Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Inner~Views: Developing A Prayer Culture

Prayer Leader Interviewed Steve Loopstra on a “Developing a Culture of Prayer”

PL ~ Steve, you recently led a workshop on "Developing a Culture of Prayer" ... Why are prayer leaders beginning to think about the need to develop a culture of prayer?

I’m finding a genuine interest in the concept of a “culture of prayer” because it challenges us to look at prayer from a whole different perspective than we are used to. And I think a more Biblical view as well. Rather than seeing prayer as another “program” to run in the church, looking at prayer as a culture, takes us to a whole new way of looking at prayer, and how it is or is not a part of our church lifestyle.

PL ~ Help us get our arms around this new concept - Define and describe "culture" ...

Culture, simply defined, is the sum total of the lifestyles of a particular group of people. It involves not only our actions, but those unspoken ways that we communicate and interact with one another. It involves those things that we grow up with, and become “second nature” to us without our even thinking about them.

PL ~ How does a prayer leader apply the concept of culture to a congregational prayer strategy?

If culture has to do with mindset and lifestyle, then the prayer leaders needs to begin to think beyond program to discipleship. How are we helping and encouraging our people to make prayer a part of their lifestyle in every part of their lives, not just in church? Are families praying together? Are couples praying together? Is prayer an integral part of decision making in the church, and not just a couple minute obligation to open the meetings. Are we learning to “inquire of the Lord?”

PL ~ What is the role of the prayer champion in shaping the culture of prayer?

In order to begin to change the culture of the church to a culture of prayer, it will absolutely take the leadership of the pastor, and leadership in the church, working together with those who are championing prayer, whether that be paid staff, or volunteer prayer coordinators. We end our seminars by reminding people that every church is different and unique. This is not some program to copy from another church. Rather, the leadership must be willing to spend the time asking the Lord, who is the Head of the Church, “what would a culture of prayer look like in our church?” This will take a period of time, and commitment individually, and corporately to inquire and hear from the Lord. Then, they must also ask: “How do we change our culture?” The Lord, who is Head and has a destiny for every church has the answers to those questions, and will respond if asked if faith.

PL ~ You state "the culture of an organization operates at both conscious and unconscious levels" - How does this work in the area of corporate prayer?

In every organization there are those “unspokens” that those who have been a part of the organization know without saying them. In corporate prayer, it may be a certain “style” of prayer that we use, that is understood by all who come. If a stranger comes into the group, and begins to pray with a different style, a tension soon is very evident. This is evidence of the culture of prayer in that group. I’m sure we have all had an experience like that. We just never have thought of it as culture before.

PL ~ Identify some of the hidden barriers to developing a healthy corporate culture of prayer.

Perhaps some of these barriers are not so “hidden,” but they are deadly to developing a healthy culture of prayer:

    1. Inflexibility – This has to do with our unwillingness to change our “style”
    2. Stubbornness – An unwillingness to learn new ways
    3. Lack of leadership – No one having a strong enough vision for a culture of prayer to lead the way.
    4. Program mentality – programs are useful to help “disciple” a new culture, but it is very easy for us to fall back into only thinking of this as a program we must run.

PL ~ What scriptures relate to this issue of corporate culture?

Some key verses in the New Testament are: Acts 2:42; Rom. 12:12; Col 4:2. A couple interesting verses from the Old Testament are Jeremiah 23:18 having to do with spending time inquiring, and Jeremiah 10:21 that relates to pastors.

PL ~ What is the first step a prayer leader should take to:

  • Understand the general concept of culture...
    • Two things: 1) Do some reading on culture – educate yourself. 2) Begin to observe culture around you. Make yourself aware culturally.
  • Discern the culture of their church...
    • Look beneath the surface. Why do you do the things you do in your church? What are the “unspoken” things. Ask people, be a detective. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find out.
  • Share their insights with key leadership...
    • Engage your leadership in looking through “cultural lenses” at your church. Expose them to the Scriptural foundation of prayer. A great study is the study of “devoted” that I do in the seminar. It gives the Lord’s expectation for prayer.
  • Begin to reshape the corporate prayer culture...
    • A key in reshaping a culture is to be focused, yet introduce change subtly. Use modeling, and example in subtle ways. Think about how those who have changed our culture (gay agenda) went about those changes. Time, direction, persistence.

PL ~ Steve, please offer a prayer for prayer leaders and our need to discern and develop cultures of prayer...

Father, we want to be a people of prayer. We come to you as did your disciples when you were modeling prayer before them, and created that hunger in them, and asked you to teach them to pray. We ask you that you, by the power and direction of Your Holy Spirit would give insight, and wisdom to church leaders and prayer leaders in local congregations to begin to catch a vision from your heart of what a culture of prayer would look like in their church. Help them to take the time to inquire of you, and hear from you. Give them the kind of vision for a culture of prayer that will keep them persistent until there comes a day when they know there is a cultural change that has taken place in their church. Open our eyes to see prayer in new ways in our churches, Lord, in Jesus Name. Amen.

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