Without a vision, the warriors perish.” (Proverbs 29:18, my paraphrase)
In every war, warriors need generals who sound the battle call clearly and loudly. Spiritual warfare is no different. Men must be summoned to the fight by a visionary leader, and that leader should be their pastor.
If men are going to effectively fight on their knees, they will need pastors who take spiritual warfare and strategic prayer personally and seriously. Victory requires a new breed of shepherd–one who leads the way into the arena of prayer. And every victory is the result of a comprehensive strategy.
Strategy 1 -The Man
PASTORING HAS CHANGED dramatically in the last 50 years. One of the clearest indications is how the sign on the pastor’s door has changed from “Study” to “Office.” The pastor is now more a manager or corporate executive officer than a student or a disciple.
A call to war is a call to change. Pastors must reclaim their role as one who leads the troops into battle (see Joshua 5:13-6:27). They cannot do this solely from the boardroom; they must lead both from and into the prayer room. Our spiritual leaders must rediscover and reclaim the apostles’ passion of devotion to prayer and the Word (see Acts 6:4).
Pastor, what do you need to change in your schedule in order to be devoted to prayer (see Colossians 4:2)?
Will you commit to strengthening your personal prayer life by reading a book on prayer? Attending a prayer training conference? Participating in a pastors’ prayer group? (See end of article.) Who can you trust to hold you accountable when you share this commitment with them?
Take your calendar (or Palm Pilot) and add a one-hour appointment, one day a week, for the next five weeks.
Divide the appointment between reading on prayer, journaling on prayer (your personal observations), writing on prayer (articles for the church bulletin or newsletter), and of course, praying.
Strategy 2 -The Message
WARRIORS NEED a battle plan, and they must receive those clear instructions from the teaching ministry of their pastor (see 1 Corinthians 14:8). Prayer must become the topic of sermons and messages, the focus of class and group study, the example and illustration in teaching and preaching. For too long, prayer has been the one thing we have not taught new believers (nor veterans, for that matter). We assume they must know how to pray since they “prayed to receive Christ.” Prayer has been unused and misused because the leaders have not trained soldiers in this weapon of war (see 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:18).
Pastor, when can you next preach on prayer? Will it be a single sermon? A series?
How can you best survey your congregation about prayer? Ask them to tell you their most significant questions, problems, and hopes about prayer in regard to their personal life and the life of the church.
Go surfing online to find prayer resources: books, teaching videos, networks.
Schedule a planning session with those who make curriculum choices for your church ministries. Devote 50 percent of the meeting to prayer and 50 percent to discerning how the Lord wants the church to be taught about prayer. Apply what you discover to sermons, Sunday school classes, small groups, Bible studies, and the various ministries of the church (youth, children, singles, couples, and seniors).
Strategy 3 – The Motivation
PRAYER IS ESSENTIAL because it is essential, not because it is the latest topic or trend, and not because the pastor read a book or attended a conference and now feels guilty. For men to fight on their knees, they will require more than a battle call; they must have a battle cry. They must grasp the reason, pulsate with the passion, and embrace the vision. A battle cry is loud, not simply to catch everyone’s attention, but to express deep desire and desperation. A pastor who wants to lead his men into battle must have a cry, a burden; he cannot simply make an announcement.
Our motivation is the call and the cry of our Lord and Leader in John 17:3-4 (NIV): “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
Our motivation? A desire for the church to complete the work God has given us to do–so that those who do not know the only true God would receive eternal life through faith in Christ, and so that God would receive glory on earth. The battle and the victory are all for God! We fight with and for the Creator of the universe. Our cry: “Jesus rules!” “To hell with evil!” “God loves the world!”
Pastor, how can you make the teaching and preaching about prayer a motivating experience to your congregation?
Does your congregation know the ultimate purpose of prayer (not to change circumstances but to bring glory to God)? How would this paradigm shift change their praying?
During the next three weeks, attend every prayer meeting you can. Identify what makes the meeting motivational or what makes it boring and irrelevant. Review your observations for the purpose of revising prayer in your congregation and using it effectively at different points. During weeknight prayer meetings? Committee and board meetings? Church services? Sunday and weekday classes?
Take a group of men on a prayer journey through Scripture. Skim the book of Acts, stopping at each “prayer meeting” to determine what motivated the church to come to the place of prayer and what kept them there. Ask your men what would help them to begin to pray with the same vibrancy and conviction seen in the Book of Acts.
Next time you have an appointment with the Lord, ask the Holy Spirit to give you God-inspired ideas for motivating men to pray.
Strategy 4 -The Model
MEN WILL NOT follow a man who simply teaches them about prayer, but they will die with a man they see and hear in prayer. Christian men are looking for a leader who is unafraid to plunge into the deeper waters of communication and cooperation with God.
The most eloquent sermon is powerless if the preacher cannot supply the evidence of personal experience, both success and failure. The most gifted teacher cannot persuade men to change their lifestyle if he has not done the same in the crucible of prayer.
Pastor, what do you need to change and what must you begin to do in order to become your own sermon illustration?
Can you think of seven to nine men (young and old) who might be learning the value of prayer because they are watching your life? How will you restructure your personal prayer times to include intercession for them to become valiant men of prayer following your example?
Preach on “Epaphras: Prayer Warrior” (from Colossians 4:12-13).
Take a group of men on a retreat that combines recreation (men crave action), study (unpack your sermon on Epaphras), and prayer (“Lord, what will it take to turn us into prayer warriors?”).
Strategy 5 -The Mentor
GENERALS NEED CAPTAINS. Every pastor must select, train, and disciple a man who not only can serve (and pray) alongside him but can also cast vision and lead other men with passion (see 2 Timothy 2:2). This, dear Barnabas, is your Saul who needs to be transformed into a Paul (see Acts 12:25;13:6-9). This, General Paul, is your Timothy who must become your Captain in Ephesus (see 1 Timothy 1:3). You will need to call all men to prayer, young and old, mature or new to the faith. But ask the Holy Spirit to point out those who have the calling, gifting, and anointing to become vision-casters and passionate leaders.
Pastor, has the Lord revealed the Sauls in your ministry who have the potential of becoming Pauls? How many Timothys are you praying for as you mentor them?
Could you be more effective in the next twelve months at mobilizing the men of your congregation if you were to read a book on the dynamics of mentoring? What can you do in this next year to improve your mentoring and discipling skills?
Invite your Sauls and Timothys to meet with you regularly (at least once a month) to mentor them into deeper personal prayer and in prayer leadership skills.
Take several men to a prayer conference. Build in some “guy” time as well as debriefing: “How can we bless our church/men’s ministry with what we have learned?”
Strategy 6 -The Ministry
TO CALL YOUR MEN to war on their knees, should you create a new ministry that has a value and focus on prayer, or should you bring a new value and focus on prayer to existing ministries? Answer: Yes!
Pray for direction on what additional activity might enable more men to experience the adventure of prayer. But also pray for discernment on how to bring prayer to the places where men are already gathering, whether for ministry, study, work, or recreation.
Pastor, if you were a member (and not the pastor) of your church, what would have to happen for you to take the plunge and attend a men’s prayer meeting?
Who needs to issue the call? Who should be invited? Who should lead?
What makes this meeting unique? Challenging? Fulfilling?
Where is a location that feels like a place men would open up and really pray? The gym before a game of volleyball or basketball? A corporate conference room? A jogging or hiking trail? Your van parked by the commuter train before they leave for the city?
When is a time that adds to the challenge? 5:30 A.M. on a weekday? 7:00 A.M. in your study (or office) on Sunday? Surprisingly, men respond to unusual times.
Why is this a good use of their time?
How will you use peer influence to get men to the place of prayer?
List every event, activity, ministry, and meeting in which men participate throughout a normal church year. After each one, list how prayer can become more of a value in that setting and what you will do to make it happen. Below are some examples of what you could do for men’s prayer in different categories.
In their homes:
Challenge husbands to pray with their wives every day for at least two minutes during the next thirty days. Meet to debrief: A good discussion starter is, “What did God have us pray that we have not prayed before?”
Ask fathers to pray for their children for a week, then pray over each child in the Sunday morning service (invite them to the front of the congregation).
For you, the pastor:
Challenge men to commit to pray for you while at work, perhaps one specified day a week.
Invite them to meet with you Monday mornings to pray for next Sunday’s sermon.
Create a group that communicates prayer requests through e-mail.
Encourage them to fast and pray for you as they skip a meal once a week.
Have seven to twelve men gather around you on Sunday mornings before the service. This “Sunday Prayer Huddle Group” could meet for one month, then rotate with another group.
During church services:
Equip the ushers to pray before services (for gifts of hospitality), during services (to bless each person they serve), and after services (for visitors and those who are hurting or absent).
In the community:
On the day when kids are praying at school through the See You At The Pole program (usually the second or third Wednesday of September), have fathers stop at their local school before they go to work to stand in support of their children at the largest prayer meeting in the world (see end of article).
Ask men to meet at the church, pray for God’s presence and protection, then travel to locations in the community that are enveloped by evil or by spiritual darkness. Spend an hour walking, praying, blessing, and inviting the Lord to reign and rule in the schools, the stores, and the homes. See the problems, but pray the promises!
Men’s ministry functions:
Challenge the men to devote ten to fifteen minutes to pray for one another either before or after each study.
Hold a yearly men’s retreat at which you make prayer the theme. Invite a prayer facilitator to co-lead the retreat with you. You can teach, and let the guest guide the group into new prayer experiences.
Ask men to choose a prayer partner (“tele-friend”) whom they will “meet” on the phone once a week so that they can pray for each other, their families, the pastor, the church, and the community.
A true, biblical call to war is so much more than a longer message or a louder sermon next Sunday. It is a call that must first be heard and deeply felt by the pastor. It is a call that must come through his life, his teaching, and his leading. For boys to become men in prayer, they must watch and listen to the prayers of their pastor and the men he prays into leadership. When your men hear you pray like Jesus, they will want to spend time with Jesus and talk with the One who prayed “with loud cries and tears to the One who could bring victory in the battle. And he was heard.” (Hebrews 5:7, my paraphrase)
1. To find a book about prayer, check out www.navpress.com/praymag.asp. To locate a prayer training conference, go to www.nalcpl.net. To find a pastors’ prayer group, search www.nppn.org/ppg.
2. To learn more about the See You at the Pole program, go towww.syatp.com.
This article first appeared in the book Fight On Your Knees. Used by permission of NavPress. Copyright 2002, all rights reserved, www.navpress.com.