Did You Know Charles Wesley Wrote Prayers to Sing? A Prayerful Look at Intercession Hymn #1 “For All Mankind”

In 1758, Charles Wesley published his collection of 40 Intercession Hymns.

These hymns are examples of intercessory prayers set to music. Music is a good way to remember words, and singing helps people have words of prayer and scripture on their hearts and tongues throughout the day.

Although Wesley’s collection of Intercession Hymns represents an era different from our own, many parts of these intercessory prayers are timeless, especially given their biblical foundations. All of Wesley’s hymns are steeped in scripture, and his Intercession Hymns are no exception. Even portions of hymns that are specific to Wesley’s day can be adapted for current situations.

Continue reading “Did You Know Charles Wesley Wrote Prayers to Sing? A Prayerful Look at Intercession Hymn #1 “For All Mankind””

Is Your Church Hurting for Money? 12 Ideas that Might Help

Many churches and ministries struggle to make ends meet. I know what it’s like for a ministry that lacks resources to pay the bills. And I’ve worked for a church as a full-time, unpaid staff member. Over the years I’ve spent time in prayer and in the Bible trying to understand how to live in this situation and how to pray. While I have no easy answers for you (Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him), I do know that whatever we do must begin by focusing on the Holy Spirit and our relationship with God. I offer these suggestions with all humility and prayer, in the hope maybe one or more of these ideas will help you.

If your church or ministry isn’t making ends meet, prayerfully consider a few steps you can take to place the situation in God’s hands:

Continue reading “Is Your Church Hurting for Money? 12 Ideas that Might Help”

Praying the Apostle’s Creed

Depending on your church tradition, you may or may not be familiar with the words of the Apostle’s Creed. I grew up in a church where we memorized the words in Sunday school at a very young age. Our teachers taught us what the words meant and why we stood and said these words each Sunday in church.

The Apostle’s Creed is still a great way for people to learn about the Christian faith. For those who are new to the faith, the words can help people learn, ask questions, and grow. For those who have been Christians for a while, it can be helpful to look over the words of the creed to remember and affirm what we believe. On difficult days and in trying times, the words of the Apostle’s Creed remind us that no matter what we are facing, it’s all worth it.

Continue reading “Praying the Apostle’s Creed”

Praying for Students Entering College

If you feel called to pray for your community and/or your church, one of the best ways you can pray right now is for young people who are entering college.

Our community prayer group is currently praying for:

  • Students still in high school but starting dual enrollment classes in college this semester.
  • College freshmen returning to school after their first home break.
  • High school students applying for college for next fall.
  • High school graduates who took off the fall term and are just entering college for the first time this spring.

If you went through this process as a young adult, you may remember how stressful it can be. At that age, students often feel that the rest of their lives depend on the decisions they are making in the moment. They put a lot of pressure on themselves.

It is helpful to pray that the Lord, first of all, will keep them in His peace. That they will be fully aware of His presence and His leading through this process. That they can trust Him with their lives and their futures. That they will be able to enjoy the moment and the experience with Him.

Pray for wisdom. For God to open and close the right doors. For God’s intervention where the enemy or man might present an obstacle.

Pray for God to keep them encouraged, and to help them find peace in their own identities and in knowing they are absolutely precious to God. Pray for godly people in their lives and for God to keep them from the wrong influences.

Above all else, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray.

Remember also to pray for the parents as they guide and support their young ones through this process.

You can pray this in general for your community and/or for your church family. God knows who the young people are that need your prayers, even if you do not know.

If you personally know young people going through this process, tell their parents you are praying for their children in their transition to college life.

If you are part of a church prayer team, perhaps the pastor would like for you to say a prayer out loud on a Sunday morning – ask him or her about it.

In whatever ways God leads you to pray, just know that this process of transition to college is a big prayer need for our communities and churches at this time of year. Thank you for your heart for prayer. God bless.

Praying the Psalms in Communion Liturgy

Currently, I am involved in a non-denominational church. Yet I grew up and at one point served in the United Methodist Church, whose prayer roots I continue to learn about. As a seminary student and prayer missionary, I am interested in learning about prayer traditions of the many branches of the Christian Church. It’s fascinating to me. I think we can learn a lot about biblically based prayer from Christian history and different church traditions.

When I was growing up in the Methodist church, we celebrated Communion on the first Sunday of the month. (Not enough, in my opinion.) Back then, before the days of overhead projectors, we used hymnals to read the Communion liturgy. By the age of five, I had it memorized – not because I was trying to, but simply because I had repeated it so many times. What I never appreciated, until now, were the biblical roots of that liturgy.

On Sunday, I opened my email to find this message from Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, who is president of Asbury Theological Seminary where I attend as a student. I am getting ready to take a class this spring on the Psalms, so this particular article caught my eye:

The Grammar of Repentance: Psalm 38

In this article, Dr. Tennent talks about the importance of repentance in Christian life. He also traces the roots of the typical Methodist Communion liturgy to many of the Psalms, as well as Isaiah.

And he says something that really stood out for me: ” … the Psalms have always been the prayer book for the people of God.”

With my passion for prayer, I am more excited than ever to study the Psalms this spring.

Even though liturgy and hymnals don’t seem to be used as much in the church as they used to be, it might be an interesting family activity (or church class) to look at some of the words of earlier church practices, trace the biblical roots, and pray those prayers as so many people have done across the ages.

If you are curious about the liturgy referred to by Dr. Tennent, here is the full text:

A Service of Word and Table IV

As I was reading over this text, so familiar when I was young, I realized that even in traditional services where hymnals are still used for Communion, often the prayers of confession and pardon are left out – probably to cut down on time. Yet that means we’re missing out on this rich tradition of prayer.

Instead of removing these prayers from the Communion liturgy, it might be helpful even to incorporate these prayers in other aspects of church life. They are great prayers.

I am only familiar with the United Methodist Communion liturgy, referred to in the article by Dr. Tennent. However, it would be interesting to look at the equivalent prayers and liturgy in the history of other branches of the Church.

Does your family or church pray any of the older liturgical prayers, or pray from the Psalms? What are your prayer traditions and practices?

Grow Your Family’s Prayer Life with Prayer Stations

Prayer is a journey. It’s an amazing daily adventure with God. You never know where He will take you, but you know it will be good. He is good. Time spent with Him daily in prayer will make your whole life an amazing adventure.

Prayer is largely invisible. Sometimes it helps to find symbolic ways to make visible what is happening in the spiritual realm. Prayer stations are a great way to do this.

You might have seen or participated in a prayer station. It’s a space that is set up to visually represent and prompt a time of prayer. The station might depict a scene from the Bible. It might suggest a prayer for a particular situation, with pictures or items to represent that prayer. It’s just something that makes prayer tangible.

A more elaborate form of prayer stations are the well-known Stations of the Cross that are often set up during Holy Week. We did this at our church one time with live actors, and it was a very moving experience. At one of our stations, we invited people to write out their prayer requests. The bowl was overflowing with their heartfelt requests, just like the incense of Revelation 5:8.

At a local monastery, they have a beautiful outdoor path that moves you through the various Stations of the Cross. It invites you to walk where Jesus walked as He carried His cross to the outskirts of Jerusalem. If you go to Israel, you can find these moments marked with signs.

One year during the Lenten season, our church set up small prayer stations in the sanctuary. We left these up in the window sills for the entire season. They weren’t Stations of the Cross, but simply prayer stations, each one focusing us on a biblical theme of prayer. It was a great reminder to pray, and it was a way to interact with God in prayer each time we entered the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was open during the week, so people could stop by anytime and pray through the stations, or just find one station to focus on.

Those are some of the ways churches can offer prayer stations for their church families. But how about your own family? Have you considered creating prayer stations at home?

There are many ways you can do this. If you enjoy decorating seasonally along with your children, it might be fun to set up seasonal prayer stations – for Advent, Lent, the four seasons, or even school exam time. Let your children have the biggest part in putting the stations together, which might include drawing pictures or collecting natural items from outdoors. Then spend time each week as a family at those prayer stations. Don’t be surprised if the children or grownups enjoy additional time stopping to pray on their own.

Another way is to set up smaller prayer stations that stay there year round. This could be as simple as putting a post-it note in a corner of the hallway that says, “What are you thankful for?” or “What do you love best about talking with God?” These could serve as daily reminders and prompts for prayer.

One of your family prayer stations might include a cork board with pieces of paper, pens, and pushpins, where family members can write and pin up prayer requests. Encourage your kids to write prayer requests for themselves and for friends they are concerned about. During your regular family prayer times, you can talk about and pray for these requests. The prayer station offers a way to keep those requests in front of the family all week.

Prayer stations are a great way for your family to grow in prayer. They will help you keep prayer as a major focus of your family’s day.

Have you tried prayer stations at home? How about in your church? What are some of the ways you have done this? What do you like best about prayer stations? What results have you seen in your family?

I would love to hear about your experiences. Please consider sharing in the Comments below so that others can benefit too. God bless  you! Have a prayerfully adventurous day with God.

Why Aren’t We Desperate?

I was talking yesterday with a friend who just returned from Uganda. She spent several weeks with a neighborhood ministry that had requested inner healing prayer. As she shared about the desperate situation and the hunger in the people’s hearts, she also lamented that she seldom finds that kind of hunger here at home.

We considered what it means to be desperate for God and why that often seems more prevalent outside the United States. Then we talked about the desperate situations all around us here at home. Perhaps there are two aspects of “desperate.” One involves situations. The other concerns attitudes of our hearts.

Despite the disparity of wealth among nations, people’s lives can be in despair no matter where they live. Here in the United States, I know plenty of people in desperate need of God. But they don’t recognize it the way people in some other places do. Why not?

A scene from a movie comes to mind. The doctor in Beyond Borders is operating on a dying woman in Ethiopia during a time of famine. He explains that people thank him with their whole hearts there, whereas back in London,  they don’t thank doctors as deeply. In the Ethiopian camp where he is serving, there are no pain killers, so the people feel everything. They appreciate help on a gut-wrenching level.

He asks the visiting American, “What do you do when you have a cold?”

She suggests several common remedies.

He says, “Do you ever just have the cold?”

The answer is no. When we have the means, we doctor ourselves up, doing whatever it takes not to feel the cold, the pain, the discomfort.

And that is the difference between desperate situations and desperate hearts.

Here in the United States, we have many ways to mask our pain. We numb ourselves, seek self-comfort, hide in false refuges, drown things out with our noise and busyness, deny our realities, and sweep truth under the rug.

We can only become desperate for God when we realize how desperate our situations are. The more we hide, numb, self-comfort, and deny, the less we will recognize our deep need for God.

In fact, as another friend pointed out, our ability to numb ourselves is what makes our situation desperate. We have become really good at blocking God from the places in our hearts that hurt the most.

How do we change?

It has to start with each one of us, individually, and then as families, and then as church families.

We have to be real with what’s going on in our hearts. We have to let God bring things to the surface so He can deal with them. We need to acknowledge the pain, feel it, and embrace it. To recognize that we have nothing without God. Then we need to invite Him into those difficult places in our hearts, so He can bring true healing.

We also must be willing to hold each other accountable to this – and to let ourselves be accountable to others as a family, and as a body of Christ.

What do you think? Wouldn’t this be a good day to start?

Will you join me in this prayer?

Lord Jesus, thank You that You came to set us free from the ways we have become held captive in lies, denial, and our ability to sidestep our own pain. Forgive us for the ways we cover up, numb ourselves, and whitewash the realities of our lives. Search our hearts and show us where our deepest hurts and fears are hidden. Bring Your light, truth, and healing to every area of our hearts. We want to be completely in relationship with You, with our whole hearts. Help us, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“’The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;'”

     — Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

     — Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Bringing Home the Lion of Judah

Prayer takes place mostly in an invisible spiritual realm. On one hand, we need to learn how to appreciate God’s presence in that invisible space. We are in relationship with a Spiritual Being who is Other than we are. We need to learn how to relate in ways that cannot be seen.

On the other hand, sometimes tangible symbols help us to learn about prayer and our relationship with God. That’s why the Lion of Judah first made his appearance in our Kidz Church.

We ran Kidz Church just like a regular church service, with worship, Bible, prayer, and sermon. Except we didn’t run it. The kids did. They were the ones who greeted, ushered, and prayed. They led worship, wrote their own sermons, and preached. They cried with friends at the altar and laughed together in celebrating God’s joy – often in the same moment.

The children were always willing to share their prayer requests out loud. They wanted to pray for each other too. One day, our associate pastor arrived at Kidz Church with a plush lion. She introduced him as the Lion of Judah. When asked who the real Lion of Judah is, the kids cried out, “Jesus.” They knew the plush character was only a symbol. But it was a tangible way for them to learn about prayer and God’s presence with them.

Every week, the children would offer their prayer requests out loud. All prayer requests were important and treated with honor and compassion. But each week, the children chose one person who seemed to need the most strength or comfort. That child would receive the Lion of Judah to take home for the week. The child would then return the Lion the next week.

As the child was chosen, the kids circled up and prayed for each other. And the Lion of Judah went home with that child. The plush animal was a very hands-on reminder that God was with that child every minute of every day, bringing comfort, strength, healing, and other answers to prayer.

The children took this very seriously. Seeing the Lion go home with one of their classmates made them want to pray for that child. The adults were amazed at how the Lion was returned each week with great care.

I sometimes wondered if the adult church service might have benefited too from bringing home the Lion of Judah.

This is one of many creative ways to teach children about prayer and to make it visible for them. In some ways, adults need this lesson more than children. Little ones have a way of navigating the invisible spirit realm with more confidence than adults.

But little ones also need a strong foundation for a life of prayer. If you are looking for a way to teach your kids, try bringing home the Lion of Judah.

What Are Prayer Cloths?

Prayer cloths are a wonderful way to share healing prayers with your loved ones.

A prayer cloth is a tiny piece of fabric that you pray over, and then you give it to someone in need of healing. They can carry it with them in their pocket. It is a constant comfort and reminder to them that Jesus is their Healer.

The prayer cloth also carries your healing prayers. The Bible teaches us that the healing anointing of the Holy Spirit has a tangible presence: Acts 10:38, Luke 8:46, Acts 19:11-12, Acts 5:15-16. When I hold a prayer cloth in my hands, I can feel that healing anointing.

I even took a prayer cloth into surgery with me. The prep nurse taped it to my skin. Everyone in my church had prayed over it the previous Sunday, passing it from one person to the next for prayer. So I wanted it with me in the operating room.

Our prayer team at Healing Rooms of Dahlonega prays over prayer cloths for people. Sometimes we know the prayer need ahead of time, and we pray over the cloth together for that person. If the person comes in for prayer, we ask that person to hold the cloth while we pray.

At other times, we pray together over cloths, to get them ready for future needs. We let the Lord lead our prayers. We keep those cloths ready for the next person who needs one. When we give those cloths to people, we know God already knew who that person would be and He has already prepared the cloth for that person.

Many people have told us these prayer cloths give them comfort. Often the prayer cloths help the recipient to discover Jesus in a new way, as their Healer.

Prayer cloths are simple to make. They are small (for ease of the person carrying the cloth) and don’t need to be fancy. I go to the dollar store and buy a small pack of pillow cases. I cut heart shapes out of the fabric. We anoint them with oil and pray over them as a team, with each person holding the cloth as we pray. For children, you can even make animal-shaped prayer cloths.

Have you ever received a prayer cloth, or prayed over one and sent it to someone? Tell us about it in the comments. Your words will encourage others.

Season Your Church Ministries with Intercessory Prayer

When intercessory prayer is woven into the fabric of your church, your ministries can stand strong and do exactly what God calls them to do. Every ministry of your church, from worship to hospitality, from nursery to seniors, from Bible study to softball, has the opportunity to incorporate intercessory prayer. Not only does this help the ministries to grow in healthy ways, but it also allows more opportunities for church members to grow in their prayer lives.

What are some ways you can season your church ministries with intercessory prayer?

  1. Open and close your ministry’s meetings and gatherings with prayer.
  2. Invite the folks participating in your ministry to share prayer requests through the week. Pray together each week (or at each gathering) for those prayer requests. Remember to include Praises of how God answers those prayers.
  3. Designate a volunteer “prayer chaplain” for your ministry, who can follow up on those prayer needs, and who will help your ministry stay prayerful.
  4. Whatever Bible verses you use in your ministry, invite your participants to begin praying those Bible verses together. Do a quick mini-teaching of how to turn a Bible verse into a prayer.
  5. Encourage different individuals in your ministry to lead the group in prayer, so everyone can have experience in praying out loud. Not everyone feels comfortable praying out loud, so don’t pressure them and don’t put them on the spot. But make it very easy for them to try. (I offer an online class, “Learn to Pray Out Loud,” that helps people get past this fear of praying out loud.) A small-sized ministry group is often the perfect place for people to practice praying out loud.
  6. Get to know the person who coordinates intercessory prayer at your church. Let that person know the best ways to pray for your ministry. You might write out a few “prayer points” that your church’s prayer leader and prayer team can pray for your ministry on a regular basis. You can also post these prayer points in your ministry’s location, in your written materials and website, or on a church bulletin board. Even better, ask your church’s prayer leader to set up a bulletin board where all church ministries’ “prayer points” can be listed. (Remember: These “prayer points” are about your ministry in general. These are not the confidential prayer needs shared by your participants, which should only circulate to the group and possibly confidentially to the pastor and prayer leader of your church.)
  7. Ask participants in your ministry to be praying for the ministry at home during their family prayer time. This means not only praying for the people in the ministry, but it also means praying for the ministry itself. Ask them to share with you what God shows them as they pray.
  8. Choose a Bible verse that reflects your ministry in each season of the year. Encourage your ministry participants to pray that Bible verse together through that season. Post the Bible verse publicly in your church so everyone can join you in praying that verse.
  9. Assign “prayer partners” among your ministry participants. This connects two or three individuals or families so they can pray for each other.
  10. Choose another ministry of your church to pray for. It should be a ministry with a completely different focus than your own. Ask that ministry’s leader how you can pray for them. Lead the participants of your ministry in praying together for that other ministry. Watch what God will do. Even better, encourage your church’s prayer leader to coordinate all ministries of the church in praying for each other.

Don’t be overwhelmed by this list. It’s called “seasoning” for a reason. Try one of these first and then add others as you are ready. Mix and match through different seasons of the year. Follow God’s leading. But find ways to season your church ministry with intercessory prayer.

What are some ways you have included intercessory prayer in your church ministry?