And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, and to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42 ESV).
Why don’t we pray? It was intended to be a rhetorical question introducing the sermon that Sunday morning. As I recall it was an amazingly well-prepared and well-presented message (Insert wink here). So, I was confused when one of my best friends greeted me after the service laughing. Not a smile. Not snickering. Full-blown laughter! When I asked why he said, “When you asked ‘Why don’t we pray?’ for three or four pews in front of me, every head bowed! And then when they realized you weren’t praying, one by one they sheepishly raised their heads and looked around to see if anyone was looking at them!” Needless to say, I joined in his laughter.
That morning aside, prayer is not a laughing matter. Prayer is the work of ministry. Unfortunately, in most of our churches prayer has been relegated to asking the God of the universe to cure Aunt Melba’s hangnail. Not that praying for physical and medical needs is not important. It is! But the ministry of prayer should extend beyond the weekly list of sick church members.
In last week’s post I suggested that the period of transition for a new pastor is a great opportunity to engage church members in an intentional ministry of prayer. In most cases the church has already been praying for the search committee and the new pastor (even before they know his name). The pastor has been praying. The search committee has been praying. The church has been praying. Take advantage of the momentum and challenge the church to a 40 Day prayer focus beginning the Sunday they vote to call you. Here is a suggested format to get you started…
40 Days of Prayer As We Welcome our New Pastor
Day 1 – Prayer of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness in bringing our new pastor to us. Be specific in your thanksgiving. “Thank you for bringing us a pastor who…”
Day 2 – Pray for our pastor’s family as they begin the transition process. Jobs. Schools. Housing. Etc. Pray for each family member by name.
Day 3 – Pray for our church staff as they prepare to adjust their lives and ministry to a new leader. Pray for a healthy staff culture. Pray for each staff member by name.
Day 4 – Pray for our new pastor’s existing church as they begin their own journey without a shepherd.
Day 5 – Ask God to give you an open mind and a willingness to follow our new pastor as he follows the leadership of the Holy Spirit in leading our church.
Day 6 – Pray for fellow church members who are not as active as they should be. Ask God to show you how you can reach out to them and encourage them to reconnect with the church. Be specific. Write names. Follow through.
Day 7 – Pray for the lay leadership of our church as they prepare to welcome and to support our new pastor. Pray for a healthy leadership culture in our church.
Day 8 – Begin praying for lost people. Identify someone in your own family. Identify a work associate or a schoolmate. Identify someone in your friendship circle. Identify someone from your community. Commit to praying for these four people. Ask God for opportunities to initiate appropriate gospel conversations.
Day 9 – As the day approaches for our pastor to begin his service at our church, pray for clarity in his preparation for preaching his first sermon as our pastor. Pray for the receptiveness of your own heart to the message.
Day 10 – Pray for our new pastor as he begins to learn our church family. Pray that he will fall in love with us and we will fall in love with him.
These first ten days give you an idea for the kind of prayer focus to continue throughout the forty days. In the next thirty days you will want to involve your people in praying for specific things related to your move, praying for your first staff meeting, your first deacons meeting, your first business meeting. As you and your people begin your ministry in prayer, you will be listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to set the agenda for the church.
I want to hear from you. What other things would you include in a 40 Day prayer focus?