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Developing a City-wide Prayer Ministry

Hudson Taylor, the British, Baptist missionary to China, famously said, “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”

A lot falls under the category of a “great work of God,” but his words apply to launching a city-wide prayer movement in a 21st century American city. It is impossible, at first, but it can be done. 

Most of us want to see revival and spiritual awakening, and we recognize that prayer is a necessary ingredient. Fortunately, the days of extraordinary movements are not over; but a study of revival history proves A. T. Pierson was right when he said, “There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.”

Since we want revival and spiritual awakening, and since united, extraordinary prayer is a necessary precedent—from Pentecost to Asbury—we should pray. Investing into a prayer movement in your city is ultimately an investment in spiritual awakening, increased ministry effectiveness, and the Great Commission. 

Since a prayer movement has so much potential significance for your city, it is appropriate to ask how and where one might start. Here are a few practical steps to consider:


Not everyone wants to lead a city-wide prayer ministry. If you sense a desire to invest in the task, however, it may be because God is calling you to lead. Like all ministry, it requires work and sacrifice; and sometimes you may feel as if you’re taking one step forward and two steps back when trying to organize other believers. But, if there’s no city-wide prayer ministry in your area, it’s because no one has stepped up to lead it. 

You may not feel qualified to lead it. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you’re too young or too old. Maybe you don’t have enough influence in your city. Those are all good reasons—if there’s no God or if Jesus never rose from the dead. But, since God raised Jesus back to life, excuses are irrelevant.

Remember, God is not interested in your ability or your inability but in your availability. No city-wide prayer movement will begin until someone called to the task steps up to lead. Are you the one called? If so, God will show you the way and others will follow. As many have observed before, people don’t follow vision; they follow a leader with a vision. 


Are you a pastor who is building a “house of prayer” at your church? Leading a city-wide prayer movement begins where you are.

A friend of mine says, “If you don’t know what to do, just do the thing right in front of you.”

Your city needs more praying churches. Lead your church to be “a house of prayer” by following principles designed to build a culture of prayer in your church. The more you mobilize prayer ministries within your church family, the more credibility you will have in city leadership. 

What is the connection between pouring time, effort, and resources into the prayer ministry of your individual church and leading a city-wide movement? John Maxwell makes it clear when he states, “People may teach what they know, but they reproduce what they are.” Your example as a praying church will influence other churches. Obedience is contagious in the Christian life. 

For instance, most of us have read about Jeremiah Lanphier and the prayer meeting he started on Fulton Street in New York City. The prayer meeting led to a national revival in 1857-1858 that has sometimes been referred to as “the third great awakening”.

Most of us, however, have not heard how Jeremiah Lanphier conceived the idea of the prayer meeting. The revival historian Bob Bakke in his book The Power of Extraordinary Prayer has demonstrated that Lanphier’s meetings were almost carbon copies of early morning prayer meetings already being held in Boston – only the time of day was different. Lanphier mimicked the guidelines of the Boston prayer meetings and even imitated the Boston signage.

This reminds us that “fire begets fire” and prayer begets prayer. Your efforts at stirring the prayer-fires in your local church can spark a prayer revival in your city. Begin where you are. 


Finally, you cannot lead a city movement on your own. One of the joys of the national prayer movement is fellowship with the vast network of individual prayer leaders, groups, and ministries committed to the priority of prayer. Pastors often do not collaborate with other pastors; and, as such, they miss the opportunities and the blessings that friendships and partnerships with other leaders offer. But, if we get desperate enough for revival, we will find ways to set aside minor differences for the sake of the larger purposes of the Kingdom of God. 

In the New Testament, the city-wide revival in Antioch was perpetuated by a small group of leaders and friends who gathered for prolonged periods of worship, fasting, and prayer. The Holy Spirit met them, the believers were first called “Christians,” and the mission to the Gentiles was launched (Acts 13:14).

God still moves through friends and Christian leaders who pray together.

If you’re a pastor, you should begin immediately finding another pastor of any age, race, or denomination so you can meet regularly for seasons of humble prayer for your ministries and your city. As the Lord leads, expand the group to include other pastors burdened for prayer and revival. In prayer, develop a plan to enlist churches and praying people to blanket your city in unceasing prayer. Join with each other in leading prayer meetings in one another’s churches.

Your collaborative efforts will astound and bless your congregations. A weary portion of the Body of Christ is longing to see us lay aside our arguments with one another long enough to “seek the welfare of the city where [He has] sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

City movements travel along the network of friendships found in Christ. What are we waiting on? Now is the time to do the impossible and lead our cities in prayer.

    About the Author

  • Kie Bowman

    Kie Bowman is senior pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church and The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas and the SBC National Director of Prayer.

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