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Fresh Encounters presents a new and different model for praying together that has seen results in churches across the United States. Put it into practice at your church, and watch the transforming power of Jesus Christ work through united, worship-based prayer.

Year:
2012
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The Navigators
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english
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Et Nietzsche a pleuré

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布登波洛克一家

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Daniel Henderson’s book Fresh Encounters could revolutionize the way every pastor does ministry. Church leaders will see prayer in a whole new light and with renewed motivation. I do not know of a more practical resource to spark a spirit of genuine revival in a congregation.

— Dr. Jerry Falwell

Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church

It is an extraordinary thing to find a local pastor so distinguished by a life of prayer and leading his church to be a benchmark in the real work of prayer. Dr. Daniel Henderson is such a person. It is our privilege to look inside his life and ministry through this book and read about not only how to have a life of prayer, but how to lead your church into a being a church of prayer … a church built on prayer. I enthusiastically commend this book to you. At the same time I thank Dr. Henderson for making the extra effort of writing it. I believe this book has the potential of powerfully changing a multitude of churches God’s way.

— Dr. Bob Ricker

President, Baptist General Conference (1987–2003)

Daniel Henderson knows how to lead a church in prayer. As a successful pastor, he has learned the necessity of modeling a strong prayer life, training effective prayer leaders, and conducting powerful church prayer meetings. You can learn to do the same. This book will show you how. Fresh Encounters will inspire, equip, and envision you to the New Testament realities of a church on her knees. Don’t stand on the sidelines any longer, just because you don’t know what to do. Open the pages of this book and discover how you can lead your church into a fresh encounter with the living God.

— Cheryl Sacks

Co-founder of BridgeBuilders Intl. Leadership Network

Author of The Prayer-Saturated Church

Daniel is the man to write on prayer. It’s the passion of his life. I have been blessed to spend many hours on my knees with him personally and have also seen him leading a whole church in effective prayer. In our day of human methods, this book is desperately needed! How can we ignore the promise; s that God has attached to prayer? Nothing is more important for those who desire to walk the path of righteousness.

— John MacArthur

Pastor/Teacher, Grace Community Church

Grace to You Radio Broadcast

Daniel Henderson does not study prayer; he breathes it. This book not only called me to prayer, it drove me to my knees. The hunger for the presence of God is palpable in this book, and Dr. Henderson’s thirst for righteousness is contagious. Do not read this book casually. It will call you to new levels of intimacy with God.

— Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner

Professor of Theology and Church History, Liberty University

Author of the Gold Medallion-winning book Unveiling Islam

Daniel Henderson knows what he is talking about when he shares about prayer. I have watched in amazement as God has used him to awaken the sleeping church to the kind of real, vital, fresh prayer that we first read about in the book of Acts. I commend this book as a must read for anyone searching for the awakening of their church through a Holy Spirit driven prayer movement.

— Hans Finzel,

President of World Venture

Author of The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make

As one who has spent over two decades praying for a massive Christ-awakening in the church, and traveling the world gathering others to do the same, I could not be more delighted with any book on prayer than I am with Fresh Encounters. Not only does it refresh our vision for what a true awakening looks like, but it provides invaluable insights and tools for those who are so key to every fresh encounter with Christ among His people: spiritual leaders. Fortunately, as much as any leader I know today, in his own ministry Daniel Henderson has incorporated in extraordinary ways the spiritual and practical dimensions of the renewal of which he writes. The scent of authenticity springs from every page of this book!

— David Bryant

Founder, PROCLAIM HOPE!

Author, Christ Is All! A Joyful Manifesto on the Supremacy of God’s Son

I confess that I wish that this helpful book had been written a number of years ago. I believe I could have profited greatly from it as I attempted to help the congregations I served to become more effective in prayer. At the same time, I am delighted it has been written now. I recommend it to you highly.

— Paul Cedar

Chairman, Mission America

Simple and straightforward, practical and personal, written by a man who has done and is doing it. This is the best source I know of to help a congregation really become a house of prayer. The chapters on “hindrances” alone are worth the price of the book. A great “proof of this pudding” for me has been when I have been with people who have been under Daniel’s prayer leadership. I have consistently heard them comment about how much more they loved Jesus because of their times of prayer. They did not point to the vehicles of prayer, they pointed to the destination.

— Dennis Fuqua

Executive Director, International Renewal Ministries

Many pastors are saying, “I want my church to be a house of prayer, but I don’t know how to make it happen. I don’t know how to move from here to there.” This is the tool you have been waiting for. Written by a pastor who has walked it out, this book is the map he has drawn for those on the same journey.

— Jennifer Kennedy Dean

Executive Director, The Praying Life Foundation

Author of Live a Praying Life

— Rev. Terry Cuthbert

President, Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada

On two occasions I have had the opportunity to speak in Daniel Henderson’s church. Both times I have sensed the presence of God as soon as I stepped foot on their campus. I sensed it too in his people—they are loaded with joy! The reason: his church prays—together. Pastor or prayer leader, nothing will change your church more than developing a vibrant, passion-filled corporate prayer meeting. This book will give you the encouragement, challenge, and principles to take you there.

— Jonathan Graf

President, Church Prayer Leaders Network

Editor of My House Shall Be a House of Prayer

Perhaps the most strategic issue facing church leadership today is how to initiate and sustain a genuine work of God in a specific geographic community. Daniel Henderson, with great clarity and precision, lays out the essence of such an awakening in Fresh Encounters. Don’t miss this one.

— Joseph C. Aldrich

President Emeritus, Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary

Founder, International Renewal Ministries/PrayerSummits.Net

Daniel Henderson has sounded the trumpet call to prayer summits in the local church. Rekindling of faith and renewed passion for Christ become the experience of individuals, families, and an entire congregation as you read this story about one church engaged in prayer summits for more than a decade.

— Luis Bush

International Director, World Inquiry

Here is a book that can truly change lives! As a cancer survivor, I know well the power of prayer. I have seen the incredible things God can do around the world when His people get on their knees. This book captures the power of true biblical prayer. Prayer that will change you … prayer that will change your church … prayer that will change the nations!

— Vernon Brewer

President, World Help





NavPress is the publishing ministry of The Navigators, an international Christian organization and leader in personal spiritual development. NavPress is committed to helping people grow spiritually and enjoy lives of meaning and hope through personal and group resources that are biblically rooted, culturally relevant, and highly practical.

For a free catalog go to www.NavPress.com or call 1.800.366.7788 in the United States or 1.800.839.4769 in Canada.





© 2004, 2008 by Daniel Henderson

Note: Some of the names of individuals and churches used in the illustrations have been changed to protect privacy.

Unless otherwise identified, all Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®(NIV®). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60006-355-8

Cover Design: Marcy Shultz

Printed in the United States of America

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 / 14 13 12 11 10



Build: 2020-03-25 09:50:08 EPUB 2.0





Dedication

This book is lovingly dedicated to

the praying people of

Arcade Church

Sacramento, California

and

Grace Church

Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Your partnership in the ministry of prayer has delighted

my soul and ignited my vision for His glory.





Acknowledgments

My special thanks to Margaret Saylar for your careful concern in editing and patient support of this project to the very end. I know we both miss your dear husband Dan so very much. He would have been so proud of you.

My deepest love and appreciation to Rosemary, my treasured partner in life and ministry. Without you by my side I would have never been free to soar into so many “fresh encounters” with Jesus.

To Justin, Jordan and Heather—Thanks for encouraging your dad in so many ways, especially by your growing love for the pres-ence of Christ.

It has been my joy to partner with Jon Graf and the wonderful people at Pray! Thank you for believing in this project.





CONTENTS

Foreword



Introduction: A Moment in His Presence



PART ONE: The Adventure of an Encounter

Chapter 1: Fresh Encounters of a Personal Kind

Chapter 2: Your Call to an Encounter

Chapter 3: The Predicament of the Empty Prayer Room

Chapter 4: Where’s Jesus?



PART TWO: Start the Encounter

Chapter 5: The Priority of Pastoral Leadership

Chapter 6: Who Can Lead an Encounter?

Chapter 7: More Caught Than Taught



PART THREE: Fueling the Encounter

Chapter 8: The Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

Chapter 9: Seek His Face, Not His Hand



PART FOUR: Vision for an Encountering Community

Chapter 10: Experience the Encounter Together

Chapter 11: Renovate Your Prayer Closet

Chapter 12: Explore the Possibilities



PART FIVE: Keeping the Encounter Fresh

Chapter 13: Prayer Gatherings That Keeping Going, Going, Going

Chapter 14: Hindrances to Avoid

Chapter 15: More Hindrances Than You Might Think

Chapter 16: Still More Hindrances



Conclusion: The Fire of a Fresh Encounter



Epilogue: Implementing Your Vision



Appendices A-H



Recommended Resources





FOREWORD

America is being enveloped by a growing spiritual darkness that seems to be affecting virtually every area of our culture—even much of the church in the Western world. Like a slow-moving blanket of dark smog, this cloud of darkness seems to be gaining momentum day by day.

There is little doubt that there is a desperate need for spiritual renewal in this nation and beyond. However, as Pastor Daniel Henderson asserts, the church often seems to be asleep—especially in regard to the powerful ministry of prayer. Much of the church has become a sleeping giant that needs to become awakened to its potential and spiritual power.

Without a doubt, the church of Jesus Christ is key to combating and overcoming the spiritual darkness that seeks to dominate. Authentic transformation of cities and communities and other societal entities must begin in the lives of the Christians of a nation.

Daniel Henderson understands that prayer is the first major step toward penetrating and then overcoming spiritual darkness. Prayer is not the only thing we do, but it is the first thing we do. It is foundational for bringing light to the darkness.

History would teach us that there will be no revival or spiritual awakening unless churches begin to pray. In addition, most churches will not become houses of prayer unless pastors lead the way through their personal example and through skilled and strategic leadership in prayer.

Daniel Henderson is that kind of a pastor. I have had the privilege of observing Daniel in that important role for a number of years. For more than twenty years he has led congregations to become involved in effective corporate prayer meetings. In fact, the churches that he has served have become models in prayer ministry.

Fresh Encounters is a reflection of Daniel’s consistent commitment to raise up competent and confident prayer leaders and people of prayer in the local church. This is not a volume that is based upon theory. To the contrary, it conveys the conviction and implementation of prayer principles by a pastor who has been committed to the important ministry of helping the local church become a house of prayer—in word and deed.

The principles that Daniel presents are practical and proven. The stories are real, deeply inspiring, and motivating. This book will help every pastor and local church that wants to become more effective in prayer and who desires to be used of God to bring transformation to a congregation and a community.

At the same time, the principles shared are flexible and adaptable. The “road map” that the Lord has revealed to Daniel over the years is adaptable to every church situation and can provide a simple and powerful strategy that can lead to authentic congregational transformation.

I believe that pastors, church leaders, and prayer leaders will not only grow in their personal prayer lives as they read and apply the principles of Fresh Encounters, but that they will also become better informed and equipped to motivate others to pray more consistently, powerfully, and effectively.

Daniel Henderson has a unique ability to motivate others to pray. This has been demonstrated in the lives of the people he has pastored and in the lives of many pastors and church leaders who have participated in his “Imagine What God Could Do” renewal conferences. I have had the privilege of participating in that conference and can attest to the significant contributions made to my own life and ministry.

This book is the culmination of Daniel’s insights and experiences as he has been involved in our Lord’s “school of prayer” over the past years. It communicates his vision for “pastorled, local church-focused movements of Christ-exalting worship-based prayer.”

I confess that I wish that this helpful book had been written a number of years ago. I believe that I could have profited greatly from it as I attempted to help the congregations that I served to become more effective in prayer.

At the same time, I am delighted that it has been written now. I recommend it to you highly. I believe it can be of great assistance to every pastor and church leader who desires to be used of God to help local churches become more effective “houses of prayer” that bring the light of Jesus Christ and true spiritual transformation to churches and communities across the nation and around the world.

—Paul Cedar

Chairman, Mission America





INTRODUCTION

A Moment in His Presence

We’ve heard that prayer changes things. More importantly, prayer changes us. When we are changed, and Christ’s life-changing power flows powerfully in and through us, the world is changed. I warn you: Reading this book may change the world, one life at a time, starting with your own.

Changed to Be a World Changer

In October 1995, Lori gave her life to Jesus Christ. A few months later she signed up to attend a Prayer Summit sponsored by the women of our church. They were going away to pray for three days, with no agenda. This was a big stretch for a baby Christian.

At the time her song repertoire consisted of the chorus of “Amazing Grace” and “Jesus Loves Me.” She writes, “I wouldn’t have been able to find a book of the Bible other than Genesis if you’d paid me. And as you might imagine, I would never dream of lifting up my hands as I had seen once in one of those ‘weird churches.’”

But God used that weekend to transform her life totally. She learned how to pray and worship God as the majestic, sovereign and mighty One who is worthy of praise. She saw Him take hurting people and give them peace, hope, and joy. Her life has never been the same since that weekend. How could it be the same after experiencing so dramatically the deep, deep love of Christ?

Today, Lori serves as the ministry director of a non-profit renewal organization, serving hundreds of churches around the world in the principles of worship-based prayer. God is using her in profound ways. Blessings continue to pour into her life, family, and ministry all because one day as a new believer she stepped into a praying church and was led to a life-transforming moment in His presence.

Healed and Whole

For more than a decade, Guenther and Gina lived across the street from Ken and Mary. Ken and Mary had known Christ for decades. Guenther and Gina were unchurched, expressed little interest in spiritual matters, and carried much pain from heartaches of the past.

One day, the breakthrough occurred. God opened Guenther and Gina’s hearts to the gospel. They were both transformed by grace.

Soon, Ken took Guenther to some prayer events at church. A stoic, hard-driving German, Guenther was not accustomed to environments of transparency, brokenness, and tender prayer. But he could not deny what he observed with his own eyes. Scores of men, executives and blue-collar workers alike, found new connections and a fresh lease on life, as they prayed together.

Over time, Guenther opened his heart to Christ’s grace as he prayed with other men. Hurts and heartaches from the past were healed and an unquenchable fire for God was kindled.

Today Guenther leads a prayer movement in his church, mobilizing men to pray for their pastors. He works on the leadership team for an annual prayer conference that reaches churches across the country. His marriage has been healed, his past cleared, and his vision ignited. He is a different man because he came to know Christ, then entered into the life of an awakened church that offered Guenther a life-changing moment in His presence.

Set Free in a Moment

Jeremy was a Christian with a dirty secret. His alcoholism was not evident to most of his friends at church, but it was slowly destroying his family, career, and health. After a family intervention Jeremy stopped drinking on the outside, but inside he was a self-described “dry alcoholic.”

A few months later, at his wife’s insistence, he attended a three-day men’s Prayer Summit. That context of extraordinary worship, genuine acceptance, and passionate prayer exposed Jeremy’s relentless addiction. He opened his heart before a group of Spirit-sensitive men. They cried out to the Lord Jesus on Jeremy’s behalf. At that moment, God healed his heart, removed his addiction, and restored his life.

Today, Jeremy serves on the staff of a large West Coast church leading a dynamic ministry of small groups and recovery out-reach. His wife still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about the transformation in Jeremy’s life—a transformation that occurred because he experienced a profound moment with the Living Christ in a community of praying men.

Accepted and Empowered

Gloria was reeling from the pain and abandonment of a very difficult divorce. After attending a variety of divorce recovery workshops, she still struggled with deep-seated rejection and painful memories. One day Gloria was persuaded to attend a three-day women’s Prayer Summit. After a couple of days of spontaneous Scripture reading and free-flowing worship, Gloria felt safe. In a tender moment, she opened her heart to the love of Jesus and the prayers of caring women. They prayed over Gloria, citing biblical truths about her true identity and acceptance in Christ. The Savior’s grace touched the damaged recesses of her heart.

Since that profound encounter with Christ, Gloria has tasted and enjoyed lasting freedom. She realizes her new life in Him and experiences intimate companionship with the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24), or husband. Every week she joins dozens of women in a dynamic Saturday morning prayer time and has emerged as a compassionate prayer leader among women. Her life is another testimony to a powerful moment in His presence.

Down but Not Out

Bob stepped into the pastor’s office at his new church, his heart filled with intense anxiety. Fearing the possibility of rejection and judgment, he forced himself to share the sad details of his story.

Raised by an abusive homosexual father, Bob struggled for years to find real wholeness in Christ. At the moment, he was in the throes of a painful divorce following the departure of his wife, was embroiled in a nasty custody battle for his children and was financially bankrupt. Bob was a broken and hopeless man; but he knew this was a praying church.

Because of Christ’s power unleashed in hundreds of lives, the pastor foresaw Bob’s future as optimistic and hopeful. He prayed for Bob, told him he was accepted in this congregation and invited him to the church’s regular prayer gatherings. During the next few years these moments in Christ’s presence made a world of difference in his life.

Today, Bob is a facilitation team member at the church, leading hundreds of people into the transforming presence of Christ through a weekly prayer gathering. He has recorded a powerful CD of songs reflecting his life’s story, and he travels around the country ministering through his music. His children are home, happy, flourishing, and learning to seek the Lord on a daily basis after the example of their godly father. He is “being transformed into [Christ’s] likeness with ever increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Renewal That Transcends Race

Alice and Deborah felt a strange and undeniable calling to a large church in their area. The two women are African-American. All their previous church experience was in predominantly black churches. This new congregation was almost exclusively white. During their first few months there they heard the announcement about a three-day Prayer Summit.

Alice and Deborah always felt a strong passion for prayer. Because the pastors in their previous churches did not share their burden, the impact of their prayer vision seldom found its full potential and usually was restricted to a small group of women. Since the senior pastor of the new church would lead this prayer retreat, they decided to check it out, albeit with great fear and reservation.

During the three days, God issued an unmistakable call for these women to commit to joining the “white church.” Yet, the race issue still made them uncomfortable. Deborah described it like “two flies in the buttermilk.” In a spontaneous, Spirit-directed moment at that Prayer Summit, the Lord resolved the issue, which began a new day for Alice and Deborah and the entire church.

At the peak of an intense time of spontaneous worship, the women began to sing a tender song. Unfortunately, no one else knew the tune well enough to join in. They sang like angels, worshiping in beautiful harmony. God used this moment to speak to the entire group. Before anyone realized what was happening, the senior pastor knelt in front of the women, hot tears running down his face. He looked them in the eyes and said, “You are welcome here.”

From that day on, God has used Alice and Deborah in remarkable ways, both in and through their church. They now lead a significant prayer movement in that congregation. For more than a decade, they have taken hundreds of women away for similar Prayer Summit experiences. Deborah ministers in song at the church and at prayer events on a regular basis. Alice travels regularly teaching on the power of Christ, through prayer, to change lives and to transform a church. Alice and Deborah are unique, and have made a profound difference, because a church took time to follow the Spirit, obeying His prompting during a moment in His presence.

Lori. Guenther. Jeremy. Gloria. Bob. Alice. Deborah. Their stories have been replicated in hundreds of lives in the last decade as people have encountered God in a church that prays. These transforming experiences and inexplicable blessings are available to all who pursue a congregational lifestyle of prayer.

If you want to see your church transformed, be assured that it can happen. If you are a pastor longing for a fresh wind of inspiration in the sails of your ministry, it can happen. And, it must happen if this broken world is to experience the transforming power of Jesus through His church. The Lord is ready to bring it to pass if we will just come together and persevere in balanced, biblical prayer to enjoy a moment in His awesome presence.

This book is your invitation to join the journey toward spiritual awakening. I’m on that journey. Let’s travel together and experience a fresh encounter with Christ as we learn to pray.





PART ONE



The Adventure

of an Encounter





CHAPTER ONE

Fresh Encounters of a Personal Kind

My journey of seeking Christ in prayer started during high school. God’s call to full-time ministry came early. I preached my first sermon at sixteen. Knowing I was going to be a pastor, somehow, I realized I needed to pray.

In those teenage years I often tried to carve out substantive time alone, sitting in my cleared-out clothes closet or on the lonely desert hills of Southern New Mexico. It was tough, but the only way to learn to pray was by praying.

It was tough, but the only way to learn to pray was by praying.

During my college days I discovered more about the power of group prayer. For almost two years I met with some friends every weekday in a campus classroom, trying to learn to pray. Most of what I was learning was by trial and error.

My Acts 6:4 Discovery

After seminary I helped plant a church in the Pacific Northwest. In those early days I came across Acts 6:4 where it says that the early church leaders gave themselves continually to “prayer and the ministry of the word.” I tried to understand what it meant for a pastor to be fully engaged in the prayer ministry and lead people into this extraordinary reality.

At that time, I began leading daily early-morning prayer, all-night prayer, and days of prayer. By God’s grace that commitment has been sustained. I’ve known the joy of leading multiple prayer times every week for almost 25 years. Of course, my motives and methods matured significantly over the decades. Yet my vision and passion continue to grow as the sense of real awakening increases in my heart.

Prayer is the most-often talked about, but the least practiced discipline in the Christian life.

I’m on a journey to a genuine, prayer-fueled awakening, not only in me, but also in Christ’s church. Even though prayer is the most-often talked about, but the least practiced discipline in the Christian life, we must persist in the pathway and experience all God has for us.

The Local Church Laboratory of Desperate Prayer

My continuing passion for prayer has been forged in the laboratory of local church ministry. Each of my primary pastoral assignments has been uniquely challenging, which is probably what has driven me to my knees.

My first assignment involved a church in California in rapid decline as it faced a $25 million lawsuit and a moral failure by the previous senior pastor. The second took me to a very traditional church in Sacramento after its beloved founding pastor, who had led the church for 40 years, retired. The third assignment led me to a megachurch in Minnesota that had just built a 4,500-seat auditorium and took on an $18 million mortgage, but fell short an additional $10 million in its capital cash campaign. On top of this, six weeks after this church moved to its new campus the public learned the pastor was having an affair.

A friend told me he was going to write a book about my pastoral journey and call it Dumb, Dumber, and Dumberer. In all seriousness, those three assignments were excruciating, but in each congregation God had placed wonderful people who were willing to pray and trust Him for healing and wholeness. I fell in love with each church and was glad the Lord could use me to help and call the people afresh into His powerful, restoring presence. I learned most of what I know about prayer on my knees with the extraordinary people in all three churches.

The First Challenge

I was only 30 years old when God called me to the first challenging assignment at a large church in the San Francisco Bay area where I followed a pastor who had a 28-year tenure. Under his leadership the church grew from 60 people to more than 6,000. Unfortunately, in June 1988 he announced his resignation due to the disclosure of an affair that had occurred years earlier. The church also was embroiled in a large lawsuit over a church discipline dispute.

When I arrived I had no idea how difficult it would be. I stayed for four years, during which time God gave us many extraordinary experiences of His healing grace though all-night prayer meetings, hundreds of early-morning prayer gatherings, and intense expressions of intercession during services and outreach events. During this season, the Lord broke me dramatically with painful wounds that now have become empowering scars. I often joke that I was at this church as long as my predecessor because four years in “dog years” equals 28.

An Older Church Prays in New Ways

I then went to Arcade Church in Sacramento. Arcade was planted as a new work in a growing suburb in 1950. The congregation saw some years of early growth as the city expanded and engulfed the neighborhoods surrounding the church. As it often happens, the ministry hit a plateau with nearly 1,100 people in attendance 15 years prior to my arrival. I inherited a completely built-out campus on only seven acres. The surrounding area stagnated with no new housing developments within miles of the church, which then was $2.7 million in debt.

I followed an exceptional, godly pastor who had served faithfully. Of course, succeeding a beloved leader is usually a high-risk assignment, but God had great plans. I arrived with a clear vision of a prayer-energized renewal. During my first month in town I began training others to help lead effective prayer meetings. Much of what you will read in this book comprised the core of what I taught. Soon we started several strategic weekly prayer gatherings. I also preached a fervent and practical series on prayer.

Six months later we hosted our first all-church Prayer Summit, a three-day retreat with no sermons and no agenda—just high expectations. When I announced the summit, I hoped for 30 people to attend, realizing this unique format required great sacrifice for people to attend from Wednesday evening to Saturday afternoon.

Ninety people answered the call. For three days we engaged in spontaneous Scripture reading, worship, and responsive prayer. We celebrated the Lord’s Table twice and spent significant times in small groups. It was the closest to genuine revival I have ever experienced. God transformed many lives as hearts were healed, marriages were restored, and personal devotion to Christ was fanned. Dozens were set free from habitual sin. A movement of renewal began that eventually took our church through the incredible rollercoaster ride of congregational change.

During my 11 years at Arcade we hosted more than 30 such Prayer Summits, attracting groups between 80 and 225 people. We sponsored approximately 13 prayer meetings weekly, the largest being our Thursday evening Fresh Encounters service with 200 to 400 in attendance. More than 100 people served as Pastor’s Prayer Partners.

We organized an active World Prayer Center where people came to pray an hour once a week. Over a span of five years we hosted an annual prayer conference to equip other church leaders in local church prayer ministries. Each conference attracted nearly 500 attendees from 14 states, several foreign countries, and 19 denominations. A real awakening was occurring, and the only explanation was Christ’s true, biblical prayer recipe.

Tangible Fruit

On the surface we saw the fruit of ministry expansion. Our weekly attendance and annual budget almost doubled. Our missions giving grew substantially. Multiplied dozens went to the mission field for short-term experiences or full-time careers. We also planted several daughter churches.

The spirit of the church was transformed. When I first arrived, the phrase I often heard was “We’ve never done it that way before.” Later our ministry was marked by the slogan, “We’re going to do something a little different today.” A profound spirit of prayer and expectation emerged. Many young families and new Christians became vitally involved in the church.

Seasoned older saints joined the frontlines of our ministry. One pastor friend of mine from New York visited our congregation a few times. His observation said it well: “Daniel, your church has the youngest old people I have ever seen in my life.” That is what spiritual awakening produces.

Dependence through Difficulty

My third assignment was undoubtedly the most difficult. I had no reason to leave Sacramento except that God clearly gave our family His marching orders to go and try to bring healing and spiritual restoration to a church that was on the brink of disaster.

Grace Church of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has a profound and fruitful history of local and global ministry. After raising $25 million in cash to relocate, the church’s plans were interrupted by 9/11 and the “dot com” crisis. The $18 million mortgage was overwhelming enough, but a $10 million shortfall was nothing less than ominous. When the church lost its pastor immediately after moving due to marital infidelity, the situation became fragile.

Yet God birthed a wonderful work of renewal through weekly Fresh Encounter prayer services, three Prayer Summits a year, and a variety of other faithful prayer gatherings, including hosting several national prayer conferences. The church literally rose from the ashes of tragic disappointment while on its knees.

I am now a missionary of Grace Church. The elders and congregation, along with the board of directors of my renewal ministry (www.strategicrenewal.com), all sensed the Lord launching me full-time into a ministry of igniting the heart of the church through efforts of personal renewal, congregational revival, and leadership restoration. I say I have gone from being a senior pastor to becoming a “spiritual pyromaniac.”

I have the joy of returning to all three of my former congregations fairly regularly to preach, lead prayer events, and celebrate the victories we all enjoyed as we sought the Lord together. As I write this, I have just completed the most meaningful three-day Prayer Summit of my life at Grace Church. The Lord is continuing the work He began in powerful and fruitful ways.

Current Models, Future Movements

My passion for prayer keeps me in the local church. After 25 years of full-time pastoral ministry, I now serve part-time as Pastor of Renewal at the 12,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church in central Virginia. The church is in the midst of the early “mercy drops” of revival. In the last year more than 1,000 people have been baptized; hundreds more have been saved and are joining the church. Senior Pastor Jonathan Falwell is hungry to seek the Lord and lead the church into new heights of prayer.

I also have the opportunity to teach and lead prayer events at nearby Liberty University, where a living laboratory of more than 10,000 campus students allows me to train a new generation. The Lord is fuelling many unique movements of prayer among the students. We are calling them away to Prayer Summits, taking them to see places like Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Tuesday night prayer meeting, equipping them with prayer tools, and seeking to launch them out to ignite fresh movements of prayer.

My unique passion is to see God develop models of prayer-based congregations and revived churches. My heart is to encourage and equip pastors to lead their people into these new spiritual heights. Only Christ-centered prayer movements will awaken churches as passionate pastors who depend on God lead congregations. If pastors mobilize their people to pray, the world will be transformed.

As a result of reading this book, I pray you will:

• Become impassioned with a vision for a true spiritual awakening in your life, church, family, and society.

• Learn biblical and practical approaches to corporate prayer that will enable you to be more influential in prayer.

• Identify a broad range of corporate prayer opportunities, and be encouraged to commit to lead the way.

• Receive practical instruction on the vision, dedication, and skills necessary to sustain a long-term movement of life-changing prayer.

• Experience and exhibit the manifest glory of Christ in His church.

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten to preach.”

The Fire of a Fresh Encounter

I pray for the day the church will arise with undeniable supernatural impact that can only be explained by Christ’s glory in the midst of His praying people.

Andrew Murray once wrote, “The man who mobilized the Christian church to prayer will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”1 By the grace of God, and with a passion for His glory, I believe you could be that man or woman. Your church could be a beginning point of a genuine work of revival. My prayer is that God will ignite a fire in your soul that will lead many into a fresh encounter with the living Christ.

Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” stated: “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”2 Perhaps God is calling you to embrace this as your goal. If so, this book is for you. If you’re not sure yet, keep reading. You never know what God might want to do in and through you.

No matter where you are or what kind of church you serve, an awakening—a fresh encounter—can occur through the power for prayer. Too often we try to reorganize the church to health. We create new slogans, mottos, and mission statements. We initiate cutting-edge programs to reach the lost, attract the youth and impact the community. But we lack the fire of a fresh encounter.

This book is not a call to newer or better programs. It is a map for the pathway to real spiritual awakening in your life and church. A life-changing fresh encounter is just around the corner. Let’s journey there—together.




Endnotes

1. Ivan French. The IFCA Voice, Sept. 2, 2003.

2. Charles Spurgeon. From Turning Point Daily Devotional, Feb. 17, 2004 (San Diego: Turning Point Ministries).





CHAPTER TWO

Your Call to an Encounter

“Daniel, you could be stranded on a desert island for a week without once noticing that no one else is around,” my wife once observed.

Admittedly, this is a slight overstatement, but my personality is fiercely independent and self-sufficient. I am a driven, task-oriented, and entrepreneurial leader. Prayer involves humility, depending on God rather than self, and finding our sufficiency in Christ. The bottom line: I am not a natural “prayer guy.”

Have you ever met one of those “prayer types”? They seem to glow with the glory of God and can spend hours a day in prayer. They write lofty, inspiring books about realities most of us have never tasted. I praise the Lord for these amazing saints.

But that’s not me. I am not a “contemplative” personality. Prayer is hard work. All the Lord taught me and I practiced came through the school of hard knocks and sore knees.

The good news is that if I can learn how to practice biblical, balanced prayer, I know you can too. If you are interested in a life-long passion for God, this book can help you. If you want to see your church become a powerful, praying church—you’re holding a tool right now that can get you there.

My passion in ministry is pastor-led, local church-focused movements of worship-based prayer. Fresh Encounters is designed to challenge pastors and church leaders. But, if you are not a pastor or leader—but simply a person interested in prayer—it is for you, too. You will learn how to encourage and pray for your pastor and church leadership. You’ll learn about and catch a vision for a biblical and life-transforming approach, called worship-based prayer. As you change in His presence, you can become a change agent for others in encountering the living Christ.

My passion in ministry is pastor-led, local church-oriented movements of Christ-exalting, worship-based prayer —leading to a full-scale revival, supernatural evangelism and cultural transformation.

Tom’s Discovery

Tom Norris’ story is a real-life story of hope. Tom, a missionary to inner-city Los Angeles, discovered the life-transforming power of worship-based prayer. Not long ago, he and his wife visited our church’s daily staff prayer meeting while attending our missions conference. Since that time everything has changed.

He says, “Our ministry staff prayer meetings in Los Angeles were based on prayer requests. Bored, I looked at my watch wondering when the meetings would end. But here the prayer time was so good and refreshing. At the end I looked at my watch and thought, I can’t believe it. An hour went by. My wife and I discussed taking this new type of prayer meeting back to Los Angeles.”

Missionaries at the conference received a CD set about how to teach their churches to pray. (This book is based on those principles.) “I thought I could use this to pass on to others,” Tom noted.

One way Tom applied the principles was through a summer mission’s project he directs in Los Angeles. Thirty-five to forty college students and about twelve staff members came. He relates, “I announced the theme for the project: Prayer. I got blank looks. They’d all been to boring prayer meetings.”

“The next morning I began teaching on prayer, condensing the information down to two meetings. We prayed afterwards for an hour or an hour and a half.

“The students became excited and began getting a vision for it. During the evaluation one student wrote: ‘When I heard prayer was the theme, I wasn’t excited. Then I saw how uplifting and even fun it can be.’

“When I asked the students, ‘what was the highlight of the week?,’ the most common answer was prayer. They never experienced worship-based prayer before. It was intimate, especially in a corporate setting.”

A few mornings that week the students arose at 6 a.m. to pray. Their attendance was optional. Between fifteen and twenty students came even though they were busy from 7 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. During the previous years the prayer meetings (without worship-based prayer) brought one or two students to pray for requests.

Tom’s boss heard about the summer project. Tom is now leading an enthusiastic revival of prayer in their thirty-member staff meetings. In addition, he has been asked to work with 300 innercity churches using the principles in this book.

What is worship-based prayer? Worship-based prayer begins with and is fueled by God and His character, not our needs. It is a prayer meeting where singing, spontaneous Scripture reading and prayers that focus on who God is flow freely.

Worship-based prayer begins with and is fueled by God and His character, not our needs.

This approach is also making a big difference at Tom’s church. “I gave the information to our assistant pastor. He listened to it and loved it. Then he did the same for our senior pastor. Now the church has worship-based prayer each Tuesday and Thursday. People quickly catch a vision for it. The material is so transferable and easy to teach to others.”

Personal Impact

Tom’s personal prayer life also has been impacted. He says, “When we go to the Lord in prayer, it is always refreshing and intimate. God is good. The asking part is easy because I feel connected to the Lord. I’m requesting the right things. The Bible says to ask whatever is His will, and it will be done for you. I know His will. I’m more in tune with it and the people around me.

“I used to ask for things when I needed them. Now I’m more inclined to start off praising the Lord. My wife and I pray together, singing, listening to a musical CD, or reading a psalm. We wait a significant amount of time before we ask for anything. My heart attitude changed. I’m much more thankful. It’s easier to pray because it’s more of a lifestyle.”

This is how the Holy Spirit helps people pray. This book is a plea for a true spiritual revival and awakening—an awakening birthed on our knees. The awakening began in my heart. With-out that I would not have the courage or conviction to write this. I suppose the awakening burns in your heart also since you are reading this book now.

Experiencing His Presence

When the church becomes a house of prayer, the glory (manifest presence) of Christ is evidenced and effective. One of my greatest joys as a pastor has been to interact with dozens of people who visit our church for the first time. Again and again they caught me in the lobby, often with tears in their eyes, saying, “The presence of God is in this place.” This meant more to me than any praise about the sermon, compliment on the music or rave review about the high-tech Sunday program. This reality in our church was the direct fruit of a prayer movement and dawn of a spiritual awakening.

Paul describes our experience of Jesus’ glory in these words:

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit…. Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Cor. 3:18, 4:1 NASB)

While we often view this as an individual experience, it is entirely appropriate to see this as a corporate reality in the church. When our ministry is a passionate, life-transforming engagement of Jesus’ glory, it is marked by supernatural impact and fueled with spiritual endurance.

The source of our impact becomes clear as Paul goes on to say:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Cor. 4:6-7, NASB)

Compare this with Paul’s comment about the real effect of God’s presence on the unbeliever: “The secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor. 14:25, NASB).

Attraction or Influence?

In our efforts to attract and impress lost people with our clever tactics and high-octane programs perhaps we forget to influence them through Christ’s noticeable presence in the midst of His church.

If pastors would mobilize their people to pray, the world would be transformed.

Coaxed by his girlfriend, a young man who was studying for the priesthood came to our church one Sunday. With misconceptions about attending a Protestant church, he drew back until she nudged him toward the door. That day someone led him to accept Christ. Later at his baptism he said, “The minute I walked in the door it was as if God’s presence pulled me into this church.”

All this happens as a result of a praying church, a church that seeks God together, through corporate prayer. The early days of the church were dominated by corporate prayer (see Acts 1, 2). And God transformed the world at that time through a praying church. The same could happen today. If pastors would mobilize their people to pray by the grace of Christ and for the glory of Christ, the world would be transformed.

Countless thousands in our communities are wandering in a spiritual wilderness, looking for something real and transforming. Thousands of others are rummaging in the wasteland of dead religion waiting to be pulled into a life-changing encounter with the living Christ through His church. For their sake, we must pursue a new level of prayer and spiritual power. The journey will not be easy. It is an uphill battle in our self-sufficient, highly programmed culture. We must be honest about the challenges but resolute. It will be worth it.





CHAPTER THREE

The Predicament of the Empty Prayer Room

Let’s be honest from the start. Leading your church to an awakening is not going to be easy. I suspect the current prayer level of your congregation is underwhelming. For the most part, prayer meetings are sparse, attendance is sporadic and the inertia is obvious to all. If we are going to see things change we must identify the common obstacles and prepare our hearts to overcome these barriers to a fresh encounter with Christ through a new kind of prayer leadership.

Of Course I Pray!

For many years Bob and Joyce Bridges were complacent about prayer meetings at church. Weekly announcements of the mid-week intercessor’s gathering stimulated a dutiful, artificial nod but little resolve. Over the years, they sporadically sampled these prayer times but Bob decided he would rather stay home to watch sitcoms or CNN.

After a long battle with cancer, Bob went home to the Lord. Yet, his joy and victory during his final years were contagious. For the most part, he credited his spiritual vitality to the transforming power of Christ, experienced through corporate prayer.

The change started over a decade ago when Joyce attended her first three-day Prayer Summit, sponsored by our church. In thirty years as a Christian, she was never so rekindled in her love for Jesus and passion to seek Him. When the annual men’s Prayer Summit rolled around a few months later, she “nagged Bob” (her words) until he agreed to go. At that Summit, Bob was restored to his first love, delivered from some destructive life-long habits, and radically renewed in his romance with Joyce.

Their lives have truly never been the same. They enjoy and even lead weekly prayer meetings. When the doctor delivered the news of Bob’s cancer, they felt prepared for the trial.

Bob and Joyce’s experience of the power of corporate prayer is fairly rare in today’s culture. Like many, Joyce did not initially think she needed this kind of renewal. She admits that when she first heard me talk about prayer from the pulpit she whispered under her breath, “He sure has nerve talking like that. Of course I pray!” Joyce’s experience had been limited to private, request-based prayer. Now, her whole approach to prayer, privately and corporately, has changed. Most importantly, both their lives have changed.

Overcoming the Resistance to Corporate Prayer

In the average church only a motivated minority regularly participates in the congregational prayer times. This reality has discouraged many a pastor and prayer leader. Most have given up trying to develop powerful united prayer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What would it take for the average Christian to find greater reward in praying with other believers? How can corporate prayer be transformed from an obligation to an oasis?

How can corporate prayer be transformed from an obligation to an oasis?

If we want to overcome this resistance to corporate prayer, we need first to consider what keeps people from wanting to pray together. Based on practical experience and key principles from God’s Word, I have identified six basic reasons people resist the call to prayer and stay away from church prayer gatherings. If we are to lead an awakening of prayer, we must understand and overcome these objections.

Independence from God

I often state, “Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God.” At heart, prayer is depending on God. Many of us in today’s high-tech world of creature comforts and great abundance have a hard time stopping our frenetic activity to simply focus on God. Jesus reminded us, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (Jn. 15:4).

Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God.

In spite of this essential and familiar truth, we still think we can do things on our own. When this core attitude is multiplied by dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of church members, it results in busy Christians but empty prayer meetings. Because it is so easy to “succeed” in church work these days we tend to forget that we are ultimately called to a supernatural task.

Let me illustrate. If I asked you to take my car keys and move my Toyota 4-Runner from the back parking lot to the front parking lot of the building, you would probably be willing to oblige. On the other hand, if I asked you to fly my 747 jumbo jet from Minneapolis to Miami, you would break out in a cold sweat. (By the way, I do not have a 747).

You see, moving the Toyota is a task you can easily accomplish. Flying a jumbo jet is probably far beyond your skills. Sadly, we’ve come to the conclusion that living the Christian life is more like moving the car than flying the 747. Nothing could actually be farther from the truth. Jesus said that if we fail to abide in Him we can do nothing of eternal significance and lasting fruitfulness. Because we think we can live the Christian life, we conclude that we do not need to pray.

One goal of this book is to help you overcome the spiritual inertia so prevalent in our churches while stimulating a fresh sense of spiritual neediness. Most importantly, you will be challenged to lead the way by your own example of depending on God with a heart of true dependence.

B-O-R-I-N-G

Unfortunately, prayer meetings can be and have often been very boring. They often lack fervor and focus. Why? Is Jesus dull? Is time in His presence intentioned to be one step above a night of C-SPAN? No, the problem is not God. It is our approach to prayer.

Fresh Encounters examines a specific and dynamic pattern for our prayer times. We will take a fresh look at it in detail later. According to this plan, prayer should always commence with worship (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” [Mt. 6:9]). God-centered worship then leads to concentrated surrender. (“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” [Mt. 6:10]). This surrender is essentially a yieldedness to the Holy Spirit who leads us into the will of God (Rom. 8:27) and empowers us to be fruitful for the kingdom of God (Jn. 16:13-14; Gal. 5:23-24).

In contrast, many of today’s prayer meetings are based on inter-personal sharing of requests. As a result, the majority of the activity tends to eclipse God’s design for Spirit-inspired corporate prayer. The enjoyment of His glorious presence slips the footnotes.

Often, prayer meetings encompass extended casual conversations between participants, scattered Bible discussion, extended moaning and groaning (“prayer requests”) and, if time permits, a few minutes telling God about our problems. Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for prayer requests: a special prayer group, prayer chain, perhaps a needs list each week in the bulletin, maybe in small groups. But churches need to learn that our most effective prayers spring from a base of worship.

In a corporate prayer setting, the request-focused model tends to go flat fast. We all know what it is like when the group begins to pray for all the noted needs—then runs out of gas. There are periods of long silence. Participants become uncomfortable and start drumming up things to pray about just to keep everyone from falling asleep. God must grieve over this gross under-enjoyment of time in His presence.

This is often the impression people have of corporate prayer meetings. No wonder our announcements about prayer fall on deaf ears. We need a new model; our churches need a different paradigm.

Fresh Encounters will introduce you to a different model. You will learn to practice and implement what we will call “worship-based” prayer. You will discover that a gathering of this kind is as solid, broad, and exciting as the character of God. The prayer time is no longer a grocery list of our problems but a celebration of our problem solver.

Concerns about Gossip

Not long ago I enjoyed lunch with one of America’s best-known pastors. As we discussed various aspects of his multifaceted and prominent church, I asked about their prayer meetings. He stated, “Oh, we have a few women who gather every once in a while, but we are trying to shut it down because it is nothing more than a gossip session.” Over the years I have learned that many dedicated church members carry the same suspicion when it comes to corporate prayer.

This is another danger of a request-based approach. The typical mode of sitting around “sharing” the trials and traumas of people in the church can easily downgrade to inappropriate chit-chat. Sometimes the devil is in the details.

We are going to learn that a strong worship-based prayer time tends to eliminate the loose lips syndrome. A genuine and extended focus on the character of God calls every participant to a serious accountability in His presence. Unnecessary and unkind speech stands out like a sore thumb in this context.

Another dynamic occurs in the initial season of worship. Every-one is reminded that God is all-knowing, gracious, and sufficient for every need. The compulsion to share juicy details is minimized, as each participant trusts Him with every situation—spoken and unspoken. You will learn to lead prayer times that transcend the tendency to gossip.

Fear of Praying Aloud in Public

Gloria Ho was born in Shanghai, China. She moved to the United States as a young adult. Shy by nature and insecure with a new language, Gloria seldom spoke in groups and certainly was uncomfortable praying in front of others. On those occasions when she did attend a prayer time, she was quite intimidated by the beautiful, flowing intercessions of seasoned saints.

In recent years Gloria has found great freedom at prayer meetings. She now attends weekly prayer times at her church and frequently verbalizes her prayers. She has even shared public testimonies about her newfound love for the presence of Jesus.

I am a talkative extrovert so it is hard for me to relate to the fear of praying aloud. But the fact remains that many, like Gloria, stay away from prayer times for years (some for life) because they are uncomfortable praying aloud in the presence of others. But in time, and by grace, a breakthrough can occur even for the very shy and intimidated.

As you lead in prayer you will discover the natural tension that often exists between the verbose veterans and the more introverted, intimidated newcomers. Sadly, we have often evaluated someone’s intimacy with God and power in prayer by the way they put together pithy and passionate sentences.

As you learn to lead in prayer it is important to remember that God does not see it that way. He looks at the heart. Our Father does not evaluate your time with Him by the volume or velocity of your speech. But He does delight when we join other members of His family to enjoy His presence.

You are going to learn how to encourage introverts (and extroverts) to pray from the Scriptures. The Bible has a powerful way of giving speech to needy hearts, even for those who do not naturally have a personality given to wordiness. Often a brief prayer framed from the Bible means more than the man-made verbal onslaught we often classify as prevailing prayer. It is better for the heart to be without words than the words without heart. You can teach people to pray accordingly.

Nominal Attendance by Others in the Church

It is common to initiate a prayer meeting only to be let down by meager participation. This can be discouraging and provides the perfect excuse to give up the fight.

For years I have been disheartened with the sparse turnout at prayer meetings. I’ve heard it said, “Don’t expect a big crowd when God is the only attraction.” This statement reflects our concern—and our answer.

The pattern and practice of worship-based prayer eventually will attract more participants. More importantly, it will provide an enduring motive and engaging method that will keep the focus where it belongs. God is the attraction, not the size of the crowd.

Lack of Understanding of the Importance of Corporate Prayer

In our culture of rugged individualism we have come to the conclusion that it is better to pray alone than with others. Unfortunately, most of us never learn to do either one very well. Like most disciplines of the Christian faith, we learn best to pray alone when we have been taught in community. The believers in Acts experienced a balanced diet of corporate spirituality as they engaged in “the apostles teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Obviously, prayer was one of the vital components of their corporate experience and personal learning. We need to create a new sense of community in prayer to help people rise above their individualistic bent.

Making a Comeback

The thought of going back to corporate prayer times may not feel very compelling to those you will lead. Yet, I would urge you to understand and work through the obstacles that keep them away. As you teach the principles of prayer, lead with faithfulness and persevere with conviction. Lives will be changed and a movement will occur.

We all know that congregational prayer is too important to be relegated to a rut of unattractive routine. Praying with others is too central to a balanced faith and a revived church to be left on the back shelf of excuses. We must try again, asking God for a new vision to make prayer times better and more attractive to others who have been turned off.

Renewed in Returning

Connie Acker grew up in a pastor’s home. In her youth she clocked many hours at midweek prayer meetings, like it or not. For her it was usually “not.” As an adult, her attraction to prayer meetings was minimal. She had better, more exciting things to do.

Still, she struggled to learn prayer on her own. Her pattern of private, request-based prayer left her flat. One day she discovered the difference of a worship-based approach while attending a corporate prayer gathering. For the first time, she realized her prayers could be based in praise and given language from the Bible. Not only did she become a regular attendee, but now she administrates one of the largest local church prayer ministries in the nation.

At first it was hard for Connie to return to corporate prayer. Now, as she recruits others, she understands the fears and barriers so many experience. She has become living proof that it is worth it to overcome these obstacles. Connie has rediscovered the blessing of praying with others and, by her own admission, her life will never be the same.

How many just like Connie are sitting in your church today, waiting for a new challenge and a fresh vision? How many are living in the dull twilight of discouragement, embracing a variety of excuses that could be easily overcome by clear teaching and passionate leadership? Only the Lord knows. The Lord also knows, and has made it clear to us, that living with those excuses is unacceptable. May you become His agent for change as you issue a compelling call to a fresh encounter in His presence.





CHAPTER FOUR

Where’s Jesus?

A favorite childhood cartoon, “The Flintstones,” captured my imagination with their ever-exciting lives in Bed-rock. I loved the closing seconds of the introduction to the show. Fred puts Dino, their comical pet dinosaur, outside for the night. Then he places the milk bottles on the front porch without noticing Dino jumping in the window and locking Fred outside. The scene closes with Fred knocking on the door of his house, frantically yelling “Wilma! Wilma!” As a kid, I always found it hilarious to see Fred locked out of his house, unable to get inside.

The glorified Christ told a similar story in Revelation 3 as He spoke to the church in Laodicea about their spiritual condition. Only, it was not so funny.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (3:15-22)

They thought of themselves as “rich, [having] acquired wealth and [did] not need a thing” (v. 17). The Lord saw it differently. He told them they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v. 17) and in need of a spiritual revival. Their problem: Jesus was on the outside looking inside. He stood at the door of the worship gathering knocking. If they would recognize their need, turn from spiritual indifference and open the door, He was eager to enter, renew their lukewarm hearts and restore them to intimate fellowship.

I’ve often wondered how Jesus landed outside this church. Some say the church was unregenerate and He never was inside to start with. But I do not think He would call it a “church” of people He loved if this was the case. Rather, I think their self-sufficiency, pride, and superficial activity shoved His presence from the center of attention to the back porch.

The scary component in this commentary was the denial of their true condition, their failure to realize that Jesus was no longer gloriously present among them. Could the same thing happen to a prayer-deprived church today?

Where’s Jesus?

We remember the creative brainteaser books called Where’s Waldo? This distinctive fellow, dressed in colorful clothes, caused readers to scour page after page of busy scenes looking for Waldo amid the crowds. It was quite the rage.

As we look across the landscape of congregations in our land, it is good to ask the question: “Where’s Jesus?” Is He in the middle of everything that happens, somewhere in a remote corner, or standing in the parking lot?

Most students of culture conclude that the United States is post-Christian. That bothers us, so we try harder. We have more conferences on church programming, seminars on evangelism, and books on leadership than any Christian society in history. We enjoy unprecedented affluence, state-of-the-art technology, and the finest in Christian education through an abundance of colleges and seminaries. But where’s Jesus?

Borrowing from Jim Cymbala, I often explain that we can tell how popular the preacher is by who comes on Sunday mornings. We can tell how popular the church is by how many people are involved in the midweek programs. We can tell how popular Jesus is by who attends the prayer meetings. So, where is Jesus?

In this day of need-based, consumer-driven ministry we have displaced the centrality and supremacy of Christ. We are attracting people to spiritual centers of Christian concern to find a superficial healing rather than bringing hearts into the holy presence of Christ, who is the sole source of a transformed life. The preaching of Christ, the worship of His glorious name in song, and the central place of His sufficiency in our prayers have quietly slid off the radar screen of popular ministry.

Trying Harder—Achieving Less

Regardless of the feeling many of us have that “status quo” is working just fine, objective research indicates that we need an infusion of supernatural grace to increase our impact on society. For example:

• Five hundred billion dollars has been spent on ministry in the United States in the last fifteen years with no appreciable growth in the impact of the church.1

• During the last ten years the combined membership of all Protestant denominations has decreased 9.5 percent while the national population has increased 11.4 percent.2

• In recent years, half of all churches did not add one new member through conversion growth.3

Other data reveals that some eighty-five percent of all churches are on a plateau or in decline. Only one percent are growing as a result of new conversions. This means the remaining fourteen percent are growing only through transfers from the declining majority of congregations.4

Estimates tell us that every month as many as 2,700 churches in the Unites States alone hold their last service, close their doors, and put up the “For Sale” sign.5 In a telling summary of his findings researcher George Barna offers these concerns:

It’s a bit troubling to see pastors feel they’re doing a great job when the research reveals that few congregants have a biblical worldview, half the people they minister to are not spiritually secure or developed, kids are fleeing from the church in record numbers, most of the people who attend worship service admit they did not connect with God, the divorce rate among Christians is not different than that of non-Christians, only 2% of the pastors themselves can identify God’s vision for their ministry they are trying to lead, and the average congregant spends more time watching television in one day than he spends in all spiritual pursuits combined for an entire week.6

Still, two-thirds of pastors agree strongly that spiritual revival is the single most pressing issue facing the church in America today. I would agree.

Two-thirds of pastors agree strongly that spiritual revival is the single most pressing issue facing the church in America today.

So where is Jesus and what are we doing to give Him the front-and-center role in our gatherings? Of course, I cannot answer that, but some other statistics challenge me to think deeply about our condition.

Working Harder—Praying Less?

For instance, research by Peter Wagner indicates that the average pastor in America spends less than thirty minutes a day in prayer. Other recent research from Bruce Demarest, a Denver Seminary professor, states that the average Christian spends five minutes a day in prayer and that the average pastor spends only seven minutes.7 Jonathan Graf, editor of Pray! magazine, notes that, at best, five percent of churches have a significant mobilized prayer ministry.

There is a difference whether we use all of these tools or depend on them. The acid test is the prayer level of the church.

I am not against education, technology, evangelism programs, and excellent Sunday worship. I have acquired advanced degrees in my educational pursuits. My church uses state-of-the-art equipment, enjoys a large and beautiful facility, and implements a truck-load of programs.

But there is a difference whether we use all of these tools or depend on them. The acid test is the prayer level of the church. Churches lacking extraordinary prayer depend on the tools, leaving Jesus on the periphery. Praying churches are free to use or discard the tools. Their one concern is to keep Jesus where He belongs—at the center of everything, giving Him significant amounts of undivided attention on their knees.

I am convicted but inspired by E. M. Bounds’ timeless words:

It is better to let the work go by default than to let the praying go by neglect. Whatever affects the intensity of our praying affects the value of our work. “Too busy to pray” is not only the keynote to backsliding, but it mars even the work done. Nothing is well done without prayer for the simple reason that it leaves God out of the account. It is so easy to be seduced by the good to neglect the best, until both the good and the best perish. How easy to neglect prayer or abbreviate our praying simply by the plea that we have church work on our hands. Satan has effectively disarmed us when he can keep us too busy doing things to stop and pray.8

A Simple Sailboat

In my high-school years I lived on a lake. During those years I enjoyed many days of boating and skiing. I loved to take our old outboard and speed across the lake with the wind in my face, blowing my hair (back when I had hair!).

Perhaps that is why one day my heart was gripped as I flew from California to Pennsylvania to speak at a pastor’s conference. I will never forget being in that crowded airplane looking out the window with tears streaming down my face. I had just finished reading a book on leadership and was reflecting honestly about my journey in ministry. I confessed:

Lord, for so many years I’ve wanted to be a powerboat for you. As a pastor, I’ve kept my hand on the throttle of a man-made machine, enjoying the exhilaration of impressive speed. I’ve sliced through the choppy waters of church life impressing people with my dynamic ability to navigate and steer.

I continued with a broken heart: “Please give me the grace to learn to be a simple sailboat. Let this be the true attitude of my heart. Let me set my sails everyday through prayer and the Word and wait for the wind of Your Spirit to blow.”

I learned that a powerboat is impressive, but its mark of distinction is human creativity and effort. A simple sailboat is average and only able to move by an unseen supernatural force. A powerboat advances on a predictable journey at the hands of the driver, propelled by man-made fuel. A sailboat is at the mercy of an unpredictable force and magnifies the beauty and energy of the wind.

This illustration represents two different approaches to life and ministry. At the center of our consideration is the issue of genuine, passionate, and enduring Christ-centered prayer.

I remember hearing Pastor Jim Cymbala say that he did not want to stand before Christ someday and say to the Lord, “Look what I did for you!” Instead he longed to fall on his face and cry, “Thank you for what You did through me.”

We need to resolve to be simple sailboats. Apart from the Spirit of God’s moving, we are dead in the water. When the Spirit moves, our only goal is to bring glory to the unseen Force that propels our lives. Perhaps then people will cry out, “There’s Jesus! Right where He belongs—glorious among His people.”




Endnotes

1. Barna Research Group, “The State of the Church 2002,” June 4, 2004.

2. United States Census statistic for 1990 and 1999; Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990 & 1999).

3. Barna Research Group, “America’s Congregations: More Money But Fewer People,” December 6, 1999.

4. George Barna, Inward, Outward & Upward: Ministry That Transforms Lives (Ventura, CA: Barna Research Group, Ltd., 1999), pp. 5-6.

5. Charles Arn, How to Start a New Service (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 6. p. 16.

6. Barna Research Group, “Seven Paradoxes Regarding America’s Faith,” December 17, 2000.

7. Bruce Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), p. 159.

8. E. M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), p. 371.





PART TWO



Start the Encounter





CHAPTER FIVE

The Priority of Pastoral Leadership

Afew years ago I was in a midwestern city teaching a seminar on the priority of corporate prayer in the local church. A middle-aged woman approached me. After introducing herself, her eyes filled with tears as she struggled to communicate a heavy burden. Finally, she shared with intense emotion her deep love for her pastor, a great concern for his busy schedule and her sincere heartache over his lack of interest in the prayer ministry of the church. She knew that until he led the way, their congregation would continue to struggle to become a true house of prayer. Her concern was in knowing how to approach and encourage him without adding a burden of guilt or obligation.

The Indispensable Influencer

Over the years I’ve encountered many church members who desire a greater prayer emphasis in their congregation, yet the primary obstacle to this vision often can be the pastor. Many pastors feel inadequate to lead their congregations into deeper levels of prayer, while others are apathetic or overloaded with other things.

There is no way to overstate the vital role of the senior pastor in the church prayer ministry. The prayer life of the church will seldom rise above the pastor’s personal example and commitment. Exodus 33:7-11 shows the prayerful example of Moses encountering God in the “tent of meeting” and motivating all the people to arise and worship. In Acts 6:1-7 the apostles’ stalwart resolve to give themselves continually to “prayer and the ministry of the word” created an environment of increased supernatural impact.

The prayer life of the church will seldom rise above the pastor’s personal example and commitment.

In churches across the country today, congregations are eager for a greater emphasis on prayer. They want guidance and help in seeking God. They look to their pastor for consistent example and passionate leadership. But it is oftentimes not there when it comes to prayer.

A Pastor’s Passion for Prayer

From my personal struggles and interactions with many of my peers, I discovered five basic reasons why pastors sometimes resist leading the way to a dynamic prayer ministry in the local church:

1. Many grew up in a prayerless church environment.

There is a Brazilian proverb that states, “The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen.” Today’s pastors often lack firsthand experience of what a dynamic prayer-energized church looks like.

Many pastors recall sparsely attended prayer meetings they’ve attended in the past. These sleepy prayer sessions featured a litany of personal requests or those for a third cousin twice removed. Accordingly, some pastors are happy if they can provide such a prayer gathering for three people who want to unload their various burdens. But a church where the majority of the people gather in dynamic, worship-based prayer does not register on most pastors’ radar screens.

2. Most were trained in a prayerless educational process.

I went through seven years of formal undergraduate and graduate-level theological education at excellent institutions. While grateful for all the fine classes and grand truths, I never had a professor or pastor personally influence me in the area of prayer. Oh, there were great sermons on prayer and theological truths about prayer, but no one took me aside and taught me to pray by praying together on a regular basis.

Today, church leaders commonly receive many years of instruction about the ministry of the Word, while practical mentoring on the prayer ministry in the local church is neglected completely.

Few churches offer real teaching and practical instruction on prayer. The churches of my youth did not—or if they did, it certainly did not capture my attention. So how was I to learn? How do other pastors catch the passion?

3. All minister in a prayerless, success-oriented culture.

“Man of prayer” no longer ranks high on the typical list of desirable leadership traits for the local church pastor. Usually, the driven, over-achieving, “can-do” person is most admired in our society—and our churches.

“Man of prayer” no longer ranks high on the typical list of desirable leadership traits for the local church pastor.

Recently, I was in Utah teaching a prayer seminar at a state-wide church leadership conference. After my session, a man approached me explaining that he was the chairman of the pastoral search committee for a congregation in that area. He pulled out a list of more than eighty-five desirable attributes for their next pastor. The inventory had been compiled through a recent survey of the congregation. Many of the qualities centered on communication skills, management ability, pleasant personality, and strong pastoral care interests. Nowhere on the list was there any mention of the priority of prayer as an essential characteristic for the new pastor.

American society tends to value strong, natural leadership, dynamic programming, entertaining services, and impressive technology. The idea of a pastor locked away in extended prayer does not strike the average churchgoer as a mark of effective leadership. Some church members think it wastes time if the pastor spends energy attending prayer meetings. Many pastors realize this and decide not to go against the grain.

4. Some battle a prayerless personal life.

It is hard to take the church further than you have journeyed in your life. This sense of failure and guilt immobilizes many pastors in the church prayer ministry. Pastors know they should be leading the way, but as one leader wrote, “If I wished to humble anyone, I should question him about his prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self confessions.”1 These unfortunate confessions often lead to unnecessary excuses. As a result the prayer ministry is without leadership and everyone suffers.

5. Every pastor is a special target of the enemy.

The “Master of Distraction” does not have to lure your pastor into scandalous sin. He simply needs to distract your pastor with good church activities. As long as the primary leader does not tap into the supernatural work of prayer, the church will be content to engage in a nice, socially pleasing ministry, but will have little Spirit-empowered impact.

For the Pastor

What if you are a pastor in need of a greater passion for prayer?

If you are a pastor, be assured my intention is not to dish out guilt but to encourage you with hope. Believe me, if God can chisel away at me to infuse a passion for prayer, He can do the same for you in an equally powerful (probably more powerful) fashion.

Reading this book is a great start. These pages come from a pastor’s heart to a pastor’s heart. This collection of teaching is full of my confessions of failure and stories of my hard-earned successes in prayer. I long that it will be a tool you can use over and over again.

Throughout the years, I have asked the Lord, as did the disciples, to teach me to pray. Ask for the desire to desire Him, for the thirst to thirst for Him, for the longing to long after Him. He wants you to be a man of prayer. Cooperate with His interests through eager and submissive prayers.

Learning to lead in prayer is not so much an issue of becoming informed, but a matter of getting infected.

Pastor, expose yourself to other praying churches. Learning to lead in prayer is not so much an issue of becoming informed, but a matter of getting infected. Attend some conferences on prayer, especially those sponsored by and in a local-church laboratory. Some excellent ones are put together each year by Strategic Renewal International, the Church Prayer Leaders Network, and other prayer organizations. Or go to a Pastors’ Prayer Summit. Go to www.prayersummits.net to find locations near you. Watch how other pastors lead prayer meetings. Prayer leadership is more caught than taught.

Finally, get started. Do not let the devil keep you in his clutches through guilt over your past failures or subjective feelings of inadequacy. My preferred style of leadership in prayer is borrowed from the Nike advertising theme “Just Do It.” Start somewhere. Start today. Endure in faith. Your personal prayer life will deepen as you lead the way in corporate prayer.

You should recognize that the spiritual battle may heat up after you start praying. Satan is glad to ignore a prayerless preacher. When you start praying, you pose a new threat. But remember, you are a soldier in this life, not a sightseer. Battle is what we do if we are called to serve the King of kings. If we are not a “praying menace” to the enemy, we’ve missed our calling.

If we are not a “praying menace” to the enemy, we’ve missed our calling.

Another excellent resource to check out is www.prayingpastor. com. This website and ministry, sponsored by the Church Prayer Leaders Network, provides encouragement and resources to aid you as you seek to become a man or woman of prayer. It will provide help in developing your prayer leadership skills.

Some of the later chapters of this book will give you practical conviction, vision, and equipping for long-haul leadership. Read on.

For the Lay Person

What can you do if your pastor does not have a passion for prayer?

Rather than becoming discouraged or critical, church members can commit to five key initiatives:

1. Intercede on behalf of your pastor.

If you believe in the power of prayer, put it into action by asking God to move in your pastor’s heart and life to make him a man of prayer. Pray in faith, knowing God wants His church to be a house of prayer and His leaders to be examples of this important priority. It is hard to be critical when you pray regularly for your pastor. Be patient and enduring as God works to make your leader a praying leader. Go to www.prayingpastor.com for help. While mainly for pastors, this website also provides materials on how to pray for your pastor.

2. Initiate a ministry of prayer in the church.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, so strike a positive flame of prayer. With the blessing and approval of your pastor, launch a strategic prayer ministry in the church. Begin with a focus that will bring special blessing to the church leadership.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness so strike a positive flame of prayer.

I recommend a time of intercessory prayer, preceding or concurrent with the Sunday morning church services. Even if you rotate participants, the pastor will appreciate powerful prayer support as he preaches. Of course, a leadership-oriented intercessory focus can be sponsored anytime during the week.

Join the Church Prayer Leaders Network. This ministry provides encouragement, resources, and challenge for people just like yourself—those who want to see prayer become more foundational in their church. Go to www.prayerleader.com for more information.

3. Invite your pastor (without guilt).

You cannot coerce the pastor into a burden for prayer ministry. However, a gracious invitation to “stop in sometime” would be fitting. As he sees the vibrancy, love, and support of praying saints, he will be moved by the potential of this focus and attracted to the excitement and possibility of prayer. Honey always works better than vinegar. Many a pastor has been turned off from a “prayer ministry” by guilt-oriented intercessors who meant well but manipulated too aggressively.

4. Inspire your pastor through practical resources.

Books, articles, audiocassettes, and videos, passed on by well-meaning parishioners, bombard most pastors. Be selective and thoughtful. But when you come across an article, audiocassette, or CD (These are easier to review than books or videos.), pass it on with grace and enthusiasm. Include a typed, executive summary to help your pastor understand why reading or listening will bless him.

Buy your pastor a subscription to Pray! magazine or pay for a membership for him in the Church Prayer Leaders Network (he will receive Pray! as a part of the benefits of membership). Pray! is the best tool I know to fuel a practical vision for prayer in the church. I serve on the editorial review board of this important publication and always appreciate the articles, especially those targeted to pastors.

Perhaps God will use this material to grab your pastor’s attention and heart. Again, do not put a guilt trip on him about reading or listening. Pray he will.

5. Inform your pastor about prayer opportunities.

Periodically you can tap into prayer events that might inspire your pastor. It may be another church or a conference with a primary thrust on prayer. It is always best if another pastor leads this event and the focus is local-church oriented. (Pastors are leery of traveling “experts” who do not slug it out every day in the trenches of local church ministry.)

Get crazy and pay for a three-day trip to New York City for your pastor and his spouse. Ask them to attend the Tuesday evening prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, or if there is a praying church within close proximity, take a trip with your pastor to that area.

With some advance planning, you may be able to find a prayer conference that is local and church-focused. Give him adequate time to work it into his schedule and pay his way to attend. Consider sponsoring the spouse also. Include some other perks (a sports event, musical, or nice dinner) in case the “prayer thing” is not enough to get him there. Maybe a firsthand encounter with other pastors who have caught and implemented the prayer vision will be a key to sparking a personal vision for prayer in his church.

Encourage your pastor to call or email me if he is willing. You can get contact information at www.atgrace.com. I would be glad to host your pastor at my church and share all I can to “infect” him with a fresh vision and practice in prayer. Helping pastors is my greatest joy.

Working with the Lord to Make It Happen

Terry lives in a Northern California foothill town. He attended a three-day prayer retreat sponsored by Arcade Church in 1997. On his own, he could not seem to pray effectively and struggled with a critical attitude toward the leadership of his church. Through this extended time, praying in concert with scores of men, he learned how to pray for his church leaders with a loving and tender heart.

He returned several times to the Prayer Summits. On various occasions men gathered around Terry to pray for him. Through this experience he gained a fresh passion for biblical truth and a renewed understanding of genuine humility. He wrote these words in a recent letter of testimony: “I left these Prayer Summits with a renewed prayer vision for my church and life. I now recognize that what happened there God always intended for men of God to do on a continuous basis.”

Today Terry supports his pastor with a genuine loyalty. God is using him to teach many other men in his church how to pray. His pastor has attended several Prayer Summits now and has been infected by the power of corporate prayer. Together they have launched weekly prayer meetings and sponsored an annual men’s prayer retreat, patterned after the first one Terry attended at our church.

In God’s providence, I ran into Terry two days before finishing this chapter. He was ecstatic. Fifty men from his 160-member church had just returned from their second annual prayer retreat. He could not contain himself as he related all God had done to renew and transform the participants. Terry’s eyes filled with tears as he described the loving partnership he enjoyed with his pastor as they co-led this prayer event.

His pastor stood in the pulpit last Sunday and declared this retreat to be the most significant spiritual experience of his entire Christian life. It appears an awakening has begun in this foothill community—they had a fresh encounter. Terry has learned to pray. He caught a fresh vision for encouraging the spiritual leadership of his pastor and began to intercede to this end. His pastor has been infected and is now giving convincing and courageous leadership to the congregation.

Christ desires His church to be a house of prayer and wants pastors to lead the way. With this assurance you can lead the way as a pastor or proceed in faith to serve as a positive catalyst to fuel your pastor’s vision for prayer.




Endnote

1. Dean C. J. Vaughan as quoted by Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), p. 85.





CHAPTER SIX

Who Can Lead an Encounter?

Pastor Jim invited eight church members to join him at a prayer conference hosted by our church. As he hoped, the conference stirred their souls and imaginations. They wanted more from God than just another program. One of his members expressed this sentiment: “I’m challenged to learn more about what it means to seek God’s face, not just His hand. All I want now, more than ever, is to experience God, not just know about Him.”

Since the conference they are changing their church schedule to accommodate more prayer and stronger intimacy with God. The leaders are taking this calling seriously. The women in the church sensed God leading them in planning their next retreat to focus on worship-based prayer. Alice Moss, a gifted and godly leader whose heart has been touched to help facilitate the prayer movement, spoke at the retreat. God moved in some marvelous ways to heal hearts, restore marriages, and call women to new levels of ministry.

Pastor Jim, leading his church to pray, says, “I’m excited as more of our people catch the vision of worshiping at the feet of our magnificent Savior and becoming a true house of prayer.”

This is how it happens. A pastor is stirred to take the lead. He begins to recruit and train others to help him direct the prayer movement. They are passionate and persevering. Fresh encounters with Christ begin.

Soon I realized that the prayer movement would never grow beyond my capacity to show up to everything.

For many years I faltered in my effort to mobilize a dynamic prayer movement in the church. I failed to reproduce other leaders. Soon I realized that the prayer movement would never grow beyond my capacity to show up at everything. Once I began to identify and equip others to lead the prayer ministry, the impact escalated.

What kind of convictions should a pastor have if he is to lead the church to higher ground? What kind of people are we looking for to help advance a dynamic prayer ministry?

An Uncompromising Conviction about the Priority of Prayer

Prayer in its simplest definition is depending on God. When we do not pray, we are saying, “Lord, I think I can live the Christian life on my own.” As I already noted, “Prayerlessness is my declaration of independence from God.”

There are many biblical examples of this conviction in prayer. The most powerful is our Lord Jesus Christ. He spent forty days in prayer and fasting prior to the launching of His ministry. He habitually rose early to pray (Mk. 1:35) and slipped away to the remote and quiet places to seek the Father (Mk. 6:46; Lk. 5:16). Jesus prayed all night before a major decision (Lk. 6:12). He modeled prayer before His disciples, often praying with them (Lk. 9:18,28-29; 11:1; 22:39). The Garden of Gethsemane was His “go to” place to commune in prayer during good and bad times (Lk. 22:40).

I remind our prayer leaders that the passion and consistency of Jesus is our model for prayer. If Jesus needed to pray—both alone and with others—how much more do we need to pray in this way?

For the effective prayer leader, the prayer model of the early church also cultivates this conviction. The ministry of the disciples was birthed in prayer, nurtured in prayer, preserved by prayer and directed by extraordinary seasons of prayer (Acts 1:13-14, 24; 2:42; 3:1; 4:24-31; 6:4; 9:40; 10:9; 12:5,12; 13:1-3).

Prayer is not a preface or an addendum to the work of the ministry. It is the work of the ministry.

Paul’s life also inspires prayerful dependence. In Acts, we see him demonstrating a keen commitment to pray (Acts14:23, 16:25, 20:36, 21:5). He regularly commented on the faithful prayers he offered on behalf of the churches and his need for their prayer in return. (Rom. 1:9, 15:30-33; Eph. 6:18-20; Philippians 1-4, Colossians 1-3, 4:2-4; 1 Thess. 3:10; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philemon 4). Prayer was his conviction. These models motivate us to be persons of prayer.

E. M. Bounds wrote:

Prayer cannot be retired as a secondary force in this world. To do so is to retire God from the movement. It is to make God secondary. The prayer ministry is an all-engaging force. It must be so to be a force at all. The estimate and place of prayer is the estimate and place of God. To give prayer the secondary place is to make God secondary in life’s affairs. To substitute other forces of prayer retires God and materializes the whole movement.1

Someone said, “Nothing of eternal significance ever happens apart from prayer.” I often say that prayer is not a preface or an addendum to the work of the ministry. It is the work of the ministry. When I work, I work; when I pray, God works.

An Enduring Commitment to the Ministry of Corporate Prayer

Leaders in prayer ministry are fully convinced that Christ desires His church to pray together, and they are committed for the long haul. We need to view corporate prayer, not as a program, but a lifestyle; not a temporary fix, but a lifelong focus.

Hundreds of times I have watched pastors get fired up about prayer. Perhaps they read a book on revival, attended a conference or came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But without a deeply held conviction to endure, the inspiration fades quickly and everything is back to status quo—only worse.

Prayer ministry can be most difficult and discouraging. Sometimes you can plod along for years with little interest or results in the church. I remember a number of years ago after more than a decade of intense prayer leadership, crying out to the Lord, “How long do I have to keep this up?”

In a clear way, the Lord directed my heart to a penetrating question, challenging me to endurance: “Daniel, how long will you brush your teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast, and get dressed?” I understood. It was as if the Lord said, “Why would you question the longevity of this paramount commitment any more than these other basic lifelong routines?” That settled it for me. Since then, I resolved that prayer ministry is my way of life until my final day on earth.

Many would-be prayer leaders start well and sputter miserably. I tell pastors everywhere I go that they need to develop a vision to die on their knees.

Of course, many preachers have a vision of dying in the pulpit. There are stories of guys preaching away, then the next moment—thunk!… they are gone … “in a flame of glory!”

My dream, and I hope yours as well, is to lead God’s people humbly into His presence until my dying day. Finish the course! Corporate prayer in the quest for an awakening is not a short-term program, but a lifestyle to be developed. An authentic prayer life—and the vision for a praying church—is a marathon, not a sprint.

Who Can Lead an Encounter?

An Enduring Captivation with God’s Worthiness

In addition to a vision to endure for a lifetime, every effective prayer leader needs a pure and persevering motivation. We will talk about this extensively in chapters 8 and 9.

In my life I came to this in another one of those “aha moments” with the Lord. For almost fifteen years I consistently participated in early-morning prayer meetings on Mondays with the men of our church. As you might guess, this is the worst day of the week to be at a 6 a.m. prayer time. After leading an early Sunday prayer time, preaching three times in the morning and often being engaged in afternoon and evening church activities, I am whipped.

I tell pastors everywhere I go that they need to develop a vision to die on their knees.

Early one Monday morning as the alarm went off and I arose at 5:15, I asked the Lord, “Why am I doing this?” In a still small voice, the Spirit prompted my heart with these words, “I am worthy to be sought.”

This clear motivation must sink its roots deep into the fabric of everything we do. My motive cannot be focused on the many things that can vacillate. The size of the crowd at the prayer meeting, the emotional dynamic of the prayer time, the weather out-side and my awareness of energy can change from week to week. Sometimes we sense a mighty rushing wind; other times it is early-morning halitosis.

But the truth of who He is never changes. Every week—rain or shine, burgeoning crowds or a pitiful handful, feeling good or feeling bad—He is worthy. Never forget this: The only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought.

A Firm Conclusion about the Supernatural Nature of the Church

The Scriptures are crystal clear on this point. The prophet Zechariah reminds us of the supernatural nature of God’s plan for His people when he writes, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6). King Hezekiah faced a formidable opponent but was drawn to God’s supernatural power and offered this reminder to His people: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us fight our battles” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).

The Psalms are replete with reminders of our need for a super-natural source if our efforts are to really matter. Psalm 20:7 states, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 33:16-18 carries this same theme:

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

Again in Psalm 44:3 we are told that, “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.”

Prayer transcends our best effort to grow a church or build a ministry. The church is not a corporation but a community of people. It is not an organization but an organism. It is not an enterprise for Christ but an experience of Christ. It is supernatural and can only meet His standards through supernatural means. Because of that, prayer is indispensable.

Jesus said I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (see Mt. 16:18). Then, He set about to do that thing through common men and women whose first recourse was prayer. Our first recourse should be prayer. And effective pastors and prayer leaders recognize that.

Effective prayer leaders do all they can to support the vision and leadership of the church