How My Personal Prayer Team Is Structured

  • This week I tweeted, “Meeting with my personal prayer team. I’m confident I’ve underestimated their influence in my ministry. Every pastor should have one.”

I received numerous replies asking me questions about the specifics of who this group is, what they do, how often we meet, etc. I thought it as worthy of a post.

Years ago when I was a layperson, a group of my prayer partners formed our own pastoral prayer team. We would pray during the church services and make appointments with church staff members to pray for them. It was a great marker in my spiritual growth and it seemed to be valued by the ministers.

When I became a pastor myself, knowing the importance of prayer, I decided to be intentional in soliciting people to pray for the church and my ministry. I have done this various ways. I’ve emailed individuals and groups with specific prayer requests. I’ve had Sunday morning meetings before church and recruited a few people to pray during each service. I’ve had a few men that I met with in accountability/prayer groups.

In the past couple of years, I started something new. It’s become my preferred model, simply because it’s intentional, it’s highly functional with my schedule, and I’ve seen the results of prayer working in my ministry.

Here is my current prayer team approach:

I personally recruited 7 people in the church who meet with me regularly. (I wasn’t attempting to get to a Biblical number. It’s just the way it worked. My goal would be for this group to never be larger than 10 or so, simply so we can function well as a group when we meet. Much larger and we would lose the intimacy of the group we have now.)

We meet every 6 weeks to 2 months, as my schedule allows. My assistant sets these meetings up for me at my request.

My part of the meetings last less than 1 hour.

I come to the meetings with a list of things to pray for, and hand it out to them as a prayer list.

  • Some to do with church
  • Some with staff (I don’t share names or specifics, but generalities)
  • Some personal (I don’t share highly intimate things. I have men in my life to share those things, but I do share requests personal to me and my family, that may or may not have anything to do with the church.)
  • In regards to the church, some items are general and some specific, but I rarely, if ever, use names associated with the requests. This is not as much about individual prayer needs within the church. We have a separate prayer team for those needs. This group is my personal prayer support group, so items within the church are more centered towards things I personally lead, opportunities or initiatives I feel God is guiding us towards, or personal issues of concern I have within the church, my family or with me.

I talk through each item on the list and allow them to ask me questions about them.

I pray for them.

I leave and let them pray together as long as they want.

They take the list home and continue to pray until we have another meeting.

We begin each new meeting reviewing any carryover items on the list to update the group on prayer results.

Who is on this prayer team?

  • People I have personally recruited. (In the church I’m moving to pastor, I’m in the process now of gathering those names. Since I don’t know the people, I’m relying on several other people I do know to help me with a group of names.)
  • People I can trust to hold a confidence (This is of utmost importance to me and I’ve never had a “leak” from this process yet.)
  • People I believe are fervent in prayer, and they would be doing so whether I asked them to or not
  • People who are humble, not looking for any spotlight or attention
  • People I would go to personally to request prayer aside from this group (You probably could name those people in your church now)

These people are often not on any other team or committee in the church. They aren’t necessarily eloquent of speech. They are simply people of prayer. This is not a committee or team where members rotate on or off after a term of service. These are prayer warriors. As long as they are willing to serve, and are functioning within the request of confidentiality, they remain in the group.

What’s the benefit?

Do you have to ask?

Seriously, just this week, I gave them a very personal prayer request of something I was asking God to do. Within 30 minutes of our meeting, I had an answer to the prayer request. I emailed them to let them know.

Months before God began stirring my heart towards a change in ministry assignment, I had asked this group to pray for our staff. I knew several were receiving requests to consider other positions. I asked them to pray for our staff to be wise and discerning of God’s direction in our lives. I didn’t know at the time that I would be the one God would deal with next. It was out of my realm of possibilities to take another church at this time, but this group was already praying for the possibility. I’m convinced their prayers have aided in making this transition process so incredibly smooth.

God still answers the prayers of His people.

You don’t have to do it my way, but if you’re a pastor, you need people you can trust praying for you in every area of your life. Yes, you need your entire church praying for you. I’m for more corporate prayer. I believe, however, that you need a smaller group around you to share more personal requests. When we look at the model of Jesus, He seemed to have that prayer support structure within the disciples, even calling a few of them frequently away from the 12 to meet with him in more private settings.

How do you organize people to pray for you?

When You Don’t Want to Get Out of Bed

Do you ever have days when you just don’t want to get out of bed?

I’m not talking about the days you wake up and wish you could hit the snooze button a few more times. I’m not referring to days when you didn’t get enough sleep because you stayed up too late watching David Letterman. Those days are normal. For some they happen everyday.

I’m talking about the days when you don’t want to get out of bed, because you don’t think you can face the world outside the covers. I’m talking about days when it hurts to think about facing life.

Do you ever have days like that?

Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve had seasons where facing the day seems unbearable. It can last a day, a week, or months at a time. I’ve spoken about this before, but I went through a mini-depression a few years ago. My boys were leaving home, my father and Cheryl’s father died, and the stress of ministry was greater than ever. Some days it was all I could do to put on my pastor smile and keep going.

At times, the stress of life can cause a person to wish they didn’t have to face another day. In a world of constant changes, uncertainty, fear, trials and steady burnout, keeping your chin up and continuing to smile can often be a challenge. Has that ever been your story?

I wish we were better as a church and a society of realizing those times are natural, allowing people to be honest about them, and helping people through them rather than looking down on them because of their inner struggles. Even godly, people of extreme faith have times when they fell all is hopeless. (Read about Elijah and Paul for a couple of good Biblical examples.)

What do you do on days like that?

After years of experience, both personal and walking with others, here are a few suggestions for those times:

Get up and do something – No, you may not feel like it, but doing nothing during times of depression, mild or otherwise, almost never solves the problem. You may not be able to do what you need to do, and you certainly may need rest, but continuing a vegetative state of existence is not the right answer. Discipline yourself to get out of bed, be around people, and stay active.

Do the best you know how today – You may not be at 100%. You may only be 20% today. Okay, perhaps you only have 1% to give today. That’s okay. Give that. Do the best you can do today and don’t feel guilty about not doing all you normally would do. My guess is there’s probably something you can still do that will bring value to the people around you…yet another reason to get out of bed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – This may mean professional help and don’t be ashamed of that. Most of us need professional counseling at some point in our life. But, also soak up energy from others for a season. It’s okay to need others. In fact, that’s one primary purpose of the body of Christ. We are to bear with one another during tougher times of life. Chances are you’ve been there for others when they needed help. Now let others be there for you. (Note: Relying on others should not be an excuse to ignore the other principles here. You still have personal responsibilities and ignoring them will not help you, but only enable you to continue in your current condition.)

Prepare and build – This is a time to practice healthy discipline, get consistent rest, exercise, eat healthfully, and prepare mentally and physically for a day when you feel better about your surroundings. Watch for the healing moments, the days when a smile comes easier and for the door of opportunities to open, which encourage you. Those are good days and you should be even more productive on those days. You’ll be able to celebrate your progress and, when repeated over time, it will help lift your spirits. God does heal when we submit our pain to Him. In these seasons, you’ll also learn to recognize the signs that a period like this is coming again. Store up that wisdom and experience to help others and yourself in other similar seasons of life.

Wait and listen – God will use these times of desperation to build you more into His heart and character. This should be a time of constant prayer, crying out to God for help. Many of the Psalms were written during times like this in the Psalmist’s life. Read a few of them. Don’t make drastic decisions during these days as you wait for God to speak clearly again.

Have you been there?

You may now want to read my post “God WILL Allow More Than You Can Bear“.

Have you ever wished you could stay in bed and not face another day? Are you there now?

What steps have you taken to heal from times like these? What or who helped you the most?

Share your story so it will help others.

Getting Gut Honest with God

I love the story in Judges 6 where God called Gideon to save the Israelites from the land of Midian. Gideon was the weakest of his clan from the weakest clan, yet God chose to use him for a powerful leadership role for God’s people. You might read the story again HERE.

Consider a small part of Gideon’s conversation with angel of the Lord:

(I’ve embellished the story a bit to illustrate the way I view the story. My embellishment is in parenthesis.)

“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor”

“Well, please sir…(I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but) if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? …

…And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us…”

Imagine the scene. An angel shows up, which was usually a pretty scary part of the story, but instead of reacting in surprise, Gideon respectfully questions where God has been lately. He’s not disrespectful, but he is gut honest with the concerns he has with God.

Do you ever wonder where God is when life seems to be falling apart?

Do you ever question God’s involvement when He seems to be nowhere around?

Do you ever think things may never improve?

Gideon had those type questions, and he didn’t cover them up with phony praise, he let his concerns be known.

Yet God’s angel didn’t curse Gideon. Instead, God used Gideon, in spite of his doubts and fears.

“The Lord said to him, but I will be with you…” Judges 6:16 God simply pointed Gideon back to the faith he originally had in Him. That was not the end of Gideon’s fear or questioning, but it was the beginning of his journey back to complete faith.

Perhaps instead of continuing in our own doubts and fears, you and I should get gut honest with God. Maybe we should tell Him how we really feel. I’m not suggesting we become flippant towards a Holy God. That’s never a good idea. I’m suggesting we be honest with the God who already knows our heart and allow Him to restore our faith and strengthen us for the journey ahead. That often begins when we become real with God with who we are, who we are not, and who He is.

God uses people who are willing to humbly surrender their insufficiencies; their doubts and fears, to His sufficiency.

By the way, He knows your heart because He made your heart.

How are you at being honest with God?

When God Tries to Speak to You

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9 NIV

Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?

Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t yet recognize the voice of God. Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport that Mom will let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity.

Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know that my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!

How about you? Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.

Why don’t we heed the advice of Eli?

First, he told Samuel got still. He laid down, in the stillness of the night and waited for God to speak.

Second, Samuel listened expectantly. He knew he was waiting, and he knew who he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice.

Third, and perhaps most important, Samuel obeyed God’s word. It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you, that is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.

God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. Are you in a position to hear?

Stop, wait, listen…and obey the word of God today!

7 Ways to Sleep Soundly each Night

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

Years ago when we were in business, Cheryl and I went through a difficult period in life. Dealing with employees, cash flow, banks and trying to increase sales made for many sleepless nights. It was distressing. I believe, unless there are health reasons why you cannot, that we should be able to rest at night. Over the years, I have learned a few secrets of sleeping better each night.

Here are 7 ways to sleep soundly each night:

Exercise during the day – Sometime during the day, make yourself physically tired. Exercise not only works the body, it frees the mind. It helps you prepare to relax. There’s a power in physical activity which cannot be ignored. I try to exercise at least 5 days per week.

Eat healthy foods in adequate quantities – I’ve learned that greasy foods don’t set as well on my stomach. You’ll have your own foods that don’t make you feel as well as you could. Also, if you eat too little you’ll wake up hungry. If you eat too much you won’t settle peacefully. Find the right quantity of food and discipline yourself to eat the right amount. That usually means eating until you are satisfied, but not stuffing your stomach.

Put your day to bed – For me, that means reviewing my day and preparing for tomorrow. I spend a few minutes reflecting on what took place, what I can change and what I can’t, and then looking over my calendar for the next day. It mentally says “This day is over. A new day is coming.”

Be consistent – Even on weekends or when I’m out of town I keep pretty much the same schedule. Occasionally I’ll need to “catch up” on some sleep, but most of the time I’m in bed and out of bed  (without ever using an alarm) at the same time each day. Once it becomes a habit it’s not that bad…even getting up early. Seriously.

Invest in good bedding – Don’t be cheap when it comes to your mattress or bedding. I’ve learned that you get what you pay for with this expense. Shop for quality, as well as price.

Write it down – Journaling can be a release from the day. Share your thoughts, concerns, fears and dreams. Get them off your chest then lay them to rest. (No rhyme intended.)

Pray – End with a release to God. Not trying to be cruel, but if worry is keeping you awake at night, you have a faith issue bigger than a sleep issue. Remember, He’s on His throne…even as you sleep. (If you fall asleep while praying…God won’t mind. Didn’t you enjoy watching your children fall asleep?)

Try some of these and let me know how they work for you. I’m praying you learn some secrets for better sleeping.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? What tips do you have?

Saturday Night Prayer Chain 2, Let’s Pray for One Another

It’s been a couple months since we did a Saturday night prayer chain. Is your life still in need of prayer?

How can we pray for you?

This is simple. You leave a comment on this post, my faithful prayer warrior readers read it, and we pray. You can join the praying as well as the listing of requests too. Let’s pray for one another.

This time I’m praying:

  • For God to reveal Himself to people tonight…and tomorrow.
  • For our churches to be packed this weekend.
  • For a man to come to his senses and return to his family.
  • For a teenage girl who needs to make the right choices going forward.
  • For a couple people I know looking for work.
  • For several people battling cancer.
  • For a single parent who is lonely.
  • For a church that’s launching tomorrow.

What are you praying for?

How can we pray for you?

Go!

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Luke 11:9

7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today. Lately, however, I’ve not felt as disciplined in each area of my life. I would excel in one area, but not in another. I’ve shared some of this here previously, but I went through a couple stressful years. That, coupled with an extremely busy period, distracted me from some of the disciplines I had done for so many years.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit…part of the DNA of my daily life. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat. (The LoseIt app helps with that. Read about it HERE.)

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to bs, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I’ve written about this before HERE. I know well this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to run 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 or 3 days per week.

Sleep – I don’t need much sleep. If I’m not careful I’ll stay up too late at night working on projects. I never sleep late, so I end up getting too little sleep. My goal here is lights out by 10:30 and to take short power naps as needed…and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days? (You’ll be finished before Christmas.) You can change the details of each discipline…you may need more calories or less…you may choose a different exercise…etc… The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

Nascar Prayer…Boogity Boogity Boogity

Chances are good by now you’ve seen this. It happened down the road from me. I don’t know this pastor, but I may need to invite him to lunch sometime.

Just so you know, this is not a typical Tennessee prayer. It certainly brings attention to the fact that we do pray! :)

What thoughts come to your mind with this prayer?