April 22, 2019 • Dennis Ellingburg
“I’ll pray for you.” It’s a simple phrase repeated probably a million times on a given Sunday morning. Pastors, small group leaders, deacons and friends all utter these words to others in the minutes before and after church services and small group meetings. These are all well intentioned phrases meant to convey a sense of comfort, caring and love to the one spoken to. But as Resurrection Sunday was coming to a close, I began to reflect on how many times I had said those words that day and in the preceding week and did not do what I said I would?
I did not in fact “pray for them”.
I think it’s human nature to make these well intentioned promises, but it’s also human nature to forget. This side of the fall, our minds, corrupted by the sin “that so easily entangles” forgets in the haze of all the “important” things we have to think about as ministers. Things like service orders, budgets, numbers of attenders, the things aren’t evil, but often we can allow ourselves to get caught up in the minutia of daily life and ministry and neglect things that have eternal significance. As my friend says, “We major in the minor things and minor in the major things.”
Oswald Chambers once rightly said “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” This does not mean that all we do is pray and hope that God does the work for us, but that prayer the work that makes ministry successful.
With that in mind, I want to give some tips on prayer that I have found that make me more successful in prayer.
When you are asked to pray, pray right then…
I have found that give the opportunity, my mind will forget what, though not trivial, it sees as trivial. If I don’t take the time to pray with someone when they bring me a request immediately, chances are I will not pray for them. If I am able to, I try to always stop and pray at that moment with anyone that brings a concern or need to me. I have found that there are two benefits to this. First, I don’t forget to do what I said I was going to do; namely pray for them. Second, it shows the person I am talking to that I actually care about them and their need and I’m not just paying lip service to it.
Make a Member Prayer List
I have a list that I have made in Apple’s Numbers software (the equivalent to excel) that helps me remember to pray for every member of my church.* What I have done is divide my church family, staff, and specific missionaries into 28 different sections that I pray for every day. This is as simple as setting up a table of 28 rows into which I divide my church membership roll. Each day I pray for 5 – 7 different families, missionaries, fellow pastors, and/or other ministries. This helps ensure that everyone in my church is being prayed for and that I don’t forget to pray for them.
*I’ve linked the excel version of this table here if you want to edit it for your context.
Get a Prayer App
Another powerful tool to help me successfully pray for my church is a prayer app. There are hundreds of apps that do a fantastic job of helping you pray consistently. Apps like Echo Prayer, Prayer Notes, and PrayerMate gives you powerful tools to organize and share your prayers. I currently use Prayer Notes because it is available on both my iPhone and my Macbook. I have also used the prayer list feature in my Logos Bible software. It doesn’t matter what tool you use, the key is having a way to access your prayer list consistently.
What I like most about a prayer app is that I have it with me at all times. If someone brings me a need, I can pull out my phone right then and put it on my prayer list.
Pray Over Your Church Prayer List
I know this is “low tech”, but there is great value in taking your church prayer list and praying through the needs listed there. Prayer lists can often feel like an organ roll call, but they are powerful ways of knowing the needs of the people in your flock and giving you direction in how to pray for individuals on your members prayer list.
These are simple ways to pray for your church and to be consistent in prayer. I hope that you will find these helpful in fostering an attitude of prayer for every member of your flock.