"The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" James 5: 16b
by Dan Millheim
The worship service was dismissed, and I began to make my way to the back of the small auditorium to thank my friends for inviting me to their church. As I scanned the room for their familiar faces across a crowd of strangers, I caught his eye, or I should say, he caught mine. His knowing gaze seemed to look through me, rather than at me. I smiled back nervously as he approached in a manner that suggested friendship despite the fact that we had never met before. Jim was the guest speaker that evening and had been introduced to the congregation as a "prophet," which I have to confess made me a bit uncomfortable. But Jim's message had been firmly grounded in Scripture, and his humble delivery arrested any alarms I might have over his unusual title--that is, until he stood before me. As I extended my hand in greeting, he placed an arm around my shoulder and, nodding his head in the direction of a few isolated chairs, asked if he could talk with me in private. "Ding! Ding! Ding!" my internal alarms sounded. "What had I gotten myself into?" I thought.
Jim spoke slowly and with compassion. "The Lord has given me a word for you," he said. "Oh, brother," I thought as I shifted nervously in my seat. He continued, "The Lord has told me that He is tired of seeing the back of your head as you rush past Him in your busyness for the Kingdom. He longs, instead, to see your face in the unhurried fellowship of prayer."
A New Beginning
I cannot fully express the power that simple message had on dispelling the apprehensions I held toward this messenger. While his statement was general enough to apply to anyone in the room, its immediate effect on my spirit was overwhelming, and I was powerless to challenge it. In that moment of truth, my heart was laid bare. I saw the futility of being so busy in ministry that I had become too busy for God in prayer. When I left that little storefront church that night, I knew that, through the Spirit's leadership, my ministry would never be the same again.
Worship ministry is demanding, and the responsibilities are endless. As worship leaders, we may be respected for our gifting, creativity, or work ethic--but how about our passion for prayer? The following are some creative suggestions for implementing prayer in your ministries. But this list is not all inclusive. I would encourage you to plan now to have had a personal prayer retreat of your own, independent of vacation, where you can spend a few days praying for new direction for your life, family, and church. Then add your own ideas to the list below. I am convinced that if we will make the spiritual discipline of prayer more central to our ministries, it will radically impact our lives and the worship services we lead.
- Schedule your first appointment of each day as a time of prayer, worship, and Bible study with the Lord. Write it down, and don't stand Him up!
- Seek out a prayer partner who will lovingly hold you accountable to a daily ministry of prayer.
- If you are part of a church staff, ask if other pastors or support staff would be interested in meeting for prayer once a week before your workday begins.
- Commit to reading two classic books on prayer in the next year. (Andrew Murray's With Christ in the School of Prayer is a great place to start.)
- Do something that will remind you to pray throughout the day. A pastor friend of mine sets his sport watch to beep every two hours when he is faced with a challenging issue so that he is reminded to pray repeatedly throughout his day.
- Occasionally turn off your car radio and use that time to pray aloud while driving.
- Do a Bible study on the different postures of prayer.
- Watch less TV, and go for prayer walks instead. Your body and soul will thank you.
- If you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, ask the Lord if He is prompting you to pray instead of immediately going back to sleep.
- Discover a scenic outdoor place in your community where you can go for private fellowship with the Lord when your schedule allows.
- Develop a worship ministry prayer card that your team members can fill out in rehearsals. Tell them you desire to make prayer a top priority this year.
- Pray with your team members. If we can sing and make music together as musicians, we should easily be able to pray out loud together in rehearsal.
- Keep a prayer journal and record God's answers to prayer. Share them with your family, staff, and team members.
- If you are part of a non-liturgical church, discover the art of writing some of your personal prayers in a journal.
- Send out a few weekly postcards to various team members and include what
you're praying specifically for them about.
- When someone asks you for prayer, stop and pray at that moment, rather than promising to pray later.
- In conversation, ask people how you can pray for them--and mean it!
- Develop a fun way to pick out name each week of a team member you can learn more about in rehearsal as well as pray for as a worship community.
- Before rehearsal, pray over the choir loft and band area for your individual team members before they arrive.
- Recruit two or three intercessory prayer warriors to pray for you and your family each week. Worship leaders need prayer protection! Meet with these intercessors once a month to keep them updated.
- Invite your church members to attend rehearsals for the purpose of praying for your teams while you rehearse for services.
- Use your e-mail lists of worship team members to send out a weekly prayer posting.
- You have a worship team, but do you have a prayer team? Ask God to raise up lay leader(s) who will shepherd a rotating prayer group that meets for pray during your services. Your ministry will never be the same!
- Encourage your worship teams to pray regularly for your church leadership.
- Invite an elder, deacon, or pastoral staff member each month to observe a rehearsal and lead in prayer.
- Schedule an annual prayer retreat or half-day of prayer for your worship team.
- Build relationships with local worship leaders in other churches in your community and pray for them by name in your own rehearsals.
- Invite small groups of worship team members to the church each month for a brown-bag lunch and prayer time. Mix up the people so they get to know other members of the team. Praying together will strengthen your unity.
- Occasionally, before you dismiss your choir, band, or vocal team rehearsal, have participants sit in various sections around your auditorium to pray for the people who will be sitting in those seats on Sunday.
- Before you begin your pre-service music on Sunday, lead your team in prayer on the platform acknowledging your need for forgiveness, strength, and ability as ministers of worship. This is a powerful witness for your congregation.
I trust this list will encourage you in your fellowship with the Lord and your leadership of your worship teams. Father God longs to meet daily with each of us in unhurried communion (see Rev. 3:20), if we would slow down long enough to see.
Dan Millheim is worship pastor at Harvest Church in Watauga, TX.