A few weeks ago, some of our Eastern District pastors and I spent a day with Pastor Jim Cymbala at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. There were other pastors who joined us who were not EFCA pastors. We had a good time of fellowship and spent the day mostly talking about whatever the pastors wanted to bring up to Pastor Cymbala.
One of the last questions of the day was something like this, “I’m from a Presbyterian background and I have to tell you, I love coming here to Brooklyn Tabernacle and being part of your prayer meeting, but I’m struggling with this among my congregation. Can you give me some advice on how to create a culture of prayer?“
Pastor Cymbala’s unprepared response rolled off his tongue as if he had been waiting all day for someone to finally ask this question. Here’s a summary…
First, the pastor has to really believe in prayer and live it out in front of the church. Too many pastors talk about praying, but don’t do it publicly with their people and therefore, they don’t inspire others to do it.
Second, realize there is not just one right way to have a culture of prayer in church. When you read the letters to the churches in Revelation, each church was addressed specifically about its own strengths and weaknesses. Know your people and pray with them in ways that help them pray for their concerns.
Third, fight the tendency to make prayer another “thing” and instead aim to make it a part of the environment. How? Preach a series on prayer every year. Do times of prayer with your church leaders. Train leaders how to pray with people. Teach the congregation the promises of God and to expect answers.
Fourth, celebrate answered prayers! Nothing will create a culture of prayer like sharing testimonies of God answering your prayers.
Lastly, launch a regular prayer meeting. Be content to take steps and walk into this with your congregation. Don’t set yourself and your congregation up with unrealistic expectations and corresponding guilt. Expect this to be a journey, and expect God to meet with the ones who show up.
I’m praying for you that you won’t give up or grow weary as you lead your people to experience a culture of prayer. Where there are praying believers, there is divine power. He is able!