In case you are just jumping into this conversation I am writing these posts from a visiting minister perspective. I’ve been to some 100 overseas village churches in less than four years and have observed the differences within churches that are thriving in the Lord and those that are not so much.
The things I see overseas are most often an exaggerated representation of the way we do things in the west — and it doesn’t always look so good. I’ve jotted an initial list of 10 observations and I’m writing through them one by one.
Today – #2. Congregations praying for each other with Freedom, Confidence & Intention
I must say, I hardly ever see this one. Most often, nearly everywhere, whether it is here in North America or in Africa or in India, 95% of a congregation are taught to receive prayers, but not be the prayers.
Yet prayer is vital to personal relationship with the Lord. So, when we cut off the congregation, the ‘common’ people from knowing how to pray, we cut them off from the one who who loves them best, the Lord himself.
A body of believers, a faith group, is healthy only to the extent that every single person feels and knows that they have personal access to God. This, after all is the basis of all relationship, freedom, healing, and wholeness.
Prayer is the basis of that feeling of belonging by which all the other realities of the kingdom flow through our lives.
Prayer is the basis for the joy of the Lord and for the peace that passes understanding. How are people to access these things but through prayer? How are people to pass these things on to others but through prayer?
Personal prayer is where we begin (a place that many still do not know) but we don’t stop here. We don’t just teach people to pray for themselves, but we teach them to pray for each other. We teach them to hear the voice of God, to stand in their authority in Christ, how to agree with the Holy Spirit and with each other, and how to declare and receive healing in the name of Jesus for others.
In terms of congregations, I think the only place that I’ve truly seen this happening is in a home church here in Canada.
What happens most of the time is that we have ministry teams, we have leadership teams, we have prayer teams, and these ones are experiencing church (the discipleship of themselves and those in leadership) but these ones are not sharing church with the others.
If you are going to church yet not learning or being released to pray for others you are not experiencing church, you are observing church. You’ve been relegated to the spectator seats. And it just may be worthwhile to be upset about this.
Sure, there may be many coming to a building on Sunday morning or gathering in homes on any evening the rest of the week, but unless each person in these gatherings are actively learning how to pray for others, then church is not happening.
Church happens only where people are being discipled. And prayer is the basic, the very basic foundation, of all the other disciplines of disciples.
So, here is what I imagine in a gathering of believers where everyone is freed and taught to pray (remember, I’ve rarely see this in congregations):
1. There is time given to corporate prayer time. If it is a small gathering then people pray as the spirit leads, together as a group. If it is a big gathering then shift in your seats to make small groups. Nothing formal, just turn to your neighbour.
Individuals are taught not to hog the prayer time. If one person goes on and on and on it becomes an unsafe place for everyone else, and we simply run out of time for everyone to participate. This is rude and unbecoming. So we learn to pray simple prayers.
2. During prayer time we invite and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. Silence is okay and must be allowed. There will always be tension in this space of silence but we must become okay with tension and not try to fill it with empty words.
Rather we teach congregations to appreciate silence before the Lord. And then we teach them to speak out what is coming to mind. If we have invited the Spirit into our gathering then we can trust the prayer thoughts coming to mind.
They are recognizable because they are often short, often thanksgiving and gratefulness, and then often confession or spoken cleansing before the Lord. None of this need be long. We learn to say what we are sensing from the spirit and we learn to not add our own words to it. We speak out. We take turns.
3. As people become practiced in these first two things they will begin to recognize and hear the voice of the Spirit more and more. Some will realize that they hear the Lord via pictures in their minds, others will realize that they hear words, others have scripture coming to mind, and a few will have emotions coming to them.
All of these things are evidence of the Spirit speaking and showing each one what is on the Lord’s heart and mind. These things are ALWAYS for encouragement of others, for strengthening, for affirmation, and for increased boldness and courage in the Lord.
And we teach people to speak these things out. We teach people to use softening words and qualifiers so that what they are sharing is done in such a way that the person themselves is not claiming to ‘speak for God’ and so that those hearing are not feeling forced to receive, but encouraged to consider.
4. And as courage and practice grows everyone we teach people to declare truth over each other. We show how declarations in the spirit realm are incredibly powerful. We find that agreements with God over another’s life in fact change that life. We realize that prayer for others is participation in God’s heart and his Kingdom on this earth. We are partners with Christ, not just in theory, but in practice and experience. And we are all the richer for it.
As we pray for others and as we have others pray for us we all grow in humility, in courage, in understanding, in compassion, and in love.
So, to recap:
- We gather together, including everyone.
- We invite the spirit to lead us
- We share what we are sensing
- We pray for others boldly, with freedom and confidence
God has become bigger for us and has become more real. We have taken courage to speak life into others and we have seen life happening for others. There is nothing else like it!
Church is shared and we are no longer spectators but in true community together. I want to see more of this. And that is a grand understatement.