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7/8/97 Prayer ministries rewarding, yet tough work, Hunt says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Carrying on a divine conversation with God is both spiritually rewarding and personally fulfilling, but it is also tough work, a leader in the field said.
“Real prayer is hard work, and a church cannot rely solely on faith to keep a prayer ministry alive,” said T.W. Hunt, author of several resources related to prayer.
A prayer ministry takes planning and strategy, according to Hunt, who led a conference about developing a prayer strategy during Discipleship and Family Development Week at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center, July 5-11.
“Prayer is the basis of life. It is the basis on which we have to do our work,” Hunt said. “In many churches, prayer is an emerging ministry, and it needs a strategy to keep it going.”
Recalling his childhood where a prayer altar was a fixture in his home, Hunt, who has kept the tradition, said a church with a strong prayer ministry must have people with strong prayer lives.
“If there is no prayer at home, then prayer at church has no meaning.”
For a church to have a healthy prayer ministry, it must have a staff who base their lives on prayer and whose meetings “are permeated by prayer,” said Hunt, who recommends two types of prayer ministries for churches — intercessory and watchman.
In an intercessory prayer ministry, people gather at the church to pray in groups, and in a watchman prayer ministry, they pray in their homes during an hour assigned to them each week. The result is that someone from the church is praying around the clock.
“Intercessory prayer ministries are better for crisis praying — and for missions praying,” Hunt said. “This type of prayer ministry is good for prayers that must be kept up to date. Missions praying must be as recent as possible because of all the persecution of Christians taking place in our world today, especially in Muslim and communist countries.”
In a watchman prayer ministry, more people must be enlisted to pray, but they have the convenience of praying at home, he said. “This allows the elderly and the infirm or those who cannot easily get to the church to participate.”
Church members who participate in a watchman prayer ministry are called at the beginning of their assigned hour by the person who prayed the previous hour. The current hour’s prayer then calls the next church member when finished with his/her hour of praying.
Hunt suggested a church participate in both an intercessory and a watchman prayer ministry. “But if you can only do one, do a watchman because it involves more people.”
Successful prayer ministries need organization, and the coordinator who agrees to oversee the ministry must be a spiritual person, Hunt advised.
“The most important prayer officer in the ministry is the coordinator. The success of the whole program depends on the spirituality of the coordinator. He or she doesn’t necessarily have to be vivacious, but they have to be deeply spiritual,” Hunt said.
The ministry also will need a secretary who can organize the many forms needed to keep the process alive.
Some of the forms used in prayer ministries include prayer request sheets that can be placed on the back of each church pew for filling out and dropping in the offering plate, prayer-grams which can be sent to the person for whom prayer is being offered and answered prayer forms that can give prayer ministry participants assurance God is answering their pleas “one way or another,” Hunt said.
Also needed are several prayer captains. Most churches need one for each day of the week, according to Hunt, who said he is aware of some mega-churches which alternate prayer captains every six hours.
Church members who become “prayer warriors” should be trained in confidentiality, Hunt said.
“That is absolutely crucial. Nothing should ever be talked about outside the prayer room. If someone’s marriage is in trouble, and they want you to pray for them, you can understand what would happen if that sort of information was shared outside the circle of prayer warriors.”
Unlike in past years, Hunt said, churches interested in beginning prayer ministries can now find several resources to help them get started. Some include: “Church Prayer Ministry Manual;” “Watchman Prayer Ministry” planning kit and prayer guide; and “The Doctrine of Prayer.” Helps for a stronger individual prayer life include “In God’s Presence: Your Daily Guide to a Meaningful Prayer Life” and “When God Speaks: How to Recognize God’s Voice and Respond in Obedience.” The resources can be obtained by calling 1-800-458-2772.
Discipleship and Family Development Week was sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board.

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  • Terri Lackey