Sometimes prayer becomes something we do because we have always done it. Every week in our Sunday School class, we did the same thing – the “leader” of the class would get up and make the announcements, and then she would ask us what prayer concerns we had. And the list we would share sounded like the “wounded warriors of the faithful and family.” We really did care about people, and especially people that we knew well. Somehow the prayer support for these people just felt good! We would pray for them, and then the teacher would teach. Somehow, it just felt like the right thing to do.
Then one morning our Bible study lesson was on the Lord’s Model Prayer in Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount. And we engaged in a discussion about what does it really mean to pray to our Father in heaven. We talked about the privilege we have to come to our Father and how we were taking it for granted each Sunday when we gathered. We looked at prayers of Bible characters and saw that when they prayed they really expected something to happen in their lives and other lives as well. God convicted us right then and there our lives were not being changed and our Bible study group was not been transformed because we were taking prayer so lightly.
So we changed our practice.
Here are some of the things we did:
- We began our class with prayer, but with a prayer for enlightenment and conviction as we studied God’s Word. We asked God to open our eyes to His truth for us.
- We enlisted a prayer leader from our class who was responsible for keeping prayer needs before us. In fact, the prayer leaders for our class were a couple. And they made prayer reminders for us each week of people and situations for which we needed to pray!
- A prayer chart was begun which had two columns – one column was the prayer need and second column was the prayer answer. So each time God answered our prayer, we claimed the answer and gave Him glory and honor.
- Every Sunday at the beginning of the class, a list was passed around by our prayer leader that asked us to place anything on that list we wanted to mention as a prayer request. Each Sunday, at the end of the class, we would get a copy of each those requests. Our prayer leader was very resourceful. She would make a copy in the church office and hand it to each of us. Then we would pray over that list and carry it home to use as for our personal prayer time.
- We were challenged to have a personal prayer list with three columns – People in our Class, People in our Church Family, and People far from God.
- Annually, we held a 3 hour prayer retreat at someone’s home just to listen to the heart of God. Many things came from those prayer times – the need and starting of a new group, the calling of a new outreach leader and care group leaders, a broken family brought back together, and the list goes on.
Somehow we found that when we took prayer as our special communication with the Father, we changed. Bible study sessions became transformational. Our class grew. People came to know the Lord. People were called into service in other Bible study groups.
And just think – all that happened just because we decided to take prayer seriously! Prayer changes things, but more importantly, prayer changes us!
Prayer – Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of prayer. Help us to take communication with you seriously. Change our lives as we listen to Your voice and follow Your direction! Break our practices of familiarity and teach us to pray with an expectation that You will transform our lives and groups.
Ken Kessler is Team Leader for the Empowering Leaders Team of the Baptist General Association of Virginia!