For the last several years I've said that if a church spends more time doing announcements than engaging in intercessory prayer during a Sunday morning worship service then something is broken. Sadly, that means something is definitely broken in most churches when it comes to prayer.
Athough this statement may send waves of guilt into the souls of many pastors it doesn't offer a practical solution to the problem. And I want to offer solutions and not just be a Monday morning quarterback regarding the Sunday morning services.
So I want to share an idea with you. Although It's simple it could be an effective way of folding intercessory prayer into the DNA of a worship service. Here it is...
Do a weekly mini-concert of prayer (5-7 minutes) in the midst of the worship set on Sunday morning. The musicians could pad as the worship leader led the audience to pray. He/she could lead the audience in silent prayer, prayer in groups of three, everyone praying out loud at the same time (Korean-style prayer) and other styles of public prayer. The padding in the background could create enough of a soundbed to help the people who normally don't pray outloud feel less weird praying.
If you do this at your church (or in your youth group) it will probably move from degrees of rejection to acceptance. It may start with "that was weird" and move to "that was kind of different" to "that was pretty good" to "we'll never go back to the status quo."
During this time prayers can be offered for each other, for the lost, for the hurting and for the world! These prayers can be offered out loud, in groups, silently and as a congregation.
For the last three Dare 2 Share conference tours we have tied intercessory prayer into the afternoon portion of our weekend training events. At first we were a bit worried that blocking 20-30 minutes of intercessory prayer time with auditoriums full of thousands of teenagers may be a bit chaotic. But we decided to go for it. We took great pains to program it in such a way so that teenagers would be fully engaged.
It worked so well we decided that we would keep an intercessory prayer block at every Dare 2 Share event in the future. Even now we are programming it for the Live it Up Tour (coming this Spring) and we can't wait to see how the teenagers will engage with God during this time.
If it can work for 20-30 minutes in a room full of thousands of twitchy teenagers it can work in an auditorium full of more seasoned adults in less than half the time. And, if done well, why wouldn't it work? It's the most natural state of a Christian, children calling out to their Daddy in heaven.
Although this is a huge missing element in the church today, in the early church it was part of the regular meetings. Acts 2:42 reminds us, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
When Paul wrote to Timothy about programming the early church services he said that intercessory prayer should be prioritized, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
Are you prioritizing prayer in your church services/youth group/small groups? If not try out the idea of putting prayer into your worship set.
Then let me know how it goes!