As part of an effort to lay a foundation for building my congregation as a house of prayer, I’ve launched my first Prayer Training Module (PTM). The purpose of the PTM is to disciple those involved in prayer through instruction and practice.
Ten men and women gathered with me in a room off the beaten path during our Christian Education Hour. After a bit of orientation, we started our study of prayer using my booklet, Why Do We Pray? Each week we’ll discuss a section, exploring the various facets of prayer at God’s design.
What was really remarkable, however, was our time of prayer, which took up 75% of the hour allotted. Our prayer includes sharing, Psalm and sermon. Sermon responds to the Spirit’s teaching of us through His Word, focusing on the weekly message in the worship service. Psalm stretches our thinking about prayer along the contours of a selected psalm. Sharing addresses personal concerns of the group, for themselves or others. Our approach to the three areas of sharing, Psalm and sermon was not to pray for one area at a time. Rather, the areas overlapped with prayers being interspersed.
The psalm before us for our first meeting was Psalm 84. People would read a verse or portion of it aloud in the prayer time and run with it as the Spirit leads. I was deeply moved at how we were able to lead one another in the richness of kingdom prayer, interacting with God as He reveals Himself in the psalm and interceding according to the psalm’s various themes.
But what particularly struck me were the “sharing” prayers.
My instruction regarding “sharing” asked people to “pray it not say it.” Often, prayer time is eaten up with presenting a request and providing explanation for it. Invariably, this background leads to discussion and expressions of sympathy, interest or the like.
In a “pray it, not say it” approach the idea is to present areas of personal concern right in the thick of prayer. A statement or phrase might be given to provide context. For example, “Merciful Father, I’ve got a mortgage payment that is due next week. I don’t have the money to pay it. I look to you to provide. Help me to trust you and not worry.” Or, “Father, my heart breaks to hear that Louise might lose her baby. Protect the baby in her womb. Help the doctors to care to her. Cause your peace to guard her heart.” Others might chime in to build on those prayers.
Some of the things that were prayed for under “sharing” were extremely moving. We could feel the pain and need. Hearing those things in the context of prayer (versus sharing of requests) seemed to give those prayers a great depth and urgency. We were on edge together. We came helpless and needy before God together. Our “amen” to the concern was fresh. And best of all, it was carried in power of prayer rather than talking to one another.
I am greatly looking forward to how the Spirit will train us in prayer over the eight weeks of the PTM. Already, one person told me afterward how he thought the way he prayed has been changed forever. Those words told me that God is at work.