I find praying hard. Of all the spiritual disciplines praying is the one that doesn’t come naturally to me. I know people say things like prayer to a Christian is like breath to our lungs, well if that’s the case then I can suffocate at times! Give me God’s Word, Communion or a time of worship and I’ll run with it but give me prayer and I’ll take a few steps and be out of breath, collapsed on the floor. I won’t even go there with prayer meetings…I might be exaggerating a little bit because I do pray and do so every day but it’s not without dedication and sacrifice.
Prayer is of absolute necessity in a church plant. I feel confident enough to say as planters, if you’re not praying than your plant is not and will not be growing. Prayer in a church plant is like water from a watering can on a garden, it’s essential. If prayer isn’t at the core of your plant than your core will crumble. However, if prayer is pursued and applied your plant can produce great fruit according to God’s will. I’d like to share five practicalities I’ve learnt and applied to my own prayers in the hope that they will help propel your plant to where God wants it to go. I’ll be honest, the five principles aren’t explicitly explained in Scripture but rather implicitly impressed upon us as we read it. Therefore, this is based more on experience but experience grounded in Biblical wisdom. So, let’s go…
Plan Your Praying
If you fail to plan you plan to fail. I’d imagine Paul writing that this saying is trustworthy and in need of full acceptance if he came across this well-known phrase in his day. This practical piece of wisdom is a helpful starting point when it comes to prayer. Think of all the things you schedule into your diary. They may involve common plans such as work appointments, church meetings, catch-up with friends, children’s clubs, to name a few. With all these activities people usually pen in a time and a place to help them structure their days and make sure things happen and happen well. Why should prayer be any different?
Planters, you’re at a time in your lives and the life of your budding church plant when anything could happen. Everything’s up in the air, emails might be flying in at the speed of light, telephone calls ringing through at a rapid speed, fellow planters are trying to meet up and arrange things; there’s building issues, technological problems, you’ve got a sermon to prepare, leaflets you want to hand out or doors you want to knock; there’s an event you want to organise and publicize and the list goes on of people and issues demanding your time. In this whirlwind of expectation and hurry prayer can often get left behind. Don’t let it! If ever there’s a time to pray hard it’s when you’re planting a church. When a gardener is planting a flower, and does so in hard soil, most of his energy will be exerted as he’s trying to dig up the ground ready to plant to seeds. So, your energy should be exerted the most as you pray for breakthrough in the hard soil of your community. Therefore, know yourself and plan accordingly when and where prayer will work best for you. Plan it around your jobs and families. Schedule the best time and location into your calendars. Plan in advance even and cover these next however many months. Decide on a day each week or a time each day when you will gather and fervently pray separately and together as a team. Don’t schedule it in with pencil but with pen, make it non-negotiable. If you fail to plan prayer, you plan to fail in prayer.
Prepare for Your Praying
After you’ve planned your prayer the next helpful step is to prepare for it. How does one prepare to pray? A lot of the time it can be a struggle for people to fully engage in prayer straight away, and if you’ve got a limited amount of time to pray you don’t want to have most of it be you and your team “getting into the zone”. To avoid that, it’s a wise idea to begin your times of prayer with the Word and worship. These are tools in the planter’s prayer life. Whether it’s privately or corporately with your team use the Scriptures and songs to prepare your mind and heart to come before God’s presence and offer your supplications, petitions and intercessions. When you open the Bible, you’re reminding yourself and others with you of the mighty works, great deeds and wonderful actions of our God. This will spur you on to pray out your thanksgiving. When you sing a song of praise to Christ you stir up your souls to adore Him and bond as believers. This will inspire you to pray out your requests. Prepare yourself in the Word and with worship; together these are a springboard into prayer.
Another suggestion that works well for me personally and I believe does for many people across our globe is to write a list. In a plant context, there’s so much going on that it can be overwhelming to try and remember it all and bring it before God’s throne. By all means, God knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8) so we’re not expected to bring everything before Him and if we forget something, it's not as though He’ll decide not to work. Yet, we need to pray to Him about all we can. So, keep your prayer times on track and flowing by composing a list. Share the list out with others present so all can contribute and engage. The Word with worship is the springboard that propels us and a list can be the net that protects us from steering off track in our prayer.
Pledge to Your Praying
Planning and preparing, as good as it is that you’ve done them, won’t matter at all unless you pledge to praying. There is really only so much anyone could say to make this happen. This pretty much comes down to you. Make prayer a non-negotiable. Commit yourself to it. Be dedicated to making it happen. Let prayer become an unconscious necessity, like getting dressed, eating breakfast or going to bed, pursue prayer so much it becomes a habit. Assess your current timetable and demands to see where you might be pledging your time and energy to unnecessarily. Check if any changes can be made to make room for prayer and then stick with it.
Partner with Your Praying
TEAM - Together everyone accomplishes more. A helpful acronym, especially when applied to prayer. Prayer when engaged with others will affect what you’re praying for and who is praying with you. Praying together as a planting team will stir up unity as you all pray into the same situations. Your hearts and minds will be knit together as you bend your knees in worship, thanksgiving, intercession and supplications. The team that prays together can stay together. In every single account of the Book of Acts the believers partnered in prayer and did it together as one. We don’t read of a situation whereby the early church went back home and prayed in their rooms privately. No, they came together to lift up their voices to the Lord in expectant hope. It’s so helpful and encouraging to create a culture in a praying team where people contribute. Partnering in prayer forms an atmosphere where prophecy, wisdom and knowledge can flow from. It’s an opportunity to bear the burdens of your present pressures, whether that be finances, volunteers, property, support, technology etc. As you put your arms under one another you’re lifting each other up to Christ. The season of planting is such a crucial time where prayer needs to be a priority and doing that with others will keep you on track.
Persevere in Your Praying
Lastly, persevere. Your praying will only last as long as your perseverance prevails. Discipline is not legalism. Believers are called to a life of discipline and dedication, serving the Lord with commitment. How much more so those who are commissioned and sent to plant churches! Planters and leaders alike have a unique purpose to endure. You may endure such things as a slow pace, lack of volunteers, minuscule finances, pressure, family priorities, core people moving on, house issues, venue problems, job responsibilities, time constraints and I’m sure I could list more. All this while still making time for you, your study of the Word, personal prayer and worship and hobbies. I don’t list these things to make you feel overwhelmed but to remind you of the vital importance to persevere in it all and keep prayer at the centre. Prayer is the gel that will hold these unavoidable situations together and stop you from hitting your face on the pavement in exhaustion. Prayer is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and persevere with it.
Practice won’t make you a perfect prayer. There’s no such thing as one, it’s like saying, “Wow, you breathe perfectly well!” People say prayer for the believer is like breath for the lungs. We can become breathless at times and struggle to gasp for prayer. Don’t quit! Just keep breathing. Just keep praying.