desire.
This article “The Power and Priority of Prayer” written by Mike Chance is excerpted from IBC Perspectives magazine a March 1997 edition.