This post is part 7 in a series where I post excerpts from the book Old Paths New Power written by Daniel Henderson. I resist making a commentary on the book. Rather, I pull out excerpts that caught my attention at this stage of my pastoral journey.
Chapter 7: How to Lead Life-giving prayer experiences
The New Testament commands us to be watchful, wakeful, and alert in prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:7). As a pastor, my frustration with lethargic, dozy gatherings has motivated me to try to learn more about how to avoid these dead-in -the-water prayer times. Page 121
The opening moments of any prayer gathering often set the trajectory for the entire experience. How we start the prayer time is a core factor in this effectiveness. Page 122
“Does anyone have any prayer request?” I admit that over the years I’ve heard it and said it. But don’t start here. This establishes an immediate man-centered – rather than God-centered – experience. Page 122
Another traditional approach is to begin by saying, “Let’s just pray as we feel led.” The intention, I suppose, is an urgent meeting led by the Spirit in our prayers. Somehow, this gets lost in translation as is and is interpreted, “Just say whatever comes to your mind.” What ensues is typically a disconnected flurry of impulses based on the experiences of the day or the pressing frustrations of the moment. Page 122
Commonly, we might even announce, “Let’s just pray around the circle.” This is unhelpful as participants are forced to pray because it is “their turn” whether the spirit is really prompting them or not. Page 122
The eight guiding principles for leading life-giving prayer experiences. Page 123
- Foundation. Begin corporate prayer times(and personal times as well) with an open Bible. This serves as the foundation for prayer. I call this Scripture-fed prayer.
I’ve noticed in normal interactions that whoever starts a conversation tends to direct the conversation…If prayer is our opportunity to blow into God’s presence and inform him of all He needs to do to structure the universe according to our specifications for a happy and comfortable life – then we should start the conversation. Page 123
Instead, if prayer is about knowing his will, trusting his grace, joining him and his purposes, then we should let him start the conversation. This requires open Bibles. Page 124
2. Fervor. Fervor is the element of Spirit-led prayer apart from which prayer is impossible. While we know this, we cannot forget the vital, practical role of the Spirit in our united prayers. Page 124.
3. Faith. A worship based faith transforms the nature of all united prayer. Seeing him, not just presenting long list of needs, means pursuing his face first and foremost to know his nature. Page 125.
4. Focus. When Jesus said, “pray like this,” it was not just a suggestion of one of many options. It was a command for our good in His glory as we pray. Page 125
The first half [of the Lord’s prayer] is entirely God-ward (or upward). The second half is man-ward (or downward). Page 125
A more comprehensive breakdown of the prayer is focused on four movements. I described them as reverence, response, requests, and readiness, what I called “The 44 pattern for prayer.” Page 126
5. Flow. The real challenge in leading a prayer time is to facilitate the participation of the people so that all things are done for edification. Page 127
Audible. This seems so elementary, but participants must be reminded to pray loudly enough that others can hear. Page 127
Brief. Long, protracted, scattered prayers have a way of sucking the life out of our prayer time. Page 128
Clear. Guiding participants to pray clearly, about one thing at a time, encourages greater agreement and focus. Page 128
6. Freedom (to move and change position). It is helpful to give permission (even encouragement) to participants to stand, walk, kneel, or even lay prostrate. Page 128
7, Flexibility. The point is simply to prayerfully and thoughtfully plan, as necessary, but to hold the plan loosely, knowing there is a unique dynamic that occurs when believers get together and pray. Page 129
8. Faithfulness. I remember a number of years ago, after more than a decade of intense prayer leadership, crying out to the Lord, “How long do I have to keep this up prayer thing?” In a clear way, the Lord directed my heart to a penetrating question, challenging me to endurance: “Daniel, how long will you brush your teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast, and get dressed?” Page 129