How do church leaders include prayer in their decision making process? The next time you attend a meeting where decisions will be made or leaders of a group will function, observe what part prayer plays. Ask yourself, “Is this how Christians include God in the leading of the congregation?’ That question may strike you as blunt, or strange, or even unscriptural, but before dismissing it, let’s consider situations where New Testament Christian leaders met together.
“They [the apostles] all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). They prepared for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:41-42). The aftermath of the Spirit’s coming on Pentecost.
“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:23-24a). The church’s response to the initial onset of persecution.
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are know no to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-4). The response of the apostles to the first major conflict within the church.
“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Another response by the church to persecution.
“In the church at Antioch there prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:1-3). The church selects missionaries to go spread the message.
“When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed” (Acts 20:36). Paul had met with elders from the church in Ephesus. After challenging them to fulfill their ministry, he prayed with them.
The church met various crises and prepared for surges in change and growth through prayer. Several of the passages above suggest periods of extended prayer. Again, how do leaders and others in your congregation integrate prayer into the process of leading or serving? Is prayer a brief prologue or ending, or does it flow throughout the meeting, infusing it with a sense of God’s concern for his people? One of the most effective meetings I had as a local church preacher with elders was a night when we prayed our way through the church directory, discussing the spiritual health of each family before we prayed for them. We left the meeting with a greater sense of responsibility for care of souls and an increase knowledge of how those families needed our help. Intentional, focused prayer paves the way for a community of disciples empowered to proclaim the good news from a God they know.
O God, you care for all souls. Guide us as we seek to draw closer to you. Help us to understand your message as we study the Bible; give us the courage to live for you whatever the circumstances. May we be a people who communes constantly with you in prayer. Give us boldness as we obey your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.