One of the things that Jefferson Baptist Church does in our prayer ministry is to have “Prayer Events”. A prayer event is a focused time of prayer in our church where almost every other ministry is canceled for a short period of time for the purpose of prayer. Our prayer events are five days long. We start on a Monday morning and end on Friday night. We pray from 5 – 10 a.m. and 5 – 10 p.m. each day and on Friday night have a “Concert of Prayer” as the grand finale to a great week, with lots of worship and testimonies from people who have been blessed or impacted by the prayer times.
We hold four of these prayer events each year. One of the prayer events we have is the week before Easter, another before Christmas. These two have evangelism as their focus. We pass out “prayer cards” in each weekend worship service several weeks before the prayer event and ask people to write the names of ten people on the cards that they work with, live next door to, are friends with, or are related to that live close enough to come to Jefferson Baptist Church for Easter or Christmas, and don’t go to church anyplace else. The names on these cards as well as the person who wrote the names become the prayer focus during the five days of prayer in the prayer events before Easter and Christmas. When people come into the prayer room to pray they pick up a handful of these cards and pray for them while they are there. After praying for them they initial the back.
Another of the prayer events is in September when we pray for all the ministries in our Church and ask God’s blessings on those ministries. Lots of information is available in the prayer room about each ministry as well as posters on the wall that bring attention to the needs and goals of these ministries.
Another of the prayer events is in February when we pray for all that we are involved with in foreign missions. Again lots of information is available in pamphlets, papers, pictures, etc.
In thinking through these events, we wanted to get as many people in our church as possible to participate. It seems that getting people to pray at a corporate prayer time with their church family is just about the hardest thing to motivate people to do. We have found that these events often become the “first time prayer experience” for many in our church, and after this first time, even if it is only for one 45 minute segment, is often the beginning of a growing prayer life with the church.
In planning our prayer events, we wanted to remove as many aspects of corporate prayer that tend to intimidate people and discourage them from coming. One of the things we have found that keeps people away is confusion about what exactly happens at a church prayer time. They want to be able to get in and out without being conspicuous. Our prayer times last 45 minutes. From 5 a.m. until 5:15 a.m. people would be arriving, chatting, getting a cup of coffee, and locating a seat and prayer information. Each of the prayer times would have a prayer captain who makes sure that praying starts right at 5:15. At 6:00 the prayer captain would close the prayer time and there would be another 15 minute break while some people leave and others come for the next segment. Each of the five hours in the morning and evening would work like that, 15 minute break, 45 minutes of prayer, 15 minute break, 45 minutes of prayer, etc. We communicate that clearly in verbal announcements and advertisements that are mailed to recruit people to the prayer event.
During the 45 minutes of prayer, one person at a time prays out loud and the others listen and agree, as well as pray silently for the prayer cards that they may have. Before every 45 minute segment of prayer, the prayer captain will remind people to pray “loud” so everyone in the room can easily hear and agree with their prayer, and also to pray “short prayers” so many people can be involved. This really helps keep the energy in the room up and keeps the time from seeming boring. People are also reminded that they don’t need to pray out loud if they are not comfortable with that, but to listen carefully to the person who is praying and pray with them in their mind and heart.
A key reason that it is easier to motivate people to come to this prayer event than many other prayer times in our church is because it has an ending to it, and the event is relatively short, just five days. People are reluctant to commit to something that appears to go on forever. During the announcements made to encourage people to come to the “Five Days of Prayer” the shortness of the event is emphasized.
The topics that we focus on during each of the five days of prayer are clearly advertised so that people know exactly what we will be praying about. The topic of evangelism always motivates people as well as world missions and the praying for the various ministries in our church. Having the prayer focus on Evangelism right before our Easter and Christmas outreach events really seems to motivate and give courage to those who pray to invite lots of people to these events.
One of the key things to making these events successful in the sense of lots of people coming and participating is having at least one sermon on prayer before each of the four “Five Day Prayer” events. Having the prayer event the week after the sermon makes it easy in the sermon to ask people to make a commitment to the prayer time. I usually ask people to make a personal goal in regards to the event of a certain amount of hours of prayer. Once they make a goal of coming once it is fairly easy to get them to make a goal to come two hours the next time until they are coming once a day for the five days, and then once in the morning and again in the evening for the five days.
The prayer captain of each hour of prayer will write down the names of every person that shows up to prayer for that hour segment. When the five days of prayer are over a list is made of every person that came at least once and the total number of times that they came if more than once. First time attenders are noted and then “thank you” notes are sent to people for their part in the “Five Days of Prayer”, and special emphasis is given to all that happened as a result of their sacrifice of time to come and pray.
Another small detail that has helped increase attendance in the morning part of the prayer event is we have been serving breakfast in the prayer room from 6 – 8 a.m. for those people who would like to go from prayer to work. This makes for more fellowship, and food really does draw people.
We make a goal for our prayer event that we publish a month before the event. The goal is stated in “people – hours” prayed. It basically is the total number of people who come during the 50 hours of prayer during the five days. If we average 20 people each of the hours we would have 1,000 hours of prayer. We increase the goal for each of the prayer events unless we don’t make the goal and then we aim for that one again until we achieve it and then move it up.
These prayer events have become a very important part of the total prayer life of our church and have not only been very successful in motivating non-corporate pray-ers to get involved in the prayer life of our church, but the things that we have focused on during the prayer event have been hugely blessed by God.