Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Process of Monday Nights: Trying to Let God Lead

I always get questions about Monday Night Prayer at Experience Life.  Here is a common one "is Monday Night Prayer led by God or do you plan it ?  My answer would be yes and yes.  I have found both planning and flexibility on the evening to be valuable in hearing God and allowing this prayer time to be led by God.

About every six months I develop a prayer template to use for Monday nights.  I pray and ask God to lead me in developing that template.  I also am attentive to what God is saying to our lead pastor, other pastors and staff, and key prayer leaders within the church.

Currently, we have a general topic of focus for each of the four weeks of the month that we pray for.  If a month has a fifth week I use that week to be creative.  Week one the focus is on vision, week two on specific ministries of the church, week three missions and the city, and week four is for revival and intimacy with God.

Beyond this focus, I have four key areas to focus on each of these nights.  I use the ACTS prayer model for these.  For the A (adoration) we have a musical set with some variation.  We may read a passage of the Bible to begin prayer with and then sing three songs.

After worship we try and listen.  We take a moment to hear what God is saying to us as we have connected with Him in our worship.  Part of this process is I have a core of people with a heart for prayer that help put Monday night together.  These 10 people are listening to God and when I have us wait on God, these guys know they can approach me with a direction for prayer or an inclination they have of something that needs to be said.  Many times during this time we try and have a time of C(confession).  I will initiate people asking God if their is anything that they need to confess and ask for forgiveness about.  A bulk of this would be initiated by a certain passage of Gods word.

Our next step is T (thanksgiving).  We share how many people committed their lives to Christ the previous week and some answers to prayer.  We try and capture both individual answers and corporate answers to prayer the previous weeks.  Many Mondays we will have someone share a story of how God has impacted them.

After thanksgiving we move to S (supplication).  This is a time we are corporately praying for various prayer topics.  We might have people who have been asked to come up and pray beforehand over specific things.  There are nights we will have an open mic, where people are invited to pray paragraph prayers about topics such as missions, revival, or people getting saved in our city.

We follow supplication with ministry prayer.  We will have specific needs stand for prayer.  We might pray for a certain segment of the marketplace.  After fathers day we might pray for all the fathers.  At other times we pray for various ministries of our church and the people there that night who represent those ministries.

Having said all of the above, there are nights when some topic will be strongly on my mind during worship or one of our prayer team will come up and tell me something God is speaking to them.  At this point we may change a little of the night up or a lot.

I really like something Jim Cymbala says in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire "The format of a prayer meeting is not nearly important as it's essence ------ touching the Almighty, crying out with ones whole being. ... The atmosphere of the meeting may vary, what matters most is that we encounter the God of the universe not each other."

Newly added in June
We have added a small intercessory time each week 15 minutes before prayer.  A group of our Monday night leadership team people gather at the front of the building by the stage and join hands and pray over the service each Monday night.  They will also pray for me or anyone else leading that night.  This time of prayer is led by our prayer intern: Matt Martin.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Prayer: Part of our Identity

I was reading through Galatians 5 this last week and it dawned on me, prayer is a core part of the dna of our identity in Christ.  Galatians 5 is about the battle of the old sinful nature and the new reborn nature we have when we commit our lives to Christ.  God has given us some catalysts to walk in this new nature.

The three core catalyst I think of that help us live in this new nature is being in Gods word, spending time with Him in prayer, and  worshiping Him.  These catalyst of the new life promote our awareness of God.  These three illumine our minds to ways that are not our natural bent.  They also awaken our hearts to what is on Gods heart and they strengthen our resolve to pursue God.

With that in mind I realize even more how powerful corporate prayer is.  Chris Galanos, our lead pastor, says "closet prayer changes individuals while corporate prayer changes cities".  It dawned on me that if individual prayer is a catalyst that illumines our minds to Gods ways, awakens our hearts to what is on Gods heart and strengthens our resolve to follow Jesus, then corporate prayer illumines a communities mind to Gods ways, it awakens a communities heart to whats on Gods heart and strengthens a communities resolve to follow Jesus.  Prayer is catalytic to the community and the community becomes a movement.  They are a people on mission empowered by God.

There it is.  The reason so many people are coming to our prayer gatherings is that there is a movement of God that is empowered by coming into Gods presence each Monday night and realizing that this empowering by God is the key to the wondrous way God is moving at Experience Life.

Monday night we reached another threshold, as our attendance was around 475 people in the rink and that doesn't count children that we are teaching about prayer in classes.

We prayed portions of Galatians 5, especially about walking by the Spirit and not walking by our sinful nature.

We had the privilege of having Andy Hurst and some of his family join us.  Andy is the new pastor at St. Lukes Methodist church in town.  We spent time praying over Andy and his family.

We spent time praying for our lifehouse leaders and life transformation group leaders.  We had people who were ending something in their lives stand and we prayed for their transitions.  We had people stand who were beginning something and prayed for Gods favor in that beginning.

We ended the night praying for anyone who wanted to hear God in a clearer way, so basically we prayed for the whole crowd.  And then we had people available up front in our prayer teams to pray for any other needs at the end of prayer.

Some things that worked well for us tonight:
  • Many more people are coming up to our prayer teams at the end of the service.  I thinking it is becoming an accepted part of our prayer culture on Monday night.
  • Using the Jesus Culture DVD "Where you go, I'll go" during our pre-prayer time seem to get people ready to worship and pray.
  • Having three leaders come up and pray over people who were beginning, ending, and wanting to hear God more clearly worked well.  We had two mics and just passed them to those praying over the crowd.
  • Having Band begin to play, but also having someone encourage people to prepare their hearts for God tonight before worship kicked off worked well.