ere is our story from the practical experiences of individual believers in a local church making intercession for lost people everywhere. After moving to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1985, we were asked to offer a Wednesday-night missions prayer group at Westmore Church of God. It was scheduled as a temporary summer class to see if there would be any local-church interest in praying for nations and missionaries. This prayer ministry has now continued for over 30 uninterrupted years!
We have had scores of missionaries and national leaders as guests, as well as praying for many from our local church who have participated in short-term missions ministries. We spend 90 minutes together every Wednesday night with dedicated and interested intercessors. We give God the glory for multiplied answers to prayer.
When we tell the story of that faithful prayer group, we are always asked, “What do you do, and how do you go about it?” We spend the first 30 minutes in worship and general intercession for various needs. We give the next 30 minutes to a guest presenter. The final 30 minutes allow time for some follow-up questions and special prayer for the needs highlighted by our guest.
We have used seven steps, or concepts, as guidelines for a global intercessory prayer ministry. We believe we should pray (1) scripturally, (2) spiritually, (3) systematically, (4) sensibly, (5) spontaneously, (6) sensitively/specifically, and (7) strategically.
We are motivated to intercession when we realize intercessory prayer for missionaries and nations is Biblical and that the Scriptures give us numerous examples to follow. We begin our time of prayer with Scripture reading─usually a passage about prayer. Periodically, we will give our entire time to a Bible study on global prayer. When we read various prayers and accounts of prayer in Scripture, they are an example for us on how and what to pray. We have great assurance in our praying when we realize we are praying what God desires.
We pray in agreement with the Word of God.
It may sound redundant to say we pray “spiritually” when it is evident that prayer is a spiritual exercise. We use the term spiritually to convey the truth that effective intercessory prayer begins with a time of personal cleansing, devotion, and consecration to God. Our prayer meetings do not launch immediately into taking prayer requests or reading prayer concerns from various newsletters and emails. Instead, we start with corporate worship. We remember the disciples worshiped Jesus before He commissioned them into the world (Matt. 28:16-20), and we remember the first missionary team was sent out after a time of worship and fasting (Acts 13:1-3).
Effective intercession begins with individual and corporate worship.
Scheduled times of intercessory prayer allow us to practice this ministry as a regular, normal part of Christian discipleship. Just as we are taught to read our Bible, attend church, give our tithes and offerings, and give an evangelistic witness to others, we should also see intercessory prayer as something we do on a regular basis.
Effective prayer meetings are organized and have a basic system. In time, people are trained in systematic and consistent prayer, learning various methods. Naturally, being Pentecostal, we do a lot of “concert prayer”─everyone praying out loud together. In addition, we have helped people learn how to engage in “conversational prayer”─praying in turn one after another, either in small groups or as a whole group. This gives those who normally would be reluctant to pray in a larger worship service the opportunity to verbalize their prayers in a smaller setting. Individuals grow in their self-confidence and spiritual leadership as they learn to lead out in prayer.
Intercessory prayer is a systematic part of Christian discipleship.
By praying “sensibly,” we mean praying according to basic factual information. Paul said, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). Informed Christians make the best intercessors, so know the facts. We glean news from missionary prayer letters and emails. Knowing we pray every week, missionaries connect with us regularly to make specific prayer requests known.
We try to have a special guest every week: missionaries on furlough; national leaders in town to attend a conference or meeting; foreign students in college or seminary; members of our church report returning from a short-term missions trip.
For prayer groups that may not have the benefit of such guests, there are many media resources, such as Operation World (www.operationworld.org) that provide prayer information. Using these, we highlight specific countries, cities, and people groups, praying sensibly for them (knowing the facts).
Many times, the current events and headlines from the daily news provide developments, needs, and issues about which to pray. One of the most valuable habits prayer leaders and intercessors can develop is to watch, hear, and read the news, not as spectators but as prayer participants. Basically, praying sensibly means staying aware and praying about what we see and hear. Ruth Graham was fond of saying that she prayed with a newspaper in one hand and her Bible in the other.
Sensible prayer is made according to facts and information.
On the other hand, there is a wonderful serendipity, a surprise of the Holy Spirit, as we enter into prayer. This is what we mean by praying “spontaneously.” Often, the Holy Spirit will burden us to pray about something we had not planned to pray about, or a dimension of something we had not anticipated. Many times, while praying for a specific nation or missionary family, one of our members will move into another issue or special need related to what we had already mentioned. For this reason, we should always let the Holy Spirit lead us as we pray.
Spontaneous prayer follows the creative leading of the Holy Spirit.
We believe it is important to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to pray specifically for nations and individuals. Our prayers should go beyond the generic, “God bless the world” or “Help all those missionaries over there.” It is important to pray for people by name─locally and globally.
The online information and quarterly DVD resources of Church of God World Missions (www.cogwm.org), along with the four-page “Global Connect” in each issue of the Evangel, provide us with specific names of missionaries, national leaders, and ministries. As we correspond with individuals or read their prayer requests, we can pray specifically for the special needs they communicate.
Sensitive and specific prayer intercedes for nations, leaders, and missionaries by name.
Praying strategically recognizes that Spirit-led intercessory prayer opens up new doors, often breaking through spiritual resistance. It realizes that vision for new ministry and leading into new areas proceed out of times of intercessory prayer (Acts 13:1-3). There are multiple evidences from Scripture and our denominational story of how new avenues of ministry were opened through intensive and strategic intercession.
We conclude meetings by gathering around our special guest for prayer. Sometimes prophetic words have been given that offered encouragement, new direction, or specific insight to the missionary.
We don’t pray to receive the strategy; prayer is the strategy.
We are on mission with God through prayer and worship. It is God’s will that we pray for the lost in our families, our communities, and among the nations. We connect to what God is doing in our world through intensive intercessory prayer. Prayer changes things and leads us into missional action. The eternal consequences of God’s kingdom agenda await the action of prayer from God’s people. Let us pray!