What brings you joy? Do you find joy in your achievements and accomplishments? Does your joy come from those around you? Do your circumstances control your level of joy?
The Prophet Isaiah ministered during a stormy time in his nation’s history. The Assyrian Empire was growing in strength and taking over the many of the nations in Fertile Crescent. The Jewish nation and Isaiah’s personal situation was about to get worse.
Even though Isaiah’s circumstances looked bleak, he pointed his people to a time of intense joy and celebration. In Isaiah chapter 11, the prophet predicts the eventual the eventual redemption and restoration of his people, the Jews, through Jesus Christ the Messiah. In chapter 12, he describes the emotions and activities associated with the day of salvation. As the Jews rejoiced over their salvation, they were moved to share their joy with other people.
Even though our cultural and political situation in the church today is much different than in Isaiah’s day, we can learn from him. In Isaiah chapter 12, we learn that when a church is full of joy over the gospel something spills out and that something is evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with those who don’t know him yet. If a church is full of joy over the good news about Jesus Christ, they will share it with others outside the church. If there is limited joy in a church, or it comes from the wrong things, then evangelism will disappear.
A brief reading of Isaiah 12 reveals three ways that all believers can find in Jesus Christ and express it to others. First, you can share your joy with others because is present everywhere you go (verse 6). God is always with his people. Second, you can share your joy through praise and worship (verse 5). Music and singing reveal what hidden in the human heart. Third, you can share your joy with all people (verse 4). True joy is contagious, spreading from person to person.
Let’s all take a lesson from the Prophet Isaiah. Enduring joy only comes from God, who sent Jesus to save us from ourselves. If believers and the churches they attend are full of joy it will not only change the atmosphere in the church, it will change their activity. If you’ve found your joy in God, then find someone to share that joy with this week.
When it comes to prayer support, there is no such thing as too much. I’ve never met a Christian leader, paid or volunteer, who complained because they had too many people praying for them, too often, or with too much passion. If you need more prayer support, you may want to form a prayer support team.
A few years ago I read The Book of Church Growth by Thom Rainer. In a chapter on the power of prayer, Rainer listed 6 potential facets of a church-wide prayer ministry. One of those ideas was to organize a team of prayer warriors called the “Pastor’s Intercessory Prayer Partners” who were devoted to pray for their pastor and his ministry on a daily basis. Over the past few years I’ve taken this idea and put it to use in my own ministry with some modifications. I call my team the “Pastor’s Prayer Team,” but you don’t have to be a pastor or a church staff member to benefit from this approach. You could use it with your Bible study group, international mission ministry, or non-profit organization. All you need is a ministry, a group of people who are willing to pray for you, and a way to communicate with them. Here is a 5-step process for starting or improving your own prayer support team.
1. Teach and model the importance of prayer.
Jesus did more than just talk about prayer. He taught his disciples how pray and modeled prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane among other places (Luke 11:1-13, Matthew 26:36-46). People will not be motivated to pray if they don’t know how to pray or why prayer is important. They will not be eager to join you in pray if they are not convinced that you are passionate and persistent in your own prayer life.
2. Ask people to commit.
Some people are not ready or willing to join a prayer support team, but some are! Those who are willing are just waiting for your invitation. This can be done in a number of ways, but I would recommend doing it in writing so you have a list of people for follow-up. Depending on your situation you could use a sign-up sheet, a commitment card, but I prefer email. I ask those who are interested in joining the team to send me an email to let me know. Then, I use those email addresses to send a return email acknowledging their request and to build a distribution list for future use.
I do not ask my prayer support team members to commit to a specific frequency of prayer. Instead, I ask them to pray for me, my family, and my ministry on a “regular” basis. If that ends up being daily, great; if it ends up being once a week or every other week, I’ll take it. My goal is to equip and organize people to pray. I don’t want to discourage anyone from participating just because they can not make a daily commitment.
3. Share regular praises and prayer requests.
Once again, this can be suited to your situation. You can send out regular praise and prayer requests via “snail mail,” email, or social media. They could also be added to a newsletter, either in print or online. I choose to use email because it is faster and easier than “snail mail,” but more manageable and accessible for the people on my team.
Praises should be shared along with prayer requests because people like to hear good news along with your needs. Sharing praises is a way of thanking your team for their prayer as well as reminding them that prayer really does make a difference.
Every ministry has its own cycle. A non-profit organization or missions ministry may operate best on a quarterly or monthly cycle. The local church runs on a weekly cycle, so I try to send out my praise and prayer requests on a weekly basis. Whatever your frequency, let your team know your intentions and stick to them.
4. Be humble and transparent.
This is not as much of a step as it is a general principle. One of the pitfalls of kingdom work, especially if it is perceived as successful, is pride. Pride causes us to keep others at a comfortable distance because we are afraid they might see our flaws. This simply will not work with a prayer support team. Put yourself in the shoes of one of your team members. Would you be motived to pray regularly for someone who came across as superficial or fake? This does not mean you should share every sin and struggle with your team. It does mean, however, that you need to be open and honest about your needs
5. Show gratitude and appreciation
Who doesn’t like a little appreciation for their efforts? Being a part of a prayer support team is usually something that is done behind the scenes. In order to keep your team inspired and engaged, you need to let them know they are not alone and they are making a difference in your life and ministry. You should tell your prayer support team how much you appreciate them every time you share your praises and prayer requests. You may also want to send a separate “thank you” note sometime throughout the year. If you use email like I do, you may choose to send a “pen-and-paper note” for emphasis. If possible, you could organize a reception once a year to recognize your prayer support team and let them interact with each other.
What methods have you found effective for recruiting prayer support? Have you ever formed a prayer support team? How have you benefited from the process?
“Why did God create and choose this institution called ‘church’? What is this gift that God has given us, and how does it impact our lives? The church is one of the few organizations in the world that does not exist for the benefit of its members. The church exists because God in his infinite wisdom and infinite mercy, chose the church as his instrument to make known his manifold wisdom in the world.”
Ed Stetzer and David Putman, Breaking the Missional Code: Your Chuch Can Become a Missionary in Your Community (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2006), 200.