I’m sure you’ve been to prayer meeting like this.
Everyone comes to the prayer meeting and spends the first 30-40 minutes taking about the prayer list. People then pray through the list, after a short reading from Scripture, trying not to miss any request out, with people often praying for 4 or 5 items in one long prayer.
The prayer list is prayed through, but has the heart of God been really touched? In general the answer is no, because (no matter how well-meaning the people are) the focus of the meeting is man, not God. There may be modest answers to prayer, which, of course, we should praise God for, but this is seen as quite enough.
Most telling of all there is very little, if any, growth in the personal prayer lives of those that attend such a group and the group itself does not grow and change it simply stagnates and becomes more fixed in its ways as those attending grow older and the younger people look elsewhere. Such a meeting will have the reputation for being an old persons prayer meeting and the younger people will either not go, or go and get frustrated! Sadly many older people have no other experience in prayer so see no need to change, it is no wonder that prayer meetings are in such a sorry state in so many churches in this land!
The problem with a prayer list is this, it is true they can be a useful servant, but often one becomes a very bad and tyrannical master. But so often in a meeting it becomes the master, not the servant.
The heart of prayer is relationship and communication with God.
Before you defend your prayer list I have one question. Do you come to your spouse every day and talk through a shopping list with them, let them say very little or nothing, and talk about nothing else? I can say with confidence that your answer will be NO! Well, that is what you are doing to God. If it not right to do so with your spouse, then it is not right for you personally, or for the church (which is the Bride of Christ) corporately!
I have just spent over 300 words presenting a problem. How a prayer list can take over a meeting and stifle growth, relationship with God, and touching his heart in prayer.
If that is the problem then what is the solution?
There are two ways to deal with a meeting that is a slave to a prayer list, either gradually or radically, but either way it will only work if there is strong leadership in the group. One thing I have shared a few times on Twitter is that you cannot lead others to grow in prayer unless you have been there yourself, if all you know is praying lists, then that is how you will lead others!
So how can things be changed, here are a few pointers.
- The leadership has to change. This means one of two things, either you need to change and grow in prayer so you can lead others in growth, or you need to step down and let someone else lead who can lead you deeper in prayer and grow you and the rest of the group.
- The focus of the group must change. It must move away from the prayer list, and back onto God.
- The prayer list must either be out back in its place as a tool, or got rid of completely, it must no longer be allowed to be the master or you will never grow.
- Start seeking God’s Kingdom in prayer – not your own needs and wants. If you seek the first then the second will follow, but it does not work the other way round!
- Use a Biblical prayer as an outline in your prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer, or all or part of outlines like those on Kingdom Revival Prayer (Here is an example: Friday, 22nd June 2012 – The Great Commission ).
- If going for radical change then you could rebrand the meeting, and change its time and place to make it more suitable for people today. For example many daytime ladies prayer meeting were started in an era before nursery provision for 3-4 year olds, if they cannot get to that meeting then the time needs to be changed to make it more suitable for them!
Change will be hard at first, but it will be worth it. You will find that the meeting starts to grow again, even if it has been stagnant for years. Some may find it very uncomfortable, but they will either grow and adapt or they will go somewhere else to be comfortable! I know which I would rather do.
Here’s to the adventure of prayer!
Do you have any experience of a list bound prayer meeting? Or have you grown a meeting to seeking the face of God afresh? I’d love to hear your comments.
Thanks for reading and God Bless, Theresa.