Many years ago I traveled to universities around the country with an evangelistic multi-media show. Some schools drew huge crowds and had a great response, while others . . . not so much. As we debriefed with local staff members, it seemed like very often the schools with great response had a great emphasis on prayer, while schools with lackluster response had minimal prayer.
All of us in Christian work would say we’re committed to prayer, but sometimes busy schedules push time with the Lord to the edges of life. Yet we know the task is far greater than any of us can do alone, and we need the Holy Spirit’s power.
“As GACX organizations go out to reach their world with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” say Bill and Rosie Pezzutti, GACX Prayer Mobilizers, “prayer is vital. And it becomes even more powerful when two or more prayer mobilizers gather together and pray for each other’s needs, and encourage each other.”
“But this requires intentionality in prayer and intercession. So we encourage a culture of prayer within GACX.”
Culture of Prayer in the Early Church
Many organizations take the Book of Acts as a blueprint for Church Planting Movements. And when we look at Acts, we see that a culture of prayer permeated the early church. Right from the beginning, they devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). When Peter went to Joppa, he took a few minutes and went up to the roof to pray. The early believers prayed for the sick (Acts 28:8), for those in prison (Acts 12:12), for God’s blessing on new workers (Acts 13:3), in difficult circumstances (Acts 16:25), and even when saying goodbye to friends (Acts 21:5). It seems like the fledgling church was constantly on their knees!
Three aspects of “culture of prayer”
In our world today, how can we follow the early church example in creating a culture of prayer? For starters, we need individual prayer. “The Bible says to pray without ceasing,” says Nina Lawson, assistant missions director of Bethel World Outreach, a GACX partner. “And I love praying!” she adds with a joyful laugh. “I’m a mother of four, so my best time to pray is early morning when everybody else is sleeping. For us to be effective in prayer, our personal prayer life has to be strong.”
A culture of prayer involves group prayer. Bethel World Outreach, for example, is a mega-church that has planted churches in 32 countries. “We have a lot of prayer groups to make sure all areas are covered,” says Nina. “We have groups that pray for children, for youth, for the nation. We have men’s and women’s groups, WhatsApp and social media groups. Our church also puts out a prayer guide and organizes ‘40 hours of prayer’ each year, where people come and sleep at the church and pray.”
But a culture of prayer might look very different elsewhere, such as at DOOR International, a GACX partner dedicated to bringing the gospel to the deaf. “I like to call it dancing with the Holy Spirit,” says Bob Terpstra, Co-Director of Advancement at DOOR. “We receive a lot of news from the field, and our culture of prayer is to stop and pray for the team and its leaders. We recognize that at any point in time we are going to just stop and pray.
A culture of prayer also connects with partnership.
“When we support each other as partners,” says Bob, “all boats rise, like the rising tide. As we pray for each other, we all grow and the partnerships become stronger. That has got to be the core of our partnerships—lifting each other up in prayer.”
A monthly GACX prayer meeting
Bill and Rosie help kindle a culture of prayer through a monthly prayer meeting, via Zoom, for GACX partners.
“I love this call!” says Nina. “Being a part of the GACX prayer team allows me to have a bigger vision of the body of Christ. You pray not only for your organization, but also other organizations. You pray not only for your own missionaries, but also other missionaries around the world. You feel a part of what the Lord is doing through the body of Christ.”
“I’ll agree with everything Nina is saying,” says Bob, “and I can even do it in sign language! It’s rewarding to be a part of the GACX prayer time, because you realize you are part of something much bigger than yourself.”
“When you see this partnership,” adds Nina, “it inspires you! It is like a push—you see what other people are doing for Christ and you go, ‘Wow, we can do it too.’ It actually challenges you to expand your faith. Through the partnership, you are challenged to do more for Christ.”
Elements of a Culture of Prayer
A vibrant culture of prayer involves several elements (I’m indebted to Daniel Henderson, president of Strategic Renewal, for the following points):
1. It is not a prayer program, only to be done at assigned times
Prayer permeates everything that is done, guiding, and invigorating strategy. At DOOR, for example, leaders consciously model prayer. “We have a lot of new believers,” says Bob. “So part of their training is learning to pray. This morning we had a leaders meeting, and we went around the table and prayed for everyone. Then we prayed through the Psalms. They learn how to do this, then take it to the people who report to them, and it keeps spreading.”
2. It emanates from the epicenter of church leadership.
We see this modeled in Acts 6:4, where the apostles appointed others to wait tables, so they could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
3. It’s rooted in clarity and conviction about community.
“A culture of prayer not only reinforces ministry,” say Bill and Rosie, “it also helps knit close relationships between organizational staff, families and the people they minister to locally and around the world. Prayer is all about caring.”
“We don’t only pray for the organizations,” adds Nina. “Sometimes people have a personal need. We stop and feel their pain, or their joy, and we pray for them. It makes you know that not only does GACX care about what they are doing, they also care for people.”
4. It must be sustained by the right motive.
It can’t be guilt or obligation or even church multiplication. It must spring from the conviction that God is worthy to be sought, and a passion to spend time with him.
“The Bible says if you lift Jesus high,” concludes Nina, “he will draw all men to himself. And this is what we are doing. We are lifting Jesus high as individuals, lifting him high as an organization, lifting him high as one body of Christ, and we know for sure this is his will. It’s so fulfilling!”
If you would be interested in joining the GACX monthly prayer call, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.