SBC Life Articles

A Church That ‘Counts’ on Prayer

North East Park Baptist Church has a unique way to remind members that you can "count" on prayer.

At every business meeting, Vicki Phillips, prayer coordinator for the St. Petersburg, Fla., church, presents a written report that would rival any financial statement. She and the prayer ministry team tally the accomplishments stemming from the dedication of those involved in intercessory prayer. The report lists the number of prayer requests, the types of requests, and the results. During 1996, the prayer ministry team reported that 2,675 prayer requests were given to the church.

In one business meeting last year, Phillips reported, "Our prayers of a spiritual nature are 192, and that is 52.9 percent. At the end of last year that percentage was 44.1 percent."

From this "accounting," the church grows not only in the number committed to prayer but also in the kind of prayer going on, she said.

"But don't let the numbers fool you. It was not always this way," she said in an interview. "The church did not have prayer ministry until 1995 when we were without a pastor. Our staff of seven people started to pray and we encouraged prayer partners to connect daily or at least once a week."

Then the church sought other ways to increase the awareness of prayer: Prayer requests were placed on the altar during Sunday services. A women's prayer seminar sparked more participation. Tom Kyzer, director of the Florida Baptist Convention's prayer and spiritual awakening department, led a three-day prayer revival.

In the midst of all this, Phillips felt a call to make a commitment to prayer and was asked to lead the prayer ministry group. Though she had never done anything like it before, she was willing to learn, trusting that God would be the only reason for success.

She began by reading everything available about prayer. She then enlisted and trained people, helping them understand that prayer honors God and that requests are confidential.

Finally, the "Power Room" opened for prayer during the worship service and throughout the week. During each Sunday service, three to five people pray for specific requests.

Organized like an office, every member's name and address is catalogued on a Rolodex; color-coded cards list individuals within a certain group. For example, pink cards have church staff names, yellow cards are for government officials, and blue denotes people in need of salvation. Also, those who pray write and mail "prayergrams" to whomever was prayed for that day.

Not a novice anymore, Phillips shares her knowledge with other churches and groups around the state. She lists several guidelines for starting an effective prayer ministry:

• Be a clean vessel. Those who pray must be pure in prayer motives.

• Be called to the prayer ministry. It is not a job that requires certain qualifications, but the person must feel led by God.

• Seek promotion by the pastor. The pastor must be behind the ministry 100 percent, but allow the congregation to run with it.

• Use every practical help. Read books, attend seminars, and visit churches that have prayer ministries.

• Customize the ministry to your church. What works for North East Park will not necessarily work the same way for your church.

• Educate the fellowship. North East Park operates a 24-hour prayer telephone answering machine for people to leave prayer requests.

• Encourage the fellowship. Thank them in various ways for their support. Be sure to tell the congregation about answered prayer.

    About the Author

  • Janice Backer