pastors (10)

A Pastor's Perspective on Prayer


To continue our "Better Together!" series on Corporate Prayer, I want to introduce you to a pastor friend of mine. John Whitsett is the Lead Pastor at Lakeside Community Church of the Nazarene in Hastings, Nebraska. I first met him through Pray.Network,  where I read a doctoral thesis he wrote on corporate prayer and revival. John was buried in 15” of snow last week in the Midwest’s “Snowmageddon,” so I had the unusual pleasure of interviewing someone who is normally very busy! 


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Some of the most thrilling prayer meetings I have ever attended were pastors' prayer meetings. Men who have given their lives to serving God came together to share and encourage one another and pray for God to work mightily in His own church and in a city. I have seen pastors pour their hearts out in honesty and great spiritual burden. I have been in groups where one pastor or another sat in a chair in the center of the group while the other men laid hands on him and prayed for him. I am not sure such pastors' prayer meetings will not be used of God to bring revival that would sweep an entire nation as pastors returned to their pulpits with their lives set ablaze by the Spirit of God. I have also noticed that pastors who hurt the most and need prayer and encouragement most are often not part of pastors' prayer meetings. How often have pastors' noticed that a man who was hurting and in spiritual danger was not part of a group. That should not surprise us. If you were the devil, would you not try to isolate a spiritual leader you were preparing to attack? It is like a pack of wolves isolating an elk before they try to bring it down. So, the enemy uses pride or shame or some petty disagreement to separate pastors from the brothers who would or at least should give him the greatest help. But as much as we need one another, it does not seem to be enough for a pastor to know he needs his brothers to faithfully participate in pastors' fellowships. I am convinced that the most important attitude a pastor can have to keep him part a of pastors' fellowship is concern for other pastors. If a pastor goes to a pastors' fellowship being burdened for other men, he will be less likely to be too busy to attend. If a pastor goes to the prayer meetings with a burden to pray for the others pastors, he will see it as a powerful ministry. He may even see it as a ministry that could bring about revival that would start in a brother's church. He could see this ministry that would mightily glorify God on the earth.

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Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part Two)

Charles Spurgeon noted, “I know of no greater kindness than for my people to pray for me.”  Every wise church leader seeks and cherishes the prayer support of his people.  Yet, why do we pray? How should we pray? What should we pray about?

In Part One we began to unpack Paul’s appeal for the prayer support of the believers in Rome as we looked at Romans 15:30-33.   Paul wrote,

Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.  Now the God of peace be with you all.  Amen.

Why and How

We saw last week that we should pray for our spiritual leaders because they need it and ask for it.  More significantly, we pray because we regard the name and honor of Christ and because we love the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  The nature of our prayers is described by Paul as “agonizing” prayer.  We strive with all of our energies, feeling the great weight of the spiritual burden of the Gospel’s cause and spiritual battle.

Three Specific Prayer Targets

Paul describes three specific needs that are pressing on him as he serves the Lord and travels in obedience to the call.

First he seeks prayer for protection from spiritual enemies.  He asked the Romans to pray that he might be “delivered from those in Judea who do not believe.”  In this context, Paul was journeying back to Jerusalem where his most violent opponents would come against him.

He was not concerned with survival but with the satisfaction of his mission.  On one hand Paul said, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21).  On the other hand, when faced with inevitable threats on his life, he states, “Chains and tribulations await me.  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:23-24).  Paul’s prayer request was rooted in a longing to effectively finish his task, not a fear of dying.

Today, Western believers do not feel so compelled to pray this way since our leaders are seldom threatened.  Yet, I am reminded of a story told to me by a church member named Ted.  While on a plane in California Ted sat next to a man who appeared to be praying and fasting during the flight.  Ted eventually asked the gentleman about his evident devotion.  Indeed, the man was praying and fasting – to Satan.  Ted learned that this man had joined other Satanists in a commitment to fast and pray once a week for the downfall of the marriages of Christian leaders.  Indeed, the battle is real, the attacks are subtle, and our prayers are vital. 

Second, Paul asks the church to pray for the prosperity of his ministry efforts to the saints.  He stated, “...that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” In taking funds collected from the gentiles, he faced the possibility of rejection, suspicion, or division depending on the response of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. 

Still today, we need to pray for the soil of the hearts of God’s people to be receptive as the Word and work of the ministry is shared by our leaders.  So many times the enemy fuels misunderstanding, confusion, and criticism, which undermine the fruit of Gospel ministry.

Third, Paul sought prayer for the provision of his personal needs by the believers in Rome.  After a long, demanding journey Paul anticipated making it to Rome, by God’s will and with his joy intact, but needing personal refreshment from the saints there.  Whether they speak openly about it or not, our leaders need the refreshment of encouraging words, thoughtful actions, and supportive expressions of kindness.

High-Impact Prayers

When we review Acts 21:17 – 28:31 we find the answers to these prayers.  Paul’s gift to the believers in Jerusalem was accepted.  In addition, the Jerusalem church rejoiced in the work of the Gospel and wanted to learn more about the spread of grace. 

While in Jerusalem, the antagonistic Jews attacked Paul again, seeking to kill him.  The Roman military, seeing their hatred and learning of their murderous plots, sent him to Caesarea (under the guard of 470 soldiers!) where Paul appeared before several Roman magistrates.  Eventually, Paul sailed to Rome to appeal to Caesar.  On the way, they experienced shipwreck and Paul was bitten by a viper – only to survive everything.  Throughout it all, the Roman church was agonizing in prayer for Paul’s protection.

Paul was under house arrest in Rome so he did not make it to the 11:00 a.m. worship service to enjoy the refreshment of the believers there.  However, it is apparent that believers were able to come to him and refresh his spirit.  Most notable was a man named Onesiphorus, of whom Paul spoke in his final letter (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

As we see these amazing answers to prayer we must obey the call to pray for our leaders.  God invites us to play a vital role in the advancement of His Gospel purposes as we intercede for pastors and missionaries.

The Peace that Comes Through Prayer

Paul’s appeal for prayer ends with this benediction: “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”  Prayer replaces worry.  Prayer produces a Christ-alignment in our hearts that results in unity, trust, and spiritual health.  For the sake of the Gospel, for the good of our leaders, and for the spiritual health of our own hearts – let’s resolve to pray for those whom God has appointed to shepherd our souls.


A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal.  Along with the DVD you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  Go to

Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

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Three Strategic Prayers for Our Spiritual Leaders (Part One)

I am not much of a bowler but I know that it is virtually impossible to get a strike if the ball does not hit the head pin.  Satan is a calculating and destructive enemy of God’s people.  He knows how essential it is to eliminate pastoral leaders in order to decimate the church and thwart the work of the Gospel.

Yet, we can all make a powerful difference in opposing the attacks of the enemy.  Samuel Chadwick wrote, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Oswald Chambers agreed: “The prayer of the feeblest saint who lives in the Spirit and keeps right with God is a terror to Satan.” When we pray for our leaders, we counteract Satan’s attacks and play a vital role in the advancement of Christ’s cause.

Paul’s Word on Why, How, and What

Paul understood this, which is why he often called on the churches to pray for him.  In Romans 15:30-33, we find one of the less familiar but most powerful appeals for prayer.  This passage offers vital guidance for us all as we intercede for our spiritual leaders.

As Paul wrote to the Romans (probably from Corinth), he reflected on his planned visit with them on his way to Spain.  First, he was going to deliver a love gift to the persecuted believers in Jerusalem, which he had been collecting among the gentile churches.  He knew his serious need for prayer support in these ministry endeavors so he appealed to the believers to pray for him.

Why We Pray for Spiritual Leaders

In Romans 15:30 Paul writes, “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.”  Most obvious, we see Paul’s basic encouragement to pray when he says, “I beg you.”  The Greek, “parakaleo”, simply communicates Paul’s effort to come alongside these believers, urging them to pray.  But there is something even deeper here.

Paul writes, “through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Certainly we pray, only because of the finished work and present intercession of Christ (Hebrews 7:25, 10:20-22).  Most literally, Paul is urging us here to pray because of our regard for Christ.  As the Amplified reads, “for the sake of our Lord Jesus.” Our prayer for pastors and missionaries must ultimately be motivated by our love and worship of Jesus Christ because it is His name, His cause, and His glory that are at stake.  When we are Jesus-worshipers we will also be reliable, passionate intercessors for our leaders.

Third, Paul says that we should pray “through the love of the Spirit.”  The most literal interpretation of this phrase speaks of our love FOR the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is a vital part of supernatural power and Gospel advancement.  Because we love it when the Holy Spirit is working in extraordinary ways, we should commit our hearts to pray for our leaders.  If we are dissatisfied with the level of spiritual power in the pulpit or ministries of the church, our love for the Holy Spirit compels us to pray for a greater manifestation of His presence and work. 

How We Pray for Spiritual Leaders

Paul’s appeal for prayer intensifies as he continues with this urgent appeal: “Strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (v. 30).  This is not a casual word about shallow, short, simple prayers.  The Greek work here is sunagonidzomai, which communicates the idea of agonizing with another person in the midst of an intense struggle.  Paul is asking them to join him in feeling the weight and warfare of all he is facing.  This is a heart of real intercession.  Yet, we are so often casual and complacent in our prayers for leaders.

The late David Wilkerson, a pastor and founder of Teen Challenge, spoke about our need for a greater sense of spiritual anguish in a powerful message (see “Anguish” by David Wilkerson on YouTube): 

“Whatever happened to anguish in the house of God? Whatever happened to anguish in the ministry? It’s a word you don’t hear in this pampered age.  Anguish means extreme pain and distress – the emotions so stirred that it becomes painful; acute, deeply-felt inner pain because of conditions about you, in you, or around you.  Anguish...the sorrow and agony of God’s heart.”

He continues, “We’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and our revival talk, but we’ve become so passive.  All true passion is birthed out of anguish.  All true passion for Christ comes out of a baptism of anguish.  You search the Scripture and you find that when God determined to recover a ruined situation He would share His own anguish for what God saw happening to His people.  He would find a praying man and he would take that man and literally baptize him in anguish.”

This month, as we recommit to pray for and support our church leaders, let’s ask Christ for a fresh sense of intensity.  He is worthy of our passionate intercession.  Our love for His Spirit’s supernatural work compels us to pray.  As we do so, we can feel the serious nature of the work of the Gospel and agonize in His presence as He shares His heart with us, for His glory.

(Part two will outline three specific prayer targets to pray for on behalf of every spiritual leader.)


A full sermon on this subject is available at Strategic Renewal.  Along with the DVD, you will receive a group study guide and a special interview with Pastor Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  Go to

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"He Is Worthy! We Are Needy!"

"If crises or grocery lists are the motivation for our prayers, we will be woefully inconsistent.  Ultimately our prayers should not be spurred simply by our circumstances, but by His character."

"He is Worthy! We Are Needy!"


Peter Lord, one of my heroes and mentors in prayer, often says, “Most Christians pray out of crisis or from a grocery list.”  His wisdom reveals not only the reality of our prayer behavior, but the flaw in our mindset and motivation in prayer. 


Crisis and Grocery List


Crisis praying is certainly focused in the right direction.  When we are in urgent situations we should look to the Lord.  Psalm 34:6 says, “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”  However, when the primary and sporadic motivation of our heart for prayer is triggered by the pain of our circumstances, we have reduced God to a heavenly rescue squad that exists chiefly for our emergencies.


Grocery list prayer, while very common, is an approach to God that stems from our persuasion that prayer exists for us to inform Him about our problems, hoping He will order the universe according to our expectations.  These expectations are usually rooted in our desire to avoid suffering or difficulty.  God is reduced to a heavenly vending machine that exists for our temporal satisfaction.


The Model Prayer


Over the years I have taught on the model prayer Jesus prescribed in Matthew 6:9-13 (often described as “The Lord’s Prayer”).  Sometimes the series has been deep and thorough, taking 10-12 weeks to complete.  On other occasions, I have reduced the teaching to a one-sermon summary.  Recently, I was asked to teach on this model prayer at a church in Calgary and was impressed that the prayer can be reduced to two primary ideas: 1) He is worthy, and 2) We are needy.  


He is Worthy


The model prayer is essentially divided into two parts.  The first segment is entirely Godward in focus.  When we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are exalting God.  We are declaring His worth.  As John MacArthur notes, "This is a prayer that in every phase and every petition, beginning and closing and all in between focuses on God.  His person, His attributes, and His wonderful works are the thrust of this prayer.”


We Are Needy


The second segment is a declaration of God as our source.  We recognize and declare that we are needy.  In prayer we resolve that we trust Him for our physical, relational, and moral needs.  “Give us this day our daily bread (physical), and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (relational), and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (moral)."  


Consistent Motivation


Every believer has experienced the confluence of positive surges and negative declines in prayer.  Our motivation can wane and wander into the weeds.  If crises or grocery lists are the motivation for our prayers, we will be woefully inconsistent.  Ultimately our prayers should not be spurred simply by our circumstances, but by His character. 


Jesus wants us to experience consistency in our spiritual pursuit in prayer.  A daily conviction that He is worthy and we are needy provides a pure and passionate motivation in prayer.  One person may make a seven-figure income, live in a multi-million dollar home, and have perfect health – but He is still worthy and that person is still needy.  Another person may be jobless, homeless, and friendless.  God is still worthy and that person is still needy.  One person is young, another is old.  One person is a seasoned Christian while another is a brand new believer.  He is still worthy and we are still needy.  The motivation never changes. 


The Ultimate Purpose


As we mature, we advance to fully embrace the ultimate aim of all of our prayers, fueling the depth of our motivation.  The model prayer says it clearly: “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”  Prayer exists to advance His kingdom through our lives, exhibit His power in our lives, and extol His glory in everything.   


When Paul wrote his epistles from prison he relied on “prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).  His heart passion was clear when he wrote, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (vv. 20-21).  This is the motivation of a clear-headed, pure-hearted, and eternally-focused Christ follower.


Motivation for a Lifetime and Beyond 


So when you wake up tomorrow morning feeling weary and discouraged, remember: He is worthy and you are needy.  Pray.  When you come home from a hard day at work, exhausted and frustrated – and you are not in the mood to attend the prayer meeting – remember: He is worthy and you are needy.  Pray.  When things are going smoothly and life is feeling problem-free, remember: He is worthy and you are needy.  Pray. 


One day when we stand in His presence among the saints of all the ages and myriads of worshiping angels, we will still declare that He is worthy.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:12).  We will even then continue to rejoice that we encountered Him when we were needy. “For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).  All things will consummate in His glory.  “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13). 


With all this in mind, let’s pray the right way, for the right reason, and for the right purpose.  We will be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to live as true disciples in this world as we consistently grow to know Him and make Him known.


Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.


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Kick-Starting Pastoral Leadership in Prayer

By Daniel Henderson

One of the greatest challenges in creating a strong prayer culture in a church is getting the senior pastor and the leadership staff to make prayer a priority in the life of the congregation. One church that has succeeded in doing this is WoodsEdge Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

Six years ago, Senior Pastor Jeff Wells would have described his ministry as a typical church that made plans, then asked God to bless them. Today prayer is fuels every aspect of the church. This change in direction came about because Wells and his team took some very specific steps to make prayer a priority.

• Honest evaluation.

Pastor Wells and his leadership team spent time at a retreat in candid discussion and prayer as they considered what their prayer commitment should be versus what it was in reality. They compared their behavior as leaders and a congregation with the biblical standard set by the early church in the book of Acts, which saw prayer as the main work of ministry. After this time of assessment, the WoodsEdge leadership team called the entire church to three days of prayer and fasting as a first step toward charting a new direction with prayer at the center.

• Accountable redirection.

As a result of their time in retreat, the leadership team committed to emphasizing prayer. They began by setting clear expectations for what their own examples in prayer should be among the flock. They also redefined the role of elders to comply with the principle of Acts 6:4 to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Practically, this worked out in several ways. First, the pastors committed to spending an hour a day in personal prayer with the Lord. Then the weekly staff meeting changed from a business and communication meeting to a worship and intercession meeting. Now the pastors and staff take a full day of prayer offsite several times a year. The pastors also recruited personal intercessory teams to pray for them and their families.

• Shared experiences.

Wells and his team read and discussed key books on prayer; a couple of their favorites were Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. In each case they talked about how the points these books raised, both inspirational and instructional, could apply to their context. They even took a trip to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which Cymbala leads, for that church’s well known Tuesday night prayer meeting. Other prayer experiences they shared as a church included prayerwalks and concerts of prayer. The leadership declared a prayer emphasis for 2009, encouraging the congregation to raise the bar of their personal prayer lives.

• Communication.

Wells let the congregation know about this new commitment to prayer via the pulpit and emails. He also began multiple communications monthly teaching on prayer and clarifying the leadership’s vision.

• Consistent, visible practice.

The pastoral staff and elders began leading the Wednesday night prayer service, which had consisted of prayer after the worship team rehearsal. Over time the service grew. Today the prayer gathering begins with an optional hour of solitude during which people can come to the altar, pray at their seats, join a prayer group, or receive prayer from a prayer partner. The heart of the service begins with over 30 minutes of worship. Wells then leads 45-minutes of prayer that focuses on personal needs, ministry concerns, and other issues that the Holy Spirit puts on his heart. Other leaders are available to pray with people and often will lead in prayer as they focus on specific issues.

• Sustaining systems.

Approximately three years into the prayer emphasis, the church hired a full-time pastor to coordinate the prayer ministry. Doing so ensured proper training, communication, and organization for the prayer service, various prayer emphases throughout the year, and other weekly prayer events. Some of the changes Wells believes the church has experienced directly because of prayer include people sensing God’s presence more strongly, the church having more impact on the community and internationally, and some members experiencing physical healing.

Today the church’s website declares that the most important service of the week is the midweek, church-wide prayer experience, and a foundational statement in the church’s vision statement says, “We long to become a church that is a great house of prayer.”

DANIEL HENDERSON is an author, president of Strategic Renewal (, a professor at Liberty University, Pastor of Prayer and Renewal at Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Virginia), and a facilitator who travels to more than 35 venues a year, equipping pastors and churches in prayer. His most recent book, Defying Gravity - How to Survive the Storms of Pastoral Ministry (Moody) was written to encourage pastors in their spiritual leadership journey, which includes a vital focus on prayer.

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Pastors Praying Together

Pastors are beginning to pray together more than in the past 150 years! Look (and pray) over the 850+ listed in the National Pastors' Prayer Network directory - This move of the Spirit has the potential of impacting our cities and communities for Christ in new and unprecedented ways!
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Pastoral Prayer Support Teams

Kevin Moore suggested I blog about praying for pastors, and this post actually started as a comment in a forum started by Phil Miglioratti (I hope I spelled that right. I did it without looking.), but it was getting so long that I turned it into the blog post that Kevin suggested. I think it is vital for pastors to have a prayer support team - more so than ever before, it seems to me, because of the times we're in and how the intensity of spiritual warfare has escalated.

When we started our pastoral prayer support teams at my church, some ministries tried doing it with the pastor emailing the prayer requests to the team, while other church ministries had a point person, or team leader, that sought them out to get the prayer requests from them. After about 2 years, the way that has worked best is clearly the ones who have a point person. Pastors are just too busy to try and remember to send out prayer requests to their team, and it's not something that they're accustomed to thinking about.

For the team that I lead for our worship pastor, Kevin Moore, I try to meet with him weekly to get prayer requests from him. I then email them to the team. There are some weeks that he just has to email me his requests because his schedule is just too full, and there are weeks that we skip all together. You have to find the schedule that works best for the pastor. The leader of the prayer team for our senior pastor meets once a month with him. Recently we have started having the team members hit "reply" to the email when they have prayed through the requests so that we can remain accountable to each other about our commitment to pray. It's been really cool to see how God has worked in the worship ministry and our worship pastor's life and family as a result of our prayers. Praise God!

One of the things that makes it safe, strong, and effective, is to remember that at no point is it about the intercessor. My mission, besides praying, is doing this intercession ministry in such a way that it actually ministers to the pastor and his family, and doing whatever I can to make his job easier. If it becomes a burden to him in any way, then it's not working. A verse that I think of for this is I Thess. 5:12, 13a - "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
But the other thing to remember is that this is very much about relationship. Only in relationship can there be that safe, confidential sharing of prayer needs.

I have a lot more thoughts on the matter, but don't want to overwhelm you with too much to read all at once. I will share more later.
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Recently, I enjoyed the honor of providing teaching and leadership in prayer at the Moody Bible Institute’s Pastors’ Conference in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, I was joined by both my sons, who helped lead worship for the prayer sessions, and my brother, a pastor from Texas, who assisted in the prayer times and co-taught my workshops. It was a great reunion of “the brothers” from two generations.

For over twenty years, MBI has served pastors through this conference with a strong emphasis on biblical teaching and practical training in church leadership. For the last two years, they have allowed me to lead an early morning prayer session for those willing to attend. Last year, it was in an auxiliary auditorium and attracted hundreds of pastors each day. This year, they moved it into the main auditorium and graciously promoted it as a plenary session. Again, hundreds of pastors came each morning as we engaged in powerful sessions of Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer.

A Bold Decision

I applaud the leadership of MBI for this commitment. Strange as it sounds, it is a bold move, as very few pastors’ conferences today give any priority to extended sessions of prayer. Content is always king. Music is usually paramount. Articulate and dynamic personalities are the draw. Prayer is typically an “opening” and “closing” formality in most cases. Thank God for Moody’s willingness to begin to find the balance we see in Acts 6:4 where the culture of church leadership was marked by a commitment to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It did not matter who led these sessions at Moody. The victory is in the fact that they existed at all.

The Biblical Ideal of a Young Heart
Last week, after the first morning prayer session, a young man who appeared to be in his early 20’s approached me. He was blessed by the prayer time and asked if I led events like this at other pastors’ conferences. He asked what I felt about the attendance that morning. I told him I was thrilled that 400 or more came. In his idealism, he responded, “I was shocked that all of them did not come. I thought pastors were supposed to be committed to prayer. These are the guys leading our churches. No wonder we are in the condition we are in.” I tried to explain to him that it was an early hour, men were tired and perhaps they had scheduling conflicts. He was not to be deterred. His angst was obvious. I fear his concerns may be more legitimate than I wanted to admit. In all honesty, I had to search my own heart as I wondered if I would have attended if I were not leading the sessions. We all fight the battle of prayerlessness, distraction, and apathy.

Dreaming of a Better, Biblical Balance
As I reflect on the conversation, I do wonder about where pastors really are in their true passion for Christ through prayer. On a broader level, I wonder why pastors’ gatherings, particularly major conferences, feature so much emphasis on information with so little real time dedicated to the actual experience of praying together. As I thought of all the answers that might be proposed, I have decided to leave it up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions. Most of my ideas really are not edifying to share in this context.

Rather, I want to take a positive approach and consider what it might look like in the days ahead if major pastors’ gatherings began to move toward a better balance between prayer and the Word. Of course, it could be argued that because prayer is mentioned first in the priorities of the early church leaders in Acts 6:4 (and in the example of Jethro’s three-fold advice to Moses for establishing leadership priorities in Exodus 18:19) that prayer should have a more prominent place than the Word. Realizing this may sound like heresy, I would like to suggest the possibility of equal time: fifty percent prayer and fifty percent preaching. How about one-third prayer and two-thirds preaching? How about one-fifth prayer and four-fifths preaching? Any of the above would be a monumental move toward biblical balance, fresh power, and extraordinary unity.

A Radical Scenario
Imagine with me the possibility of an upcoming national pastors’ conference, held in a major city, conveniently located somewhere in the central U.S. Let’s call it “The Reconfiguration Conference.” The slate is filled with the ten most popular preachers, all with blockbuster books and mega-churches. A half-dozen Grammy Award-winning Christian artists are scheduled to provide the music. No expense has been spared in promoting the conference and every imaginable technological tool has been arranged to make the conference “high-impact.” Thousands of pastors have registered and are beginning to arrive with great expectancy of an experience that will really pump them up.

However, the conference planners encounter a major complication. All ten of the keynote speakers and every one of the musicians slated for the program happen to be in the same city the day before for a different event. That night, the airport in that city is shut down by fog and is projected to remain closed for three days. None of the featured platform personalities can get to The Reconfiguration Conference.

After a stressful night of reconfiguring The Reconfiguration Conference, the organizers step to the platform for the opening session with the shocking announcement. They share, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, none of our speakers or musicians will be able to attend. Nevertheless, God has clearly spoken to us about an even better plan. We have a small, local worship band ready to help us for the next three days – and we are going to spend every session at the feet of Jesus in prayer.“

It is rather fun to imagine the response from the crowd. Would they be disappointed? Thrilled? Angry? Eager? Of course, the real question is, how many would actually stay? What would they do instead?

Imagine the Possibilities!
Imagine if the pastors did stay – with open hearts, eager to seek God’s face, worship in spirit and in truth, and call out in faith to our great God. Consider what could happen if thousands of pastors spent hours together in simple but sincere worship, praying from the Scriptures, following the prompting of the Spirit.

More specifically, think on these possibilities:
• Pastors would discover a fresh spiritual delight and joy in the presence of Christ
• Pastors would find fresh encouragement in the application of God’s Word in the course of praying from the Scriptures for several days
• Pastors would experience an organic and powerful unity, together on their knees
• Pastors would open their hearts to Christ in ways that might cultivate fresh repentance, faith, and commitment to His Lordship
• Pastors would open their hearts to one another, experiencing deep healing and bearing each other’s burdens in a posture of prayer
• Pastors would receive fresh vision and direction from the presence of Christ, even as they did in Acts 13:1-2
• Pastors might find greater reward at the feet of Jesus than they would have in the crowd listening to gifted speakers and talented musicians

It could be the “accidental” beginning of a new day. It might spark a genuine revival. It might ignite a fresh passion for pastors to go home and lead their churches in similar experiences.

Dreaming of a New Direction
It does not hurt to dream, even if you have to create bizarre scenarios to make it work. Yet, this is the kind of dreaming we desperately need if things are going to take an exponential and supernatural step in the “revival” direction.

Yes, I think it can be, should be, and must be. Thank God for places like the Moody Bible Institute, along with other conferences, that imagine these possibilities and take steps to move in that direction. God is able, if we are willing. The world is waiting for a fresh revelation of their only hope – which is Jesus Christ, living through a revived church. May that hope burst forth among pastors all around our nation for Christ’s glory.

Copyright © 2010 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

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More on Pastoral Prayer Support Teams

One of the things I shared in my last post was about how the success of the prayer support team depended on a relationship between the pastor and the point person, or leader, of the prayer team. I feel the need to elaborate on that a bit. I'm going to share my personal experience, not because it's necessarily the right or best way, but because it's the way God showed me, and I hope something in it helps or encourages you if you are an intercessor trying to start a prayer support team, or if you are a pastor wanting this for your ministry.

First, the relationship does not nor cannot happen spontaneously, nor does the leader have to already be friends with the pastor. Like any relationship, it takes time to build. When I took on the role of team leader for our worship pastor, we were acquaintances at best. When we first started, getting prayer requests from him was rather difficult. I had to try and catch him before or after worship rehearsal, or try to get him to email me his requests (that didn't work at all). The time was always rushed and in the middle of everyone either getting ready for, or leaving from rehearsal, which made it hectic. The requests were mostly about the ministry, and it just felt...awkward. (Kevin, if you read this, sorry about that.)

However, I knew that this was something God had called me to do, and I prayed and sought ways to make this a better experience for both of us. Over the course of time, God led us to the method that works for both of us, but more importantly, God has knit our hearts together in friendship. It has made it easier for both of us, because I can ask him things that help prompt him to think of the things he needs prayer for, and it helps him to know he can trust me with the ministry AND family/personal requests, whether it's how to word a request the "right way" or whether it's to keep a specific request unspoken for a time.

Even though the prayer support works best in the context of a relationship, it is crucial that that relationship is clearly defined and boundaries are put in place. The relationship is not just a friendship, because the boundaries of a friendship can too easily get blurry. It is that of a brother and sister in Christ, if we are talking about the male pastor and female prayer team leader, which is my frame of reference. A vital component is accountability. My husband is aware of every time I meet with the worship pastor, and is fully supportive of my ministry for him and his family and ministries, and I do my best to stay lined up under my husband's righteous authority. Even though Kevin and I meet in his office now, the door is always open. I have a couple of prayer partners that I stay accountable to in regard to my thought life, my walk with God, and how my husband and I are doing. I cannot speak specifically to how Kevin stays accountable, but I do know that our pastoral staff is all about accountability, and so there is a system in place for that.

The relationship cannot be an exclusive one, even though it is a unique relationship. It has to include bothspouses. My goal from the beginning was to build a relationship with Kevin and his family, and for our team's intercession to minister to the entire family. Like I said in my last post, if at any point it becomes a burden to the pastor or his wife/family, then something is not working. It's a bit of a challenge simply because our 2 families don't move in the same circles because their youngest child is several years older than our oldest child. So meeting outside of church activities is important, I think. We have their family in our home for dinner from time to time to continue building on that relationship between our families.

I hope that helps any of you reading this. Being a part of this prayer team for our worship pastor is one of my favorite ministries that God has let me be a part of. It is such an honor to stand in the gap for him and his family, and it has been a delight to see the hand of God move on their behalf in relation to the prayers He prompts us to pray.
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