By Rev. Paul Marzahn
Rev. Paul Marzahn is new church strategist for the Minnesota Conference.
Many Christians and many churches struggle with prayer. As followers of Jesus, some of us are experiencing powerlessness, lack of direction, poor spiritual progress, unfruitful ministry, and a poor Christian witness due to a misunderstanding of prayer. Prayer is not just a ritual or an activity. Prayer should never be an obligation or a program of the church. Prayer at its core is communion and communication that touches God's heart.
Prayer is meant to be one of the most exciting aspects of our life of faith. Prayer has the ability to change circumstances, transform lives, heal wounded lives, and give us the perseverance to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Growing churches are praying churches.
Jesus lived a life of prayer, not just by going to the Temple but by spending time alone with God. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place to pray" (Mark 1:35). As followers of Jesus, we also have to spend time daily communing with God. We can never be too busy to pray because prayer makes our lives more focused and allows us to experience the love and hope of God.
Breakthrough prayer happens when individuals grow spiritually through prayer and churches covenant together to pray in community. Here are some ways that Crossroads Church, where I am senior pastor, has incorporated prayer into the life of our congregation and its members. I hope these provide ideas for new ways you could approach prayer in your own personal life or in your church setting:
1. Open and close each meeting, small group, or gathering in prayer. Rotate this responsibility so the pastor is one of many voices leading prayer.
2. Pray over each individual business agenda item. If your Ad Council hears a report about your children's ministry, pause after receiving the report and take a few minutes to pray for your children. After the treasurer gives a report, stop and pray for the finances of the church. Consecrate each business item with prayer.
3. Send a weekly prayer e-mail. Crossroads did a weekly printed prayer newsletter that later became an e-mail that went out to share prayer concerns with others. It also includes answers to prayers, which encourages all who are praying.
4. Host a prayer gathering. For ten years, Crossroads had a prayer gathering on the first Saturday of each month; those gathered shared prayers of intercession for church needs, community needs, and larger concerns.
5. Ask people you encounter: "How may I be praying for you?" I encourage all Crossroads leaders to ask this frequently as they are having conversations in the church and outside of the church. All staff include this question in their e-mails and ask the phrase as they finish phone conversations.
6. Ask members to pray for the church. All new Crossroads members make a promise to lift up the church in their prayers, so we spend time in our new member class providing training on prayer life and personal devotion life.
7. Regularly reinforce the importance of prayer. Each Lent, Crossroads does training on John Wesley's spiritual disciplines and emphasizes the importance of prayer.
8. Do a prayer walk. We do prayer walks in the neighborhoods around our churches to listen to God and our neighbors.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church