Archives for : Prayer


Systems are important for sustaining initiatives in your church as simple as finance but as complex as assimilation.  My friend Gary Rohrmayer says, “You need systems which are reproducible and interconnected processes; by which your church actualizes and achieves its mission.”  We understand the significance of systems because our bodies require a healthy respiratory, circulatory, skeletal, muscular, and other as well.  Properly functioning systems are critical for a healthy body. 

            I Corinthians 12:12 reminds us of who we are, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members of that one body: so also is Christ.”  That picture of your church should cause you to realize the priority of systems.  They are essential to complete tasks in a detailed manner so that the rest of the body can function properly.  They rely and depend on one another.  Church systems are crucial because they put the processes in place that will help your church remain healthy and give it the ability to multiply.

The one system that is often overlooked is the prayer system.  Maybe that happens because we know that every system, every team, and every aspect of our ministry needs to be bathed in prayer but it would be wisdom for you to intentionally focus on developing a prayer system in your church.  Jonathan Edwards, the great leader of the First Great Awakening observed: “we need explicit agreement and visible union among God’s people in extraordinary prayer.”

Those three elements (explicit agreement, visible union, & extraordinary prayer) are key and they stress the need of intentionality in building a prayer system.  We plan single prayer events but we must also seek ways (a system) for a sustained movement of prayer.  There are great benefits to providing ways to call your people to times and seasons of prayer.  There are several resources available for 21 days or 40 days of prayer but most important is for you and your leadership to pray.  Ask God for a plan that will facilitate explicit agreement, visible union, and hopefully, extraordinary prayer.

First, consider making a chart of every church ministry that needs to be covered in prayer.  Brainstorm on everything from the nursery to the youth to the Sunday services.  Do not be stingy but strive to list every age group, every ministry, and every event. Also, make sure you include missionaries, offsite community ministries, churches in your area, and those who have not yet been reached with the gospel.   As you begin, focus on groups and then later list people by name such as staff members and ministry team leaders.

Second, identify at least four immediate prayer needs in your church or ministry.  You could then pray over each one specifically over the next four weeks. The first week you should focus on the item God called to your attention as the biggest priority.  Recruit a prayer team to cry out with you on behalf of this need every day and as the week progresses more and more needs will come to your mind and be placed on your heart by the Holy Spirit.  I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all you care upon Him; for He careth for you.”

Third, begin to build a prayer ladder.  The focus here will be on a system that will teach everyone how to “lift it up” in prayer.

  1. The first rung of the ladder is the prayer need and you must make sure that you clearly define the specifics of the need.
  2. The next step is to determine the prayer leader for this prayer initiative. Which ministry leader is the best fit? Who will be in charge of and responsible for the fervent prayer and intercession occurring for this particular area of ministry?
  3. The third rung of the ladder represents your focus on building a prayer team. Who will the team leader recruit to be a member of their prayer team?  A verbal commitment that they will join the team is not enough but rather they must pray regularly and fervently.
  4. Now it is time to determine your prayer method.  There is no right or wrong here but you must decide what this prayer effort will look like.  Will it include the entire church, small groups, individuals, or will it be a strategy that utilizes all of the above?
  5. The last rung of the prayer ladder is a prayer schedule.  When will you designate a time for focused intercession on behalf of this particular team and ministry?  What day will you meet?  Will you meet daily, weekly, or monthly?  Will there be a time that is set aside as “the time” to pray?  Some have suggested praying every day at 10:02am for God to provide laborers.  This idea came out of a desire to start a prayer virus based on Luke 10:2 by setting your alarm and stopping when it goes off to pray what Jesus told us we should pray for, more workers.

Third, plan your system out by using the prayer ladder and then carry out the plan.  Good intentions will not be enough.  You must be committed to actually praying.  Jesus said in Mark 11:17, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Think through how you will develop and maintain a rhythm of prayer.  Your goal is to organize a sustained prayer focus that will continually offer the aroma of your cries to God whose ear is inclined toward your pleas.

In building a prayer system you are developing a culture of seeking God’s presence and power in every decision, every initiative, every ministry, every leader, and every aspect of your ministry.  You are inviting God to manifest His presence in your midst by admitting how desperately you need Him.  May we be captivated to pray intentionally, faithfully, and without ceasing!

Just Push the Easy Button

There are many programs and promotions today that seem to promise how to double your attendance in a certain amount of time.  They appear to promise amazing results if you will just follow their steps, strategies, and implement their systems.  It seems as if you really do not need God involved at all. As we have become more and more organizational and industrial we are no longer as spiritual and evangelistic.  We must be careful not to write God out of the equation and it should concern us greatly if we can double anything without His involvement in His church.

We do need systems in our churches but we also must remain focused on our absolute dependence on God showing up.  It is not the pastor’s job to gather a crowd, amaze them, and then collect their tithes.  It is his job to help every follower of Christ to discover the power and potential of the Holy Spirit living inside of him or her.  There is no sustainable or truly satisfactory answer apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Colossians 1:27 says, “God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of the mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”

Here are a couple of things to consider as you think of ways to reach more people and disciple them while remaining gospel-driven.

First, do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Sometimes we become so heavenly minded that if we are not careful we are of no earthly good.  Pragmatism is not evil and sinful in and of itself.  We all evaluate certain things we do through what works and what doesn’t work.

Second, make sure that you remain focused on allowing the Holy Spirit of God to guide you and direct you.  Different people and ministries tend to lean toward being either time-driven or being goal-driven.   In our DCPI training we teach, “The time-driven are challenged by deadlines and pre-determined set dates.  In this approach, the calendar rules.  The goal-driven tend to move forward based on reaching their goals and objectives but a Spirit driven approach combines the time and objective driven approaches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

“This is the best approach.  Galatians 5:25 says it well, ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.’  A Spirit Driven approach looks at the calendar plus the objectives and brings everything before the Lord for His timing. Timeline dates are pre-planned, but are always ‘written in pencil’ so they can be erased and changed based on the Spirit’s leading.  You make plans and decisions only after intense prayer and waiting on the Lord. Everything is subject to revision by the Holy Spirit!”

Third, develop a culture of prayer with an intentional prayer strategy. When you begin to develop a prayer system and ministry think about what these individuals have said about prayer.

Recently on a Sunday morning, a good friend texted the following quotes on prayer to me. They have challenged me and blessed me greatly.

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”  -Charles Spurgeon

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  – Andrew Murray

Here are a few more quotes for your consideration.

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”  – Oswald Chambers

“There is no other activity in life so important as that of prayer. Every other activity depends upon prayer for its best efficiency.”  – M.E. Andross.

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” – John Bunyan

“Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet.” – E. M. Bounds

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring it’s power down to earth.” – Andrew Murray

The truth and testimony of the power of prayer in these followers of Christ continues.

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” – Mother Teresa

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” -C.S. Lewis

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” – Rick Warren

The last three, for now, are a great summation of the importance of prayer.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” -Oswald Chambers

“He who kneels the most, stands the best.”  -D.L. Moody

Are reading these quotes do you believe your natural inclination is more toward a time-driven approach or a goal-driven approach? Do you thinkthat those working with you will be inclined toward the same approach that you are?

What steps will you take to ensure that your ultimate timing is a Spirit-driven approach?

  • Are you willing to do what is necessary to take the time to hear the Lord and allow Him to direct you in every area of your life and your ministry?
  • Plan a personal prayer retreat to hear from Him.  This is a time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.  It is in this setting that you can then ask Him what He wants you to do in your personal life, your family, and your ministry.

Fight the temptation to just push and play and instead fall prostate and pray!


Worship exists for God. He is the only one worthy of our praise and adoration. We want His fame to spread throughout the world and for Him to be honored, adored, and glorified in our midst. Prayer is an essential part of our worship and should reflect this adoration and praise. Our prayers during worship should lift the weary soul up before God just as much as our music or any other offering we bring. That does not mean praying in our “God voices” but making sure that our hearts and minds are pure and focused entirely on Him.

In Matthew 21:13 Jesus said, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves!” Someone has said, “If you really want to know where a person’s heart is – listen to his or her prayers!” Gary Rohrmayer says, “Our prayers can be a window to our souls that reveal our deepest motives, desires, and passions.” Here are some prayers we should all be praying from our hearts faithfully every day:

“Father, break my heart for the world you are seeking to save!”

Remember our prayer challenge from the beginning of this year, “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me Your heart for lost people.” Since God loves all people, desires the salvation of all people, and died for all people we should be praying fervently that He gives us His heart for the lost.

Missionary David Brainerd wrote the following words over three hundred years ago.   “I care not where I go, or how I live, or what I have to endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts…no amount of scholastic attainment, of able and profound exposition of brilliant and stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep impassioned sympathetic love for human souls.”

“Father, give me a bigger picture of You and Your work in my life!”

Ephesians 1:18-19 says, “I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.”

We should pray that we keep our eyes on Him and see the “weightiness” of whom He is. When we do that, the “weight” of other things will no longer pull us down nor be able to control us! J. D. Greear says, “When we see the size and beauty of God who speaks to us, the power of sin and idolatry over our hearts is broken!”

“Father, pour out a spirit of generosity in my life!”

One of the qualities and marks of spiritual maturity is that of a generous spirit. Acts 20:35 says, “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Pray that your church will be a church that is dedicated to helping others and being a blessing to your community. God blesses us not so that we can have and accumulate but so that we can bless others. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer them, I assure you: whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Father, help me to empower and release others into your harvest field.”

Our vision is to have a discipleship based multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. It begins with a discipleship process and developing a leadership pipeline out of that. If we are going to release people into the harvest we must first be reaching and winning them out of the harvest.

How much time are you spending developing leaders? If you say you value leadership development then there should be evidence of that on your calendar. Are you pouring more into your leaders weekly so that they can be leaders of other leaders? The natural flow comes out of our discipleship as we observe those who desire more and we focus on the three out of the 12 as Jesus did.

“Father, help my prayers during the worship service to be of the best kind.”

In Next Steps, Gary Rohrmayer writes, “Pastors and worship leaders must read and study Solomon’s blessing and prayer in II Chronicles 6:3-42. One of my concerns is that all too often public prayer in our contemporary service is added on at the end of a worship set or simply used as a transition between the different elements of the service.”

In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Let me therefore, very earnestly caution you, beloved brethren, against spoiling your services with your prayers: make it your solemn resolve that all engagements of the sanctuary shall be of the best kind.” We simply should come with clean hands and a pure heart crying out to God to do whatever is necessary for His presence to be known in our worship.

Matthew 6:5-6 says, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.

Pray For Those Who Oppose You

Do you pray for those who oppose you? Prayer is probably the most neglected spiritual discipline in a leader’s life. Especially when a leader is a “doer” it can feel like they are not really doing anything at all when praying. It can be very hard to slow down and stay focused on God long enough to spend ample time in prayer. The commands and admonitions are clear: “Men ought always to pray!” “Pray without ceasing!” and “Always remembering you in our prayers!” Prayer is actually the first thing we should do and all too often it is the last.

In Spiritual Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby say this, “For leaders to have this kind of relationship available to them and then choose to not communicate with the One who wants to guide them is a gross dereliction of duty.” If you are complaining or griping about someone’s lack of cooperation or opposition in your church the first thing to do is to pray for them! Luke 6:27-28 says, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Are you listening to what God’s word says? We have all been mistreated, treated unfairly, and experienced opposition in our ministries. What does Jesus tell us to do for those who mistreat us? Pray for them! We pray for many different things in our churches but what might happen if we prayed fervently for those who constantly seem to be against the direction you are trying to lead them? What might happen if we prayed for those who oppose us the way we would want them to pray for us? Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Easy, no – difficult, yes, but it is so necessary. John Piper challenges us that the best place to start in praying for those who oppose us is with the model prayer. He gives the following example; “Father, grant that my enemies — my colleague who snubs me, my wife who belittles me, my child who disrespects me, the ISIS member who wants to kill me — grant that they would come to hallow your name. Grant that they would treasure you above all, and reverence you, and admire you more than anything.”

“Father, grant that my enemies would come under the saving, purifying sway of your kingly rule and that you would exert your kingly power to make my enemies your own loyal subjects. Grant, Father, that my enemies would love to do your will the way the angels do it in heaven with all their might, and without reservation, and with the purest motives, and with great joy.”

“Grant, Father, that my enemies would have all the physical resources of food and clothing and shelter and education and healthcare and transportation that they need to fulfill your calling on their lives. And forgive my enemies their sins, as you bring them to repentance, and make them forgiving people, and protect them from overpowering temptations and from the destructive power of the devil.”

Henry and Richard Blackaby offer this wisdom, “Leaders who neglect a close relationship with Christ will be unable to accomplish God’s will through their organizations.” They give these reasons for why leaders need to pray:

  • Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God. It is easy for a leader’s schedule to be all consuming but the reality is that nothing of eternal significance will happen without prayer!
  • Prayer is essential because one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you under His control and direction? Are you constantly and consistently listening to His still small voice?
  • Prayer brings God’s wisdom. The reality is that God knows more than the best informed, most educated, best trained, and most read leader.
  • Prayer accesses God’s power. He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we ask or think. Why do we not ask more often and especially for those people who are prone to be difficult.
  • Prayer relieves stress. Everybody needs someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, and someone they know they can trust with confidentialities. There is no one better than God.
  • Prayer reveals God’s agenda. The Blackabys’ definition of leadership is “Moving people onto God’s agenda!” This will not happen apart from prayer especially in perspective of the first five reasons we should pray more. Jesus modeled this truth every day here on earth as He pursued His Father’s agenda and not His own!

Here are some applications to ponder as you consider praying for your opposition.

First, it’s hard to be mad at someone you are praying for! When we pray the model prayer for those we are angry with or hurt by it first changes our heart. We then are not driven by anger or overcome by bitterness.

Second, we stop trusting in our abilities more than we trust in His. We realize we cannot always fix it…but God can. He will work it out one way or the other but we trust Him enough to leave the solution in His hands.

Third, we realize that He knows what our opposition is thinking more than we do. He is the one who sees their hearts, but remember He sees our heart also. In Uncommon Life, Tony Dungy put it this way, “Even though we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can choose our attitude in the circumstances.” That will be determined by how closely we are walking with the Lord.

Fourth, prayer can change hard hearts and bad attitudes. Many times reconciliation can look impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Prayer of course is important but whom we pray for is also important. Pray that God will restore relationships with those who oppose you and mistreat you!

40 Day Prayer Challenge

God has changed lives in 40 days before and He can do it again! We see that Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan for 40 days. We also know that there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension in Acts 1. In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights when he received the 10 Commandments. There is nothing magical or mystical about the number but it is significant in what can happen during a time of spiritual renewal and emphasis.

When a church seeks a time of renewal and revival the goal is to hear from the Lord and find God’s will and His agenda for our ministry. There is a unique connection for a body of believers when they agree to seek the Lord together and hear from Him together. When we press into His presence we are showing the Lord that we are taking our responsibility of listening to Him seriously. Mark Batterson says, “Our job is to hear His voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His!”

Are you seeking a break through in your personal walk or as a church? The reality is that God’s plans are discovered, discerned, and defined in God’s presence. Perhaps you should consider a 40-day prayer challenge where the entire body focuses on the same Bible passages, repentance, and asking God for the same things. There are many resources available that include books, booklets, or you could even put your own together. Mark Batterson also says, “They gathered in a room and prayed for 10 days. Those 10 days have been paying dividends for 2,000 years.”

A prayer challenge reminds us of the importance of repentance and helps us to focus on the following process.

First, it begins by praying for personal repentance.   I John 1:9 makes this clear, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousenss.”

Second, we pray for our church to be burdened about holiness. Jesus makes it very clear in Revelation 2 and 3 that the path to being His church is for us to listen to Him and repent.

On day three pray for other churches in your community. Ask God to give other churches around you a burden for the lost and to raise up spiritual leaders in their midst to call them back to God’s word and His gospel.

Then on day four pray for Bible-believing churches in your state. One author has said, “Spirit-empowered churches across a state can change the state and influence the nation.” Ask God to burden all of His people across the state to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

The fifth day can focus your prayers on churches across your nation or country. We are called to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. A national revival could touch the world.

Day six could focus on praying for missionaries and churches around the world. Ask God to raise up national spiritual leaders who will call their churches to repentance and obedience to the Great Commission.

The seventh day we could pray fervently for the persecuted church around the world.

Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” We must pray for revival that is grounded in His people turning back to Him. E.M. Bounds said, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.” We are called to be a people of prayer who know that time spent in prayer is never wasted!

Next you should consider praying specifically for your church and its leadership.

First, pray for pastors. Paul asks for the prayers of fellow Christians in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” The best thing you can do for your pastor is to surround him and his family with your prayers.

Second, pray for your church staff. Pray that each staff member will protect their walk with Christ and continually abide in Him.

Third, pray for your elders, deacons, and other church leaders. Pray that these leaders will be filled with the Spirit and they will lead unified. Romans 15:5-6 says it well, “Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.”

Fourth, pray for ministry leaders. Ask God to help them realize how much they are appreciated and loved. Their role is important!

Fifth, pray for ministry teams. God can use these teams, when they are spirit-empowered, to shake their churches and communities for the cause of Christ. Ask God to raise up leaders and provide workers for the harvest.

Then, pray for the lost! Here is a simple daily prayer challenge that all of us should pray. “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” You will discover that prayer is more about changing our hearts then it is changing others.

We should pray for one another every day! A.W. Tozer said, “To desire revival…and at the same time to neglect (personal) prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk together.”

Extraordinary Prayer


Pastors Oasis this year was excellent and we were challenged to seek through prayer an extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God that produces extraordinary results.  Bill Eliff and Todd West did a wonderful job of reminding us of the need to cry out to God in desperation.  Without God and His power in our ministries everything can and will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Bill Eliff asked, “How in the world do we think we can build the church if we are not interceding with the head of the church?”

Is your prayer life ordinary or is it extraordinary!  The one thing Nehemiah did night and day for over four months was the only thing that could save his nation; he prayed!  We talk about prayer often but how often do we pray?  We talk about fervent prayer but how often do we pray fervently?  We talk about praying without ceasing but how often do we pray unceasing, unrelenting, and unending prayers?  We often say we have not because we ask not but how often have we asked with desperation?

Todd West chllenged us with the need for a time of retreat in our lives.  We need to to place a self-imposed time into the regular rhythm of our lives to break away every so often for a focused time of prayer.  We should divert daily, withdraw weekly, measure monthly, and quartine ourselves quarterly.  Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!”  Psalm 27:14 says,  “Wait for the Lord; be strong  and courageous. Wait for the Lord.”

What is a prayer retreat?  In our Dynamic Church Planting International training a prayer retreat is defined as, “A time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.”  Let’s examine this definition, one phrase at a time.

  • First, “A time you set aside.”  A personal prayer retreat must be a time that you intentionally schedule and then not allow anything to keep you from having. We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important.

Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? I consider the time that I schedule for my personal prayer retreats the most important time that I will invest in any given year.  If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat. Other responsibilities will suck up all your time. Satan wants to keep you from enjoying this sweet fellowship with God. He loves for you fill your schedule with everything but a block of time to experience the Lord.

  • Second, “to go away.”  You must determine a good location.  Make sure that you “go away” for your personal prayer retreat. Trying to “retreat” at home or at the office will be frustrating. There are too many distractions in these places. We need to go away in order to focus on being with the Lord.  We live down in the valley—the valley of our everyday lives, where it’s too noisy to hear God very well. In the valley we have too much to do, too many people to talk with, too many problems, too much time pressure.

We need to leave this valley of noise and pressure, and get away to the quiet of God’s presence.  Why?

  • Third; “to be alone with God.”  You must free yourself of all distractions.  This is the essence of a prayer retreat… to be alone with God. In the intimacy of fellowship, your relationship with the Lord will be renewed. You will experience Him. And then you’ll ask Him what He wants to do in your personal life, in your family, and in your ministry. Usually, I find that God wants to work in all three areas during most prayer retreats.

Get alone with God and let him reveal what he wants to share with you.  Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as “thinking in the presence of God.”  When you plan a retreat consider having at least four sessions focusing on this acronym for pray (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) out of the Model Prayer.

  • Praise Him!  “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  Use the Psalms, praise music, and count your blessings.  Write in your journal the multiple blessings of the Lord.
  • Repent of your sin!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Spend time focusing on your sin and ask God to reveal any impure motives you may have in your heart.
  • Ask!  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Now that you have spent time in praise and repentance you begin to make your requests known unto Him.
  • Yield to Him!  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  There must be total surrender to His leading and direction.

When entering a prayer retreat ask the Lord to guide you to a particular passage in the scriptures to focus on.  Remember, He speaks to us through His word and we must always be asking ourselves two questions.  What is He saying? And what does He want us to do about it?  As you read the scripture He has led you to being looking for a sin to confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim!  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When will you plan your prayer retreat?

Developing a Prayer Strategy


How will your church respond to the challenges and opportunities in your community or city today? Excuses are plentiful but the scriptures are clear about every church being a healthy body of believers who are following their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in obedience.

Every church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission and living by the Great Commandment. Every church, no matter what size, is to be making disciples. The path is the same for small and large churches that have a burden to reach their communities for Christ and make disciples.

Some churches will develop new strategies, add a new program, or reorganize their structure looking for the answers. Three areas that need our continual focus for our individual walks and for our churches to be spiritually healthy are:

  • First, you must have an upward or God-focus. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
  • Second, you must have an inward or personal-growth focus. 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”
  • Third, you must have an outward or others-focus. Matthew 22:39, “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

A God-focus is a must! Who really transforms lives and develops people spiritually? The Holy Spirit of God! We can cooperate in that process but it is the supernatural work of God that is required in our lives and in our churches. Fanaticism has been defined as “Redoubling your efforts after your aim has been forgotten.”

Have we placed more trust in what we can do than in what He can do? Thom Rainer said this, “God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves.” Remaining God-focused helps us to never forget that just like a farmer who plants, fertilizes, and waters the fields, only God can make it grow.

Growth and transformation are first and foremost the work of God! If we need workers, which we do, the instructions are clear in Matthew 9:38, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” We say we believe in prayer but do we practice what we preach? Are we praying for our leaders, our churches, and our neighbors?

Here a couple of things that E.M. Bounds said about prayer, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle…Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self in God’s glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God…Other duties become pressing and absorbing and crowd our prayer. ‘Choked to death’ would be the coroner’s verdict in many cases of dead praying if an inquest could be secured on this dire, spiritual calamity.”

JD Payne has said it well, “Strategic planning is both a science and an art that involves specific and abundant prayer. If God desires to pour out His Spirit on North America, what can we do to join Him in His work, rather than hinder the work?” Maybe the biggest part of strategy is not figuring out what to do but rather choosing what not to do!

Could it be that in our desire for results we have placed our confidence in how busy we are, how many programs we have, and how must stuff we have going on? Here are a couple of suggestions for implementing an intentional prayer strategy:

  • Protect your quiet time with God. Continue to develop a close intimate relationship with God through prayer. It does take discipline.
  • Make sure you are praying for the spiritual condition of people in your circle of influence even more than their physical needs.
  • Develop prayer teams that meet to pray for the lost, the spiritual condition of your church, and the leadership in your church.
  • When people ask you to pray with them about something stop right then and pray! Stop promising something you usually forget to follow through on.
  • Ask God to show you what you need to be doing and what you need to consider stopping. He is the best strategist.

All strategies need to be birthed out of the word of God and our prayer closets. They must be flexible and adaptable to the leading of the Spirit. There is no better strategist than God and He has called us as His workmen to plan wisely.

Maybe the first place to look is at what we need to stop doing instead of adding another activity. It doesn’t need to be stopped because it is wrong but because it is not the best and wisest way to invest our time and efforts. Psalms 37:23. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

In A Work of Heart Reggie McNeal says, “God does not want His spokespeople relying on past techniques and methodology (previously, in Exodus 19, the rock issued water when Moses struck it.) He wishes the leader to rely on Him!”


Pastor Now

    My heart’s desire in blogging and writing articles is to promote spiritual health on a personal basis and on a corporate level in churches.  One way of doing that is to make you aware of resources that could be a blessing to you and/or your church.   Honestly, there is more out there today than any of us have the time to read and process properly.  We have to be discerning about into what resources we will invest our time and money. 

     If we want to be physically and spiritually fit it will require making healthy choices.  Every day we are faced with decisions that either promote or damage health!  Many of the choices we make every single day, over 300, are not about right and wrong, but what is wise and what is unwise.  Becoming unhealthy occurs over a period of time where we settle for less than God’s best for our lives. 

     Several years ago, I watched a church I had resigned from begin the pastoral search process.  One leader said this to the entire congregation when he felt they were moving too slowly, “We better take what we can get while we can!”  They ended up calling a man who lasted six months and it was a disaster for the church and the pastor’s family.  Recently, I heard this quote, “It is better to want what you do not have than to have what you do not want!”

     After writing on this subject I noticed a blog by Thom Rainer and saw it as a confirmation to say more on this subject regarding the need for a pastor and to share some of his comments.  “William Vanderbloemen has been able to combine over 15 years of ministry experience as a Senior Pastor with the best practices of Executive Search to provide churches with a unique offering: a deep understanding of local church work with the very best knowledge and practices of professional executive search. William, his wife Adrienne, have seven children and live in the Houston area.”

Here are a few of the highlights that were given for churches to consider:  “Every pastor is an interim pastor.  Succession planning is not just a corporate principle. It is highly biblical as well.  A church is married to one man, and it’s not the pastor—it’s Jesus.  When churches are searching out pastors, the first rule is ‘slow down.’  Churches hire too fast and fire too slow.  The most expensive hire you ever make is hiring the wrong person.  Carrying the weight of the things of God becomes too much for a man at a certain age.”

     Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird have written a book on this subject entitled NEXT, Pastoral Succession That Works.  One of the goals of their book is stated as to “demystify successful pastoral succession and help readers prepare for an even brighter future for their ministries.”  It might be worth checking out!  In recommending, or even suggesting, any resource it is always opening yourself to criticism about something in the book someone disagrees with.  Some good advice I was given years ago was to “eat the meat and spit out the bones.”

     In assessment, there are five characteristics from Dr. Charles Ridley which have become known as “knockouts.”  If the individual does not have evidence of these traits in their life then it is best to not proceed.  It is not saying they are not called nor is it devaluing them but it is saying that maybe they are not ready for the position they are seeking to fill. These characteristics are:

  • Visioning Capacity
  • Intrinsically Motivated
  • Creates Ownership
  • Relates to the Unchurched
  • Spousal Cooperation

     We must be careful of looking for the Sauls who are good-looking and tall, demonstrate leadership capacity, and charisma.  We must dig deeper and look at character.  What does his relationship with his dad look like?  How would his wife rate their marriage on a scale of 1-10?  How is his personal walk with the Lord?  It is interesting that the five areas most often asked about in job interviews, (age, education, experience, race, and gender), have little value on predicting how they will perform.  Remember the process is not about personal approval but is the candidate the right man, for the right place, and at the right time!

     Healthy churches slow down and allow God to direct!



     “We need a pastor!”  That is something I am hearing quite a bit these days.  Churches do need a pastor but often I hear desperation and someone will say, “The sooner the better!”  While, yes, a church does need a pastor they do not need to rush into this decision too quickly.  This is one of the most important, if not the most important, decision a church will ever make.  This cannot be rushed nor should a church approach it too slowly by dragging its feet.  You should approach this process prayerfully and with much wisdom as you seek out the man of God to lead your congregation.

     When it comes to making such a major decision there are three basic approaches that are often used.  First, some congregations are time-driven.  The need is now and we must get busy in making sure this happens as quickly as possible.  We live in such a fast paced society which seems to be getting quicker by the minute, or maybe by the second.  Slow down and find out who the candidate is, what his track record has been, and what the references of his references have to say about him.  Remember, the only way you can predict future performance is based upon past behavior.  Adrian Rodgers once said, “A change of scenery never guarantees a change of character.”

     Second, some congregations are goal-driven.  They have a picture of what kind of pastor they need and quite often it is unrealistic.  The “perfect” pastor does not exist and if you are not careful the new pastor will begin his ministry with unrealistic expectations that even Superman could not fulfill.  The pastor is not called to do all of the work but to equip the members to do the work of the ministry.  Make sure your “job description” fits the word of God and that the expectations will not put more pressure on the pastor than it should.  The goal should be the right man, in the place, at the right time!  Some congregations are only going to use a resume to trust their family to, someone they don’t really know and have never lived with!

     Thirdly, congregations should be Spirit-driven.  Most would say “amen” to this, but be careful to not over spiritualize it as a “mystical” decision.  It is difficult when a church member says to a preacher that “God told me you were to be our pastor!”  What if God has not told him that yet?  Being Spirit-driven does not cancel out being time conscious.  Doing your due diligence in the process is very important.  Being Spirit-driven also does not cancel out being goal-driven.  The goal should be to find God’s man.  The unique dynamic in looking for a pastor is that the congregation must hear from the Lord and the man God is calling to lead them must also hear His voice.

     The reality is that there will always be those who want to go too fast and those who will want to go too slow.  Both are dangerous and that is why we must listen closely and carefully to the Spirit’s direction.  Not only is this one of the biggest decisions a church will ever make, it is also one of the biggest decisions a man and his family will ever make.  They may have to pick up stakes and start from square one.  All the transitions a family will have to go through when moving to a new field of service can be quite overwhelming. 

     There is a key question your church must consider as it prays for a pastor to be your spiritual leader.  Are they willing to do the work of an evangelist?  Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost!”  As you consider someone to be your pastor you must examine to see what their track record has been in this area.  Is there evidence of their pursuit of the lost and of sharing the gospel with others?  Have they trained those around them in how to effectively evangelize?  Have they intentionally built times into their schedules to be around those outside the church and not just hang out with the “in” crowd?  How have they related to the unchurched where they are presently ministering? How will they lead your church to obey the Great Commission locally?  What is their vision to equip your congregation to live as missionaries in your zip code?  All of the other characteristics you can look for in a pastor will have limited or meaningless impact if he does not have a burden for the lost!

     Healthy churches are Spirit-driven!



 “It’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game!”  Really?  In the hyper-competitive culture we live in?  Those words are pretty shallow because they are not practiced in the “win at any cost” environment we live in.  Many will do whatever it takes to get the edge whether that is using steroids, cheating on a test, or even throwing basketballs at players who are not performing up to expectations.  The pressure is intense and the temptation is paramount to take any shortcut possible and to see everyone around you as the “competition!”

     Competition in sports is one thing, and not all competition is bad, but competition between churches grieves the heart of God.  In Luke 9:50 Jesus said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.”  The real competition is against the enemy and the forces of darkness.  We have an adversary and the battle lines have been drawn.  Churches need to be penetrating the darkness and rescue those who are perishing instead of swapping sheep.  Almost all statistics back up the fact that over 90 percent of church growth is due to transfer growth.  Some reports say that only one percent of church growth is conversion growth.

    It is alarming when some churches begin to believe, promote, and teach that they are the only ones that have it right.  Years ago, when we were church planters in Northern Illinois a new church plant in our area was visiting door to door.  They happened to knock the door of one of our faithful members who asked them why they were planting in that area.  They said because there were no biblical Baptist churches in the area.  He began asking what was wrong with several churches and they verbalized a charge against every one of them.  When he asked them about Northside their response was, “They hold their microphones when they sing!”

     We should rejoice when a new church plant comes to an area because they can reach people that maybe we cannot reach.  Our motives must be to win the lost and depopulate hell, not attack others who have the same mandate we have been given by God.  In my S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer) journaling God spoke to my heart about praying for other churches in Jer. 29:7, “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

     As the children of Israel were headed into Babylonian captivity they were told to pray for their city.  They were slaves who were being taken to a foreign land to live in captivity but still God tells them to pray for their city!  God convicted me that I was not praying for my city, city officials, policemen, firemen, my neighbors, the lost, other Christians, pastors, and other churches who are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You experience a heart and attitude adjustment toward those you are praying for. 

     When you begin interceding and praying for others you no longer see them as the enemy or the competition and you begin thinking of ways you can help and bless them.  Praying daily for those in your city and circle of influence does a couple of things:

  • It transforms your relationship with them.  You realize that they are not the enemy.
  • It changes your heart toward them.  Col. 4:12 says, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
  • It breaks the stronghold of bitterness and unforgiveness.
  • It reminds you to represent Christ no matter how others may treat you. 
  • It places the adversary as the enemy and you labor to diminish the darkness and advance God’s Kingdom.

     Prayer causes us to not only to do things right but to do the right things.  Here is a great quote from Ralph Neighbour Jr, “If you have a choice to make between praying and doing, choose to pray.  You will accomplish more by your doing, because you did.”  When church members pray daily for the members of their group they always multiply faster than those who only pray for one another occasionally.

     We need to pray for our city, one another, and others sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ!