I once tweeted, “Meeting with my personal prayer team. I’m confident I’ve underestimated their influence in my ministry. Every pastor should have one.”
Following that tweet, I received numerous replies asking me questions about the specifics of who this group is, what they do, how often we meet. I didn’t realize how unusual this was, but have since shared this concept on podcasts, at conferences, and with other pastors.
The idea really started many years ago when I was a layperson. A group of my prayer partners formed our own pastoral prayer team. We would pray during the church services and make appointments with church staff members to pray for them. It was a great marker in my spiritual growth and it seemed to be valued by the ministers.
When I became a pastor myself, knowing the importance of prayer, I decided to be intentional in soliciting people to pray for the church and my ministry. I have done this various ways. I’ve emailed individuals and groups with specific prayer requests. I’ve had Sunday morning meetings before church and recruited a few people to pray during each service. I’ve had a few men that I met with in accountability/prayer groups.
In the past decade or so I started something new. It’s become my preferred model, simply because it’s intentional, it’s highly functional with my schedule, and I’ve seen the results of prayer working in my ministry.
Here is my current prayer team approach:
I personally recruit people in the church who meet with me regularly. The size of the group has varied. My goal would be for this group to never be larger than 10 or so, simply so we can function well as a group when we meet. Much larger and we would lose the intimacy of the group we have now. I have never had fewer than three people.
We don’t really meet in person a lot. The most would be a few times a year and then only as my schedule allows. My assistant sets these meetings up for me at my request.
My part of the meetings last less than 1 hour. I think it’s important I not make this a burden in my schedule. That sounds harsh, and like I don’t value prayer, but it’s really a matter of purpose for this group. This group prays. They don’t “meet”. They only meet so they can better pray. I think that’s critical to the process.
Most of the time we correspond by email. I try to email them every 6 weeks to 2 months, just updating them on things for which they can be praying.
- Issues we are dealing with as a church
- Staff issues (Sometimes I share names and specifics. Sometimes generalities)
- Personal issues, especially those which directly impact the church.
In regards to the church, some items are general and some specific, but I rarely use names when talking about church matters. As confidential as this group is I still think that would be unfair. This group is not as much about individual prayer needs within the church. We have a separate prayer teams in the church for those needs. This group is my personal prayer support group, so items within the church are more centered towards things I personally lead, opportunities or initiatives I feel God is guiding us towards, or personal issues of concern I have within the church, my family or with me.
I try to give them enough detail with each item on the list and I always allow them to ask me questions about anything. I want them to have the tools to pray.
You may be wondering who is on my prayer team.
- People I have personally recruited. This is huge. This team can’t be one necessarily voted on by the church. These are people I have selected.
- People I can trust to hold a confidence. This is of utmost importance. (I’ve never had a “leak” from this process.)
- People I believe are fervent in prayer, and they would be doing so whether I asked them to or not.
- People who are humble, not looking for any spotlight or attention. I may introduce them to people as a part of my prayer team, but I never announce who is on the team publicly.
- People I would go to personally to request prayer aside from this group (You probably could name those people in your church now)
I have found that often these people are not on any other team or committee in the church. They may or may not be eloquent of speech. Some are. Some are not. They are simply people of prayer – and that is what I am looking for in this group.
This is not a committee or team where members rotate on or off after a term of service. These are prayer warriors. As long as they are willing to serve, and are functioning within the request of confidentiality they remain in the group.
What’s the benefit?
Do you have to ask?
There have been so many times I put out a prayer request to this group and within a matter of time I see the fruit of their prayers.
Months before God began stirring my heart towards a change in ministry assignment, I had asked my group to pray for our staff. I knew several were receiving requests to consider other positions. I asked them to pray for our staff to be wise and discerning of God’s direction in our lives. I didn’t know at the time that I would be the one God would deal with next. It was out of my realm of possibilities to take another church at that time, but this group was already praying for the possibility. I’m convinced their prayers aided in making my transition process so incredibly smooth. We may not have been as successful as we have been without these prayers.
I’m reminded God still answers the prayers of His people.
You don’t have to do it my way, but if you’re a pastor you need people you can trust praying for you in every area of your life. Yes, you need your entire church praying for you. I’m for more corporate prayer. I believe, however, you need a smaller group around you to share more personal requests. When we look at the model of Jesus, He seemed to have a prayer support structure within the disciples, even calling a few of them frequently away from the 12 to meet with him in more private settings.