A Week of Prayer
Three FIEC churches gave a week of their schedules to prayer in September. All of them approached it in a different way so Phil Topham’s been finding out what they did. Perhaps it can encourage your church if you are planning something similar.
Surrey Chapel, Norwich
Surrey Chapel’s week of prayer was designed to ensure that every member of the church family could engage with it.
As well as a prayer meeting every day – set at a variety of different times – there was also a special commissioning service at the end of the week to encourage church members to commit to serving God throughout the coming year.
The church holds its week of prayer and commissioning service every September and church member Rebekah Callow says it’s a real encouragement:
“We are blessed to go to a church where people pray a lot – where people engage with prayer through the year, so this is a popular week because there are so many opportunities to pray.
“At the beginning of the week everyone is given a prayer card so it is clear which themes we are focusing on at each meeting and we make sure there is something for everyone. This year we held a prayer breakfast on the Saturday, while on the Tuesday evening we held a family meal to encourage adults and children to pray together by walking around different areas of the church which had different themes and activities to encourage prayer. Different topics included our own spiritual growth, praying for mission partners and church staff, and for ministries run by the church.
“The leaders of each prayer time tried to make sure that, over the week, there were lots of different styles of prayer meetings. Some people love the traditional prayer meeting but for others this is a harder way to pray, so it is good to have these different opportunities.”
For Surrey Chapel, the week of prayer acts as a focal point for the whole year. Even students who have moved away to University often return to take part – especially in the commissioning service on the Sunday. Rebekah added:
“I would encourage every church to have a week of prayer. You can be creative, it doesn’t have to be a week of stereotypical, evening prayer meetings. We had different leaders for each prayer meeting, who led in a variety of styles, but overall this is a way we can stand up and say: ‘this is what we’re about’.
“It’s much more than ‘something that just happens’, our week of prayer gives us a focus for the year ahead and a sense of unity.”
New City Church, Milton Keynes, Richard Wardman
We’ve just come to the end of our third annual Week of Prayer, which takes place early in September. We had our first three years ago in response to a growing desire to pray as a church family. Not having done anything like this before I looked for some tips on what to do and found Tim Challies really helpful, and we have used some of these ideas which are outlined below.
We typically pray around a particular theme. The first year we were praying for growth, the second year for the five Ms of church life (magnification, membership, ministry, mission, maturity), and this year we prayed for revival!
The theme is really there to provide a sense of unity and purpose for the week, but also helps us to pray for all the various aspects of church and life.
We start with a service given over to the theme of prayer. I preach about prayer, particularly as it relates to the theme for the week. And we will make lots of room for prayer during the service. This year, we also had lunch together with the Lord’s Supper and spent some time praying together.
We then meet for prayer every day in someone’s home, usually in the evening. One day in the week is also given over to fasting and praying. We usually end the week with some kind of prayer breakfast with children and young people in mind.
We also produce a booklet with a page for each day of the week and give a paper and digital copy to everyone. Each day there are three sections to particularly focus our prayers.
First, some prayer points for that day’s theme (e.g. Tuesday – Revive Our Holiness). Second, praying for our church family – we aim to pray for everyone in the church by name, including children and young people. Thirdly, we pray for our various partners. At the meetings themselves we often cover more than is listed in the booklet, but this is a useful guide and it also encourages people to pray when they are not at the meetings.
I’m always nervous that people won’t turn up to the prayer meetings – it’s sometimes a struggle to get people together for prayer every couple of weeks, let alone every night of the week! But each year I am wonderfully surprised and blessed to find that people do actually want to come and pray. A small number come every night, quite a few will come more than once, and a few more only once. And almost everyone prays out loud, which is so encouraging. There is a sense of excitement and expectation throughout the week, in spite of the tiredness that usually sets in around Wednesday!
We have already advertised the dates for next year’s Week of Prayer, and we have start thinking about having another time of focused prayer in the Spring, something like a whole day of prayer.
KEC Church Centre, Kingshurst, Birmingham, Emil Kerekes
At KEC Church we have three times in the year when we have a particular focus on prayer. First for 21 days, then for seven days followed by a single day of prayer.
The 21 days of prayer is held in the run-up to Easter. According to the sociologists, it takes 21 days for a person to change their behaviour. Then we have seven days of prayer in September before a new term starts. For these longer times of focused prayer, we meet for half an hour of prayer every single day.
But then we have one Saturday a year which is a day of prayer from 8:00am - 8:00pm towards the winter holidays. This is a day where the church is open and the people are free to come in any time during that day to pray. It is amazing how many people get involved in prayer on that day. Not everyone can come at the same hour and giving them the choice to come when they can is a great opportunity for them to be part of this.
We know that many churches – including our own – struggle with prayer ministry. Weekly and long prayer meetings look like too much of a burden for so many. That is why we decided to have spread it out during the year to try and solve this problem.
Having 21 days and 7 days of prayer at different points in the year just for half an hour each day, means people engage with this and they come with a desire to pray for our families, our ministries and our nation.
I can say it works for us. People are engaged and we are blessed. We pray with expectation and passion and we look forward to that day when our prayers will be answered.