Sunday, August 12, 2007

Inner~Views: Prayer Ministries Operations

Prayer Leader interviewed Pat Allen
Director of Prayer, Hillcrest Church


Prayer Leader ~ Pat, you claim prayer has been foundational to Hillcrest Church - What makes you say that?

Pat Allen - From the beginning, prayer has been a major part of our church life. There was a trailer on the vacant property that was used exclusively for prayer before any other structure was built. As a church body and as leadership did their own activities, prayer was given first priority before decisions were made. We have seen the fruit of asking divine guidance in all areas of our church life through this emphasis on prayer. A significant number of church members participate in the Prayer Ministry and there is representation from all church departments involved in Prayer Leadership.
Recently, after having just gone through a major shift in our founding pastor retiring and a new pastor coming on board, prayer was the glue that held the church together. Prayer has been credited with paving a way when there did not seem to be an answer or solution. By seeking God in difficult circumstances, He gave us answers when needed.

PL ~ What caused you to produce the Prayer Ministry Operations Manual and how has it be used?

PA - Our founding pastor has been a national speaker at pastor's conferences and refers to the Prayer Ministry and Prayer Center of our local church while speaking about what was done "right" when forming the church 23 years ago. He has recommended pastors and their building committees from all over the nation to contact us for information and recommendations. It was out of these requests that the Prayer Operations Manual was formed in answer to inquiries.
We have also used it to update leadership of the church and prayer ministry on policies and guidelines when needed. Having this on paper has been very valuable and a time saving tool.

PL ~ Do you recommend a manual like this only for large congregations?

PA - I recommend a church of any size to have an Operations' Manual for your Prayer Ministry that will give your members clear direction as to how to use your facility and what your Prayer Ministry beliefs in prayer are. By providing these, you can avoid pitfalls and problems and misunderstandings in the future, while giving your members a secure sense of direction with their prayer involvement. It also allows the Prayer Ministry to work with the pastor to consider some options and issues ahead of time and help in communicating those options as they are decided upon.
And a recommendation I would give anyone in developing your own prayer operations manual would be to give it time and 'working room' for it's development. This is a process and not easily done in a short period of time, and let me add, your manual will 'evolve' over a course of time with the usage of your Prayer Center and with the growth of your church, both spiritually and physically in numbers of participants.

PL ~ How would a local church prayer leader begin to produce their own manual? Start from scratch? Cut & paste from other sources?

PA - Ask God for what will work with your congregation and implement that first and foremost. Having said that, at the same time, a local church prayer leader should prayerfully avail themselves of the many wonderful resources available today on developing their own manuals and as their prayer ministry develops. In other words, by developing the ministry and seeing it work will help you put it on paper and develop criteria for the ministry. Some of the developments will be from using what others have done as well as from your own creative ideas. And don't be afraid of trying something new in your ministry. Fresh ideas can be invigorating for prayer !
When we started 23 years ago, there was not much out there to copy or learn from. But, what there was and by visiting other prayer rooms and ministries, we found suggestions and examples to try and see what worked for us. I put on paper for our own dissemination as well to other churches on request, what our policies and decisions encompassed.
For example, we have many pray-ers who like to have times of quiet, individual solitude in prayer. We also have groups who like to pray together, which is noisy in general with people praying out loud. Groups also have varied interest in prayer, such as men's focus versus ladies focus or citywide groups that meet in our facility. How to handle the various needs? We have a huge schedule board displayed on one wall that we ask people to sign up on, especially the groups who gather need to secure their time together on the schedule. This then means, whoever has that time slotted has ownership of the room. If an individual is there, other individuals can join and use the facility at the same time, following the lead of the person whose name is on the schedule. Same with the group prayer. Anyone is free to join as long as they follow the lead or it is appropriate according to gender and interest flow. Again, if a group is praying on missions, anyone joining has to know that is the topic and they cannot change the focus, and can come back at a later time to pray quietly.
Another item to consider when compiling guidelines for your prayer ministry and using any direct quotes from printed materials, always check an author's reprint stipulations, and/or give credit where needed in copying on paper exact quotes. This not only keeps yourself clear on copyright laws, but also gives credibility and credit where it is due. If anyone desires to copy and use any of the Hillcrest Prayer Center Operations Manual, let me go ahead and give permission openly here, asking only for attribution to be acknowledged.

PL ~ Pat, you have a variety of prayer opportunities...

PA - Yes, the Lord has given me wonderful opportunities for prayer and growth in prayer. I have thought of my own prayer life much like Jesus' statement "to go into all the world as His witness, even to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost." Acts 1:8 Like rings on a tree, prayer just keeps on expanding.
It all started with praying for my children and husband's businesses 25 years want to see both prosper and in accordance to Christ instructions in keeping our priorities right, start at home first in ministry. Your home and in small group settings, such as your church prayer groups, are safe places to learn and practice prayer principles garnered through books on prayer, classes on prayer and conferences on prayer. Then by being faithful to what the Lord has called you to, He promotes you and soon I found myself working not only in my local church as a volunteer in prayer, but became the Director of Prayer and started attending prayer groups in the city and state, and participating in regional and statewide prayer ministries.
After dialoging with the missions pastor from our local church, I put together a team that went on international missions trips to provide prayer coverage. We found ourselves praying not only for our local missions team while in other nations, but started praying for those nations and people groups we were traveling to in order that they find liberty in God and answers to their problems and issues through Christ.
Later ministries such as Women of Faith, Promise Keepers and Mission America Coalition came to my city needing prayer coverage for their conferences. I was able to put teams and/or volunteers together for those needs and eventually was invited to participate in facilitating prayer on the national level for Mission America Coalition.
So you see, God wants to release us in prayer on multiple levels as we learn and grow spiritually.

PL ~ How can a prayer leader utilize the web to introduce the prayer ministry? Equip the prayer ministry team?

PA - When we started the prayer ministry, the "web" was in it's infancy, so we had to introduce our prayer ministry the old fashioned way, through relationships and word of mouth. The web, however,is very effective in implementing prayer and we have found ways to use it more and more.
In our local congregation, our website for the church not only announces prayer opportunities from group meetings to conferences, but also has a place for individuals to leave prayer requests via email which are retrieved by volunteers and placed in the Prayer Center for volunteers to pray over.
And now with blogs available, "interactive" postings can promote prayer and give a stage for dissemination of information and room for questions and comments.
To equip intercessors, the internet is useful in developing an email string to notify people in your local church of any emergency prayer needs of the local church members, upcoming classes on prayer, and prayer events to attend both in the local church or in the city. Then also, they can send to their congregation members' prayer requests and articles from various prayer ministry websites. Again, these tools re-enforce not only what is taught in the local church, but what is experienced in prayer privately and corporately in the local groups. And any of this on the internet and web can all be duplicated for any city, state or ministry group you are affiliated with.
I found as I did these various web related activities, the emails to my local church and city group were being forwarded all over to friends and family, and to other intercessors/prayer groups. I soon found a need to develop an email string from my own ministry providing prayer information beyond our church and city.
At this point, we have about 300 people in my home church on one email string, and about 700+ on an email string for the state of Texas and beyond, not counting for the shared info among prayer groups and forwards I am told take place. Point being, the internet and web are powerful tools for promoting prayer.

PL ~ Agree or disagree: Prayer ministry teams need involvement from more than intercessors.
I agree that the Prayer Ministry needs to involve the intercessors and as much of the general population of the congregation as possible.
I feel like a large part of my job as Director of Prayer for my local church is to "de-mystify prayer" and to try to bring ALL the church members into their own "Active Prayer Life", so that everyone sees not only the benefits, but how they can participate and be a part.
Prayer is not just for one group of delegated "prayer people." It is a lifestyle for every member in the Body of Christ....simply talking and LISTENING to God, minute by minute, day by day, a two-way conversation.
Also, there is always a need for several different kinds of volunteers in the Prayer Ministry of a local church, city group or ministry of any kind.
First, administrators and clerical assistants are a must to handle the office needs of the Prayer Ministry, to coordinate conferences/seminars, and oversee facilities needs in the Prayer Center of our church. But to do that effectively and with understanding, enhances all the more what is being done if these "administrative gifted volunteers"are themselves people of prayer.
For example, anyone setting up a conference on prayer, even in doing the name tags, reserving rooms and ordering refreshments, will be more sensitive in knowing what best suits the attendees if they themselves are people of prayer. We have found the need in our conferences for prayer to be sure to include plenty of worship at the beginning of ALL the sessions, plus leaving space in the room setup for people to move out from their seating in order to have space for the liberty of worship. Also the need to have plenty of water as many attendees will be fasting during the conference. It is a good idea to provide attendees with the option of enrolling their children in children's ministry during the conference and to have meals provided for the children as sometimes our sessions go past the scheduled time and nobody likes leaving the kids hungry and unhappy waiting on their parents endlessly. Making these types of considerate choices for your prayer conference and seminars will enhance everyone's experience and allow the Lord to move spontaneously and in fullness.
Teachers on prayer are needed for Sunday School classes and to develop prayer in the small group ministry and with the Youth of our church. Again, how can someone adequately teach on something they have not experienced for themselves?
Spiritual Gifts such as mercy driven individuals are needed to minister in prayer to those with personal needs as well as in praying over personal requests that come into our Prayer Center.
Those gifted with a Shepherd's heart are used a lot in leading prayer groups since they can recognize the needs of their participants and to give direction to that meeting at that particular time.
In summary, prayer is for everyone in the Body of Christ, whether they are "called" intercessors or not. And every Prayer Ministry needs a varied group of volunteers to successfully carry out it's mission.

PL ~ Pat, please write a prayer that prayer ministry leaders can pray for their team and congregation...

PA - Father, we thank you for the opportunity to come into Your Presence to pray. First and foremost, I ask for the presence and leading of Your precious Holy Spirit to be with me, to guide me and my prayers for my team and congregation. Let Your words fill my mouth. May Your Scriptures continually be on my lips.
Father, I declare my utter dependence upon you, and ask that anything of me and my mind fall to the ground and have no effect through my prayers . I plead the Blood of Jesus over the doorposts of my home, my life, my church and pastor(s), our prayer team and congregation, and all that concerns us....our families, our provision, future and destiny in You, Lord.
I bless my team / congregation with ears to hear You, with eyes to rightly see into the spiritual realm and with a heart to know Your truths. I bless them to be like David having a heart after You, seeking You and Your ways.
We thank you for the trust you have invested in us to stand in the gap for others.
Bless us with Your heart to see with Your vision and understanding for those you ask us to cover in prayer, including Israel, the Leaders of our nation to the leaders of our city and church. Give us the prayers to pray to effect change and see Your Kingdom expanded.
Father, we ask you prepare us for Your habitation and to grow us in the ways of Christ. To be ever changed into the image of Jesus and to avail ourselves to You continually in an attitude of us to achieve a Life Style of Prayer and be Your hand extended wherever we go, being instant in season and out.
We ask that you enlarge our capacity to receive from You, enable us to receive all You have for us and those we cover in prayer. We desire to be Your hands extended, a people full of Your Peace, Love and Joy, who know Your Voice.
In Christ's Name we ask these things and give You the glory, Amen.

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