Leading Men In Your Church To Pray
The following is edited from a workshop given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2008 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A. Used by permission.
The ministry into which God has led me can be divided into three periods. The first ten years of my ministry was as a youth evangelist. I traveled internationally reaching young people. I came to a place after ten years of ministry, however, where I felt like my ministry had outgrown my character.
I felt God was more interested in my character than He was my ministry, so I began to pray, "Lord, put me somewhere where nobody has ever heard of me." This actually came from a study I had done on the life of Moses. During the study, I realized God did not use a young, powerful Moses. It was only when Moses got in the Midianite desert and became a nobody that God revealed Himself to Moses.
So I asked, "God, would You put me somewhere, give me a ĎMidianite desertí Ė a place where no one has heard of me, no one knows me and I can just get with You and meet with You?" Right after that a call came to be the pastor of a small church on an American military base in Germany. I figured that was about as close to a "Midianite desert" as a person could get. It was there the Lord taught me what I am going to share with you in this session.
I spent eight years as a pastor and then the past twenty-two years, the third period of my life, the Lord led me into an international evangelism and revival ministry. But it was during those years as a pastor that God really put it on my heart about calling men, teaching men and training men to be men of prayer.
When you call for prayer in the average church today the women will respond and come together and pray. But it is difficult to get men to pray. Why is this? There is no doubt a few reasons. One is that men are too busy and think they do not have time. A second reason may be that men want to see visible answers Ė they want measurable results to show how far they have progressed. But it does not work that way in prayer. The truth is you may never see the answer to your prayer. The answer may come in the next generation. Men can become frustrated with this.
Another great problem could be that many men do not understand what prayer is. Prayer is intimacy with God. It is not something you do to get something from God or to accomplish something or to get from point A to point B. Instead, prayer is the communion of two hearts Ė the heart of God and the heart of man. The purpose of prayer is to get to know God. When you have communion and intimacy with Him, you become a man of God. Men of God are made in the private closet of prayer.
Revival Happens When Men Pray
Nations can be changed when men pray. The places I have been where the great evangelistic harvests have taken place have been places where men have prayed. During the days of communism and the Chowchesku Regime, I preached in Joseph Tsonís church in Oradea, Romania right before he was ousted by the government, and I was able to keep going in there during that time. That church, Emmanuel Baptist Church, had a great revival take place and it actually started before Joseph Tsonís pastorate. There was a pastor who had taught the people to pray. I remember preaching in that church and it was packed, every seat was taken, people were standing in the aisle, around the platform, and they were outside in subzero temperatures standing all the way around the building. Many gave their hearts to Christ.
After the service one of the elders came up to me and said, "Brother Sammy, did the Lord work?" I said, "Why are you asking me this? Didnít you see what happened?" He said, "Oh no, you donít understand. I was in a room with a hundred men and we were praying for you the whole time you were preaching."
The pastor, who was there and was exiled before Joseph, had called the people to pray. He taught them to pray in an unusual way. He instructed them: "You pray that one day we will stand in the great stadiums of this nation and proclaim the Gospel. You pray that radio, television and the newspapers will proclaim the Gospel." And the people said, "Pastor, what do you mean? Donít you know weíre put in prison, we lose our jobs, and weíre persecuted? How could this happen?" He said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). The men of that church caught that vision, and today it is one of the greatest churches on the continent of Europe. I will be preaching a crusade there in January.
I preached a crusade in Ethiopia in a national stadium with the largest crowds Iíve ever preached to. The stadium the first night was packed. The second night there were more people, and the third night even more. By Saturday they had two services in the stadium. God moved and thousands upon thousands came to Christ. I preached on a platform out on the track and behind me in the stadium was this one area where there were two hundred men. About every forty-five minutes, these two hundred men would stand up and walk out and another two hundred men would come in and sit down. This happened four times. After the service I asked one of the pastors, "What is going on with these men?" The pastor said, "Those are the praying men. There is a room underneath the stadium that will hold two hundred men, and eight hundred men volunteered to be prayer warriors. So what we do is send a group of two hundred men to the room, and the next group sits together in the stadium so theyíll be ready when it comes their time to pray." This happened every single day! When we can mobilize men to pray, God will do extraordinary things. We will have revival if our men will pray!
A Rude Awakening
Iím a visionary, and even though I was in the "Midianite desert" when I went to that small church in Germany, I began dreaming: "Germany...weíre going to have another reformation. Weíre going to send these American military men all over Germany and weíre going to see revival come. Weíre going to reach all of Europe and see another revival and reformation...." Thatís just the way my mind works.
So I went there and the first Sunday morning I was rudely awakened to church life. Having been an itinerant evangelist and not having to stay long in one place, I had no clue what went on in the church. I was so naÔve when one of the men came up and said, "Brother Sammy, do you mind if we have a real quick business meeting after your sermon this morning?" I said, "Sure, no problem." The church almost split the first Sunday! I found out that they had never even thought about anything like reformation, revival, evangelism and reaching Europe. Their concern was what color the carpet was going to be. I found out that is the concern in most churches. One group thinks it ought to be this color and one group thinks it ought to be that color. This has nothing to do with kingdom matters.
All of a sudden I was awakened to what real church life is too often about. I said, "Lord, what have I gotten myself into? I thought You told me to go to the ĎMidianite desert,í but I didnít know I was going to have a bunch of sheep that were interested in carpet." I was so discouraged. I wrote out my resignation about six times that first month. But then I listened to some tapes, and I became thirsty in the desert. I began praying, "God, I need an answer. I donít know what to do. I have never pastored a church before. I donít know what Iím supposed to do in this situation. I donít know how to deal with this. No one is interested in spiritual things. They are interested in running a little club here. What do I do?"
Men Begin Praying and Sharing Testimonies
I listened to a tape in which Max Barnett said, "I want to challenge pastors to get up on Sunday morning in the pulpit and just announce, ĎIf there are any men who want to learn to walk with God, Iíll meet with youÖí and announce it at some unusual hour so that only those who really mean business will come." So the next Sunday morning I said from the pulpit, "If there are any men who want to learn to walk with God, Iíll meet with you at six oíclock in the morning and Iíll teach you everything I know about walking with God." At six oíclock Monday morning twenty men showed up and, interestingly, none of them were church leaders. These men werenít interested much in church stuff. They came to church because they wanted to grow in Jesus and wanted to know more about the Bible.
What I did during these Monday morning meetings was to teach them how to have a time alone with God. Thatís all I did. I taught them how to develop a time of prayer and a time in the Word. My wife did the same thing with a group of women. This went on for several months.
One of the problems with a prayer ministry, however, is that it can become very inward. If you just keep going inward, people will develop a critical spirit. Prayer, therefore, has to be tied to reaching people for Christ. So at a particular point I said, "Weíve been learning to pray, how to have a quiet time, how to meet with God, and how to hear from God. Weíve been doing it together, praying together and seeking God together. Youíve been getting up forty-five minutes to an hour earlier each morning and youíve been meeting with the Lord. Now I want to teach you how to share your testimony with someone else."
I borrowed a four point outline from Campus Crusade for Christ on how to share your faith with other people and I said, "Letís practice it. Turn to the man next to you and share your testimony, using these four things: 1) what your life was like before Christ, 2) what events led you to Christ, 3) the actual salvation experience, and 4) the change in your life." They practiced on each other, and when they finished I said, "Youíve been learning to pray and now I want us all to pray for each other that God would give each of us somebody to share our testimony with this week."
On Thursday I received a phone call from one of the men, a defense counselor on the base, and he said, "Sam, you need to get to my office immediately. Right now." I left, not knowing what was happening. I walked into his office, and sitting in front of my friend was a man with his head in his hands. I found out that this man was being kicked out of the military because of alcohol related problems and he came to my friend for legal counsel. After my friend gave him legal counsel, he shut the books and said, "This is off the record. You can tell me to stop any time you want, but I just need to ask if you are getting help for your alcohol problem?" He said, "Iíve been through other programs, but nobodyís been able to help me." My friend said, "This is off the record. Again, you can tell me to stop any time you want, but I have this little thing that Iíve learned to do and Iíd like to share it with you." He took out his four point outline and he gave his testimony.
The man began to weep and said, "Thatís what Iíve been looking for. Thatís what I need." My friend thought, "Oh no, Sammy didnít tell me what to do if this man responded!" So he had called me, and I had the privilege of leading that man to Jesus. His commanding officer was so impressed with what happened in this new Christianís life that he called my friend on the phone and said, "I have some more men I want to send to you." The next Sunday in church we had six new families as a result of my friend sharing Jesus with them.
Now thatís just one of the men, and we had twenty men. I can go through a story with each one of them and every single one became a soul winner. They developed their walk with God and led people to faith in Jesus Christ. Our church exploded in growth. We had no strategy of evangelism, but growth was taking place out of the overflow of these menís lives.
The Prayer Ministry Multiplies
I went to the twenty men and I said, "Youíve been walking with God, youíve been learning to pray, youíve been sharing your faith, and God has been blessing. Now I want each one of you to find three men and do with them what I have done with you. From now on when the twenty of us come together it will no longer be me sharing with you. Weíre going to meet and youíre going to tell me whatís happening in your small groups and weíre going to pray for one another. On Sunday night before our service weíre going to take an hour for you to meet with your three men. After you meet with them weíll all come together and Iíll speak to them for five minutes."
That is when our Sunday evening service really expanded. (Remember my wife is doing the same thing with the women.) All of a sudden we had sixty men and sixty women and all their children for Sunday night. The service grew and grew. All of those men, except for two who have died, are leaders in their churches. One of the men who came had never given a testimony, had never spoken publicly, had never taught a Sunday school class, and had never done anything in church except pass out bulletins. When I left he became the pastor of the church.
Some of the men on the military base would be sent on "remote" which meant they would be away from their families for a year, basically away from civilization. One of our goals was that every man who was part of our church would be able, if he were remote for a year, to feed himself on the Word of God and continue to grow whether he had a church, a pastor or nothing.
I took a couple of the men and said, "I donít want you to disciple other men. What weíre going to do is start a couple of adult Sunday School classes and I want you to teach these classes what I have taught you. We will bring everybody in our church through these twelve weeks of your class where they will learn to have a quiet time." From that point on, joining the church included going through this class to learn how to have a quiet time with God. So the nature and character and foundation of our church became men praying, and it was a great church until the base closed.
Principles for Leading Others to Pray
Let me give you some of the principles behind all of this. The first principle is that you will never lead men to pray unless you are a man of prayer. You cannot share what you have not experienced. Unless you have a time with God that is consistent and regular, and unless that time is a passion in your life, you will not be able to lead people to such passion. You have to be a man of prayer. This has to be deep in your soul.
A second principle is the importance of a place of prayer. It is significant that Jesus teaches, "And when you pray go into your closet, or into your room, and shut the door." (See Matt. 6:6). You need to have a secret place of prayer. I travel a great deal so I understand that sometimes there are circumstances and situations that make it difficult to have a certain place for prayer. When I am at home, however, I have a routine. In the morning after I get cleaned up and have my breakfast, I make my way to a clump of trees near where I live to be alone with God. I sit on a big old rock there, open my Bible and read the Word of God, and then I walk around in that clump of trees and pour my heart out to God. My wife can sit in our house in her rocking chair and open her Bible. Thatís just not me. I need to be outside. It is important to have a time and a place where you can go to get away from everybody and everything and just meet with God.
It is very easy for this time to be rushed, and people often ask me how much time does one need to spend alone with God. For every person it is different, but you need to spend enough time that you know youíve been with God and Heís been with you. John, one of the original twenty men, would get up at 4:30 to be able to have his time alone with God before he went to work. During his quiet time, God burdened him for his boss, so we started praying for him. One Sunday evening after our service, his boss, a colonel, introduced himself to me and said, "Iím fifty years old and I donít have any purpose in life." We talked and he gave his heart to Jesus. John taught him how to have a quiet time with God, and he started meeting with God. He became a general, and after he retired from the military, he went to seminary and today is a pastor.
The Focus of Prayer
A third principle is the importance of proper focus in prayer. To help develop a proper focus, I taught the men three elements. The first element in prayer is the Word of God. We generally think of prayer as talking to God, but much of prayer is God talking to us. We are to listen to Him. How does He talk to us? He speaks to us through His Word, so we need to teach men how to open the Word of God. I taught the men how to systematically read through the Scripture. I taught them the basic five things the Navigators teach regarding the Word: 1) hear the Word, 2) read the Word, 3) meditate on the Word, 4) study the Word, and 5) memorize the Word. I tried to teach the men to practice all five of those things.
Hearing the Word meant they needed to be in church to listen to the Word. To help them read the Word, I taught them to read through the Bible systematically, to read it devotionally, a chapter in the New Testament, a chapter in the Old Testament, to read it over two or three times letting God speak to them, and to mark it when the Lord would speak to their hearts. I tried to teach them to meditate on the Word so that they would think about it during the day and allow it to work in their hearts. I also taught the men how to study the Bible, including how to study characters of the Bible, books of the Bible, and how to use aids to study for themselves. They learned how to study the Word and had a good understanding on the heart and nature and character of God. Also, since much of prayer is standing on the promises of God and claiming the promises of God, we memorized Scriptures.
A second essential element in prayer is worship. Therefore, the men were taught to sing during their prayer time, including some of the great hymns. Jesus ushers us into the prayer closet with worship: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name..." (Matt. 6:9). We need to teach men to worship in their private prayer time.
A third element in prayer is pouring out our hearts to God. We are to pray for people that are on our hearts, bring our needs to God, and deal with issues such as forgiveness and spiritual warfare. A tool I use is to take a piece of paper, fold it over, and then fold it over again so that when it is opened you have eight different areas to write down prayer items. On the outermost part of the page is the "everyday things" Ė the things I take to the Lord every single day, such as my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my staff, and my work and ministry. I use the second block for Sunday when I pray for my pastor and other pastors that are close to me. On Monday, I have missionaries; Tuesday, lost people; Wednesday, Christians that have different needs; Thursday, Christians that are backslidden; Friday, nationals; and Saturday, various people groups. This piece of paper will fill up quickly, and is just one of many tools to help in prayer. I just pour my heart out to God in my clump of trees.
My wife has had a prayer group for twenty-two years, and to help keep proper focus, they have a two-fold mission: to pray for revival in America and to help reach the world for Christ. So while they pray for individual needs, they also pray for these two things.
Leading others to pray begins with a deep commitment on the leaderís part to the life of prayer. A final word of encouragement to those who desire to lead others to pray is to teach and model the Lordís Prayer: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen" (Matt. 6:9-13).