Basic issues around the formation and running of prayer teams
within the life of a congregation
A. Premise of the Ministry
Our God is a God of love, and out of that love flows the salvation, restoration and wholeness that he longs to bring to his creation. One aspect of the redemptive work of God is the healing of individuals from various forms of physical, emotional, spiritual and relational brokenness. The work of healing through prayer and the laying on of hands was an integral part of the ministry of Jesus as he came to declare and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He equipped many of his followers to carry on this work, as an integral part of the faithful enactment of the gospel. It is a part of our calling as the Body of Christ to continue this Kingdom work.
Incorporating a prayer ministry time into worship services on a regular basis is one way in which we can be faithful in connecting the declaration of the Kingdom of God through teaching, worship and evangelism, with the demonstration and extension of the Kingdom through prayer and healing. Together, these components are a part of our faithful enactment of the gospel in the midst of the kingdom of this world. This is the larger purpose for the development of this type of ministry.
The more immediate purpose of the ministry is to intercede with people by invoking the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and ministering wholeness, deliverance, peace, healing, reconciliation and the empowerment of individuals according to their needs.
The prayer ministry provides a specific opportunity for people to seek prayer and intercession in an atmosphere of worship. Some who have not been exposed to or found access to this kind of ministry in their house churches or elsewhere may find some of their needs met in this context. Others, in need of ongoing prayer or additional support, may be identified through this ministry and appropriately referred. This will allow them to receive the needed support or assistance.
Prayer ministry is also intended to release more people in the congregation into ministry in a context which provides ongoing learning and support. This helps to spread the load of pastoral care in the community, and provides the congregation with a significant channel through which they may receive intercessory prayer.
Finally, prayer ministry provides an opportunity for encounter with the living God for those who have not yet come to know him. The demonstration of his love and power at work may be a powerful testimony to the unbeliever.
II. Oversight of the Prayer Teams
As Intercessors, we submit to God’s authority in our leaders of the church, i.e., the Bishop, our Rector of the Parish we attend and the delegated authority to the prayer leaders onsite. It is important for us to recognize and submit to this authority to honor the Lord and keep ourselves in right order with God’s word and His principles in the Church. The elders have oversight in the area of prayer ministry in the congregation. They carry the responsibility for its direction, execution and integration into the life of the larger community.
The elders are also responsible to facilitate the necessary training events in order to make sure that the teams are continuing to grow and potential members identified, trained and mentored.
III. Expectations of those on Ministry Teams
- The prayer team gathers after the ministry time for about 10 minutes to both share experiences and to evaluate the ministry time. This is intended to be an opportunity to learn from our experiences, and to encourage and support one another in this ministry.
- There will always be a desire to skip. This is a spiritual battle and if good work is being done, there will be opposition.
- It is crucial that team members recognize the necessity of this preparation time and see it as integral to ministry.
- The prayer ministry team needs to be available for prayer ministry before, during and after the service.
- Team members are asked to commit for a year. It is recognized that this is a major commitment of time involving training, preparation and evaluation in addition to the actual ministry time.
- It is necessary to meet for worship and prayer before the service in which ministry will occur.
- This time is needed for personal preparation and to listen to what God may be wanting to do during the upcoming ministry time.
- Actual prayer time in the context of the worship service requires, on average, a commitment of approximately 30 minutes. It is important that the persons praying are both willing and able to take time and to demonstrate patience.
- Team members are not intended to set up or provide ongoing prayer, counseling or other support to persons coming forward for ministry. Any followup or additional intervention that may be indicated needs to be dealt with in consultation for appropriate referral.
IV. Preparation and Training
1. Prayer team members are required to obtain and read the following three books:
– MacNutt, Francis, Healing, (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1974).
– Pytches, David, Come, Holy Spirit: Learning How to minister in Power, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985).
– Payne, Leanne, Listening Prayer, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994).
2. Team members are to be people of prayer who regularly read and meditate on the Word of God, and daily seek to be led by the Spirit. It will be helpful, over a period of time, to read the biblical references on healing as listed in the back of the Pytches book, as well as systematically reading Scripture for personal growth.
3. A short series of two or three training/orientation sessions will be held in advance of the first ministry session.
4. Team members are also expected to participate in development seminars and local conferences as they are made aware of them.
V. Ministry Guidelines
- If someone should fall under the power of the Spirit, remain calm and assist them to the ground if possible, realizing that people rarely, if ever, hurt themselves when falling under these circumstances. Do not try to get them up. Allow God to do his work continuing to lay on hands and simply blessing what God is doing in them and pray. Stay with them until they are ready to get up.
- As the ministry time is being introduced, prayer team members should assemble in the prayer area in groups of two.
- Prayer should be conducted in a quiet, sensitive and genuine tone of voice. Do not express shock or judgement. The best way to do this is to relax and be yourself and to avoid being pious or dramatic.
- The ministry time is intended to respond to the expressed need of the person coming forward for prayer, and/or according to specific guidance given by the Holy Spirit. Those ministering should avoid analyzing or providing lengthy counsel.
- All those ministering should gather during the established preparation time, for prayer, confession and to listen for any words of direction that God might have for that session.
- Confidentiality is extremely important when personal information is shared or revealed during the ministry time. Consultation with the overseeing elder or other ministry team members may be deemed necessary at times, but nothing should be discussed which is not essential for dealing with the concern or problem at hand. Under no circumstances is any personal information to be shared with anyone outside of the prayer team.
- Those praying should feel the freedom to stop and seek counsel when needed. Prayer leaders will be present during the ministry time to help respond to any problems or difficulties.
- Be sensitive, attentive and ready to listen very carefully and non-judgmental to the person coming for prayer. The Holy Spirit is at work in their life. Do not assume that role.
- Whenever possible, at least one person of the same gender as the person being prayed for should be a part of the prayer group.
- In any situation where a person becomes extremely distraught, agitated or disruptive for any reason they should be guided out of the worship area to a side room. The privacy and dignity of the person should be protected at all times.
VI. Ministry Steps
First: the interview
- Listen closely to the person, and to what God may be revealing by his Spirit through words of wisdom, knowledge, prophecy or discernment.
- Greet the person and ask their name.
- Interview the person to determine what they want prayer for: A) ask the person, “What would you like God to do for you?” or “What would you like us to pray for?” B) ask God what He wants to do, or what He wants to deal with at this time.
- Basically we are here for a prayer of agreement. If the person desires healing and will be having surgery, agree for that surgery to be successful rather than try to convince them that God can divinely heal them.
Conversely, if they sense God wants to divinely heal them, do not insist they go to a doctor. We recognize that God heals thru many means including doctors, medicine and a divine touch.
Second: Prayer selection
- Prayer Selection. Select an appropriate prayer
i. clarification of the problem
iii. forgiveness/ extending forgiveness
vi. empowerment/infilling of the Holy Spirit
vii. release of spiritual gifts
Third: Power engagement
- Bless what God is doing, especially if the Holy Spirit is noticeably at work. Pray quietly, seeking to affirm whatever God is doing and continuing to listen for further insight or direction.
- It may be appropriate on occasion to ask if the person knows of any barriers to them receiving what they have requested, ie. unconfessed sin, lack of forgiveness of another person. Gently lead them to deal with this silently or aloud, being sensitive to convey God’s love and acceptance.
- Pray, asking the Holy Spirit to minister to the specific area or need while observing the person for any response to the presence of the Spirit upon them, and continuing to listen for any specific direction. Make all prayers very direct, short and simple, without pleading. Wait for God to act between requests. Speak directly to the condition if appropriate, (ie. swelling be gone in the name of Jesus).
- Invoke the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your prayer time, encouraging them to relax and welcome Him rather than striving or praying themselves. Simply pray “Holy Spirit, we ask you to come and minister in power to ______________ .”
- Relax, Wait, Observe, Listen to God. Ask Him what He is doing and/or what He wants you to do.
- If a person expresses need to confess sin, encourage them to do so before God, then proclaim their forgiveness, as in “__________, in the name of Jesus, I declare that your sins are forgiven.” (Cf. John 20:21-23)
- Short Dialogue with the person to find out what she/he is experiencing, what thoughts, pictures or memories may be surfacing, or what spiritual awareness they may be given in order to clarify what God is doing in them and how to proceed in prayer.
- Stop praying when you have gone as far as you feel you can, or until the ministry of the Holy Spirit abates. Ask the person if they are aware of any change, sensed God’s presence, received any direction or assurance.
Fourth: Post prayer direction
- Close by giving thanks and praise to God for what he has done so far, and by giving the person any additional direction that may be necessary or helpful. If the person has received partial relief, it may be appropriate to suggest that they come up for more prayer at the next ministry time.
VII. Follow Up
- If it seems that the person is in immediate need of additional intervention (ie. is suicidal, demonized, needs medical attention), consult with the overseeing prayer leader to determine appropriate action or referral.
- More often than not, a person is partially healed (by our criteria) or receives some improvement in their condition, rather than total healing as we understand it. If this is the case, it may be appropriate to suggest that the person come forward for more prayer during the next ministry time.
- Never under any circumstances condone or suggest that the person stop taking prescribed medication or any other medical intervention.
- Never promise or announce to someone that they are healed. If they are, it will become apparent to them soon enough.
- If a person seems to be healed of a physical ailment, they should be clearly instructed to see a doctor for verification.
- The person should be encouraged to give thanks to God for any healing or improvement in their condition. It may also be appropriate to encourage them to give testimony to friends and family, to their house church, or to the congregation as a whole, depending on the nature of the healing or answer to prayer.
- Do not give out your address or phone number to persons being prayed for, or arrange for additional meetings outside of the ministry time without consulting the overseeing leader.
- Be led of the Holy Spirit and consider praying for the people you minister to for a week following the prayer time. That they continue to seek God on the subject you covered in prayer with them and the Lord continue to move in their lives for completion of the answers to the prayer request.