By Steven Blake
On His way to the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus encountered money changers buying and selling. “He said to them, ‘It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!’” (Matthew 21:13, CSB).
We’re all familiar with this account in the Bible and would agree our churches should be houses of prayer. But how do we develop that culture in our congregations? Here are 12 practical suggestions for building a culture of prayer in your church.
1. It begins with you
If you’re not disciplined in your prayer life, it will be challenging for you to lead your church to have a robust prayer life. In the Greatest Needs of Pastors study from Lifeway Research found that 72% of pastors say consistency in personal prayer is an issue they need to address.72% of pastors say consistency in personal prayer is an issue they need to address, according to @LifewayResearch's Greatest Needs of Pastors study. Click To Tweet
If that’s you and you want your church to be a praying church, start by addressing the inconsistency of prayer in your own life. Read books by authors who developed an effective discipline of prayer. Ask God for His input concerning your prayer life and be open to hearing His heart. As you make adjustments in your prayer life, share with your church the work God is doing in you.
2. Realize it will take time to build a culture of prayer
Prayer is hard work. It doesn’t come easy for any of us, let alone for the church as a whole. Don’t get discouraged. Stay patient and be persistent. The rewards for you and the church are worth the effort.Prayer is hard work. It doesn’t come easy for any of us, let alone for the church as a whole. Don’t get discouraged. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
3. Begin to shift your prayer meetings to concerted times of prayer
Many churches have prayer meetings yet do little praying. According to a 2019 study from Lifeway Research, only 45% of churches devote their Wednesday evening service to prayer. I recommend starting with John Franklin’s book And the Place Was Shaken. He has many practical suggestions to assist you in building a culture of prayer in your congregation.Many churches have prayer meetings yet do little praying. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
4. Seek out prayer warriors
More than likely, your church already has people who have disciplined prayer lives. They can be catalysts for ideas on how to involve your church in effective prayer. Give them opportunities to lead the church in prayer. As believers see the example they set, it can spur on prayer among your congregation, perhaps even more effectively than the pastor’s example.
5. Preach or teach a series concerning prayer
Not only will it instruct the church, but God will speak to you, growing your own prayer life. In your teaching, give practical lessons you have learned in the process of developing a vibrant walk of prayer.
6. Utilize prayer chains
With the accessibility of texting, you can enable many in your church to begin praying for concerns in a matter of minutes. The prayer chain is not to be a gossip line.With the accessibility of texting, you can enable many in your church to begin praying for concerns in a matter of minutes. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
One way to guard against this is by asking a prayer warrior in your church to monitor the chain. Teach them how to lovingly hold others accountable when it’s used inappropriately.
7. Have church members prayer walk before church begins
Each Sunday before anyone else arrives in the church building, we have a group walk the entire church and pray. They pray in the worship center as well as in each Bible study room. If possible, enlist people who will go to a prayer room and pray during the worship service. Develop a prayer guide to assist them in knowing how to pray.
8. Initiate a prayer focus
Select a specific request to pray for during the week and place that request in the bulletin or in a place where church members will see it. During the service, lead the church to join you in praying and remind them to pray for the need throughout the week. You should also involve others in leading the congregation in prayer.
9. Call for times of fasting
Fasting has become a lost discipline for many Christians. I am reminded of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you,” (Matthew 6:16-18, CSB).Jesus didn’t say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Call on the church for seasons of fasting and consecrated prayer. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
Jesus didn’t say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Call on the church for seasons of fasting and consecrated prayer. When you do, mention it a number of times to encourage the ones participating alongside you.
10. Have individual prayer cards readily available
Place the cards in the church pew, seats, and other accessible areas. On a regular basis, remind people they can fill them out and turn them in to be prayed over. In our church, we take the cards and pray for the needs during our mid-week prayer service. We continue to pray for the requests until we see God’s answer.
11. Celebrate answered prayer
We have a prayer board in our worship center. Whenever we see a prayer from our prayer request cards answered, we pin the card on the board and stamp over them “Answered Prayer.” The board remains in our sanctuary as a visual reminder that we have a God who answers prayer.
12. Expect spiritual warfare
Satan is not always threatened by our programs and various ministries, but when God’s people in His church begin to pray, warfare becomes a reality.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens,” Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians. “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:12, 18, CSB).Satan is not always threatened by our programs and various ministries, but when God’s people in His church begin to pray, warfare becomes a reality. — @stevenblake Click To Tweet
We can all pray individually, but God’s power will be best unleashed in the church when we become, as Jesus said, a “house of prayer.” As God works, He is glorified through the church.
Steven is the Pastor at First Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, Georgia. He is married to DeLynn, and they are the proud parents of three daughters and 11 grandchildren.