What is prayer ministry?Prayer ministry is personal prayer for an individual. In many churches a ministry team stands at the front of the sanctuary near the altar to offer this kind of prayer. People are invited to come up after the worship service for individual prayer with the “altar team” or “prayer ministry team.”
Worship services can feel large and impersonal. Prayer ministry is a wonderful way people can experience God’s love and care for them for specific needs they have. For example, job loss or a family crisis or a serious health issue.
Who needs prayer ministry?Everyone. The Bible tells us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Prayer ministry enables people to receive personal support when they need it the most.
Is prayer ministry counseling?No. This is “light touch” prayer, typically lasting 5 – 10 minutes. Prayer ministers do not usually give advice or solve problems. Their goal is to listen, care for and encourage the person needing prayer.
What are some best practices for prayer ministry?Treat people with respect and dignity.
When someone approaches you for prayer, put the person at ease. Welcome the recipient with focused attention. Make eye contact. Ask the person’s name.
Listen with BOTH ears – one ear to the person’s needs and the other to the Holy Spirit who will tell you how to pray.
Be aware of God’s immense love for the person you are praying for and let Him express His love through you.
“The prayer minister’s goal,” says Paul Anderson, “is to help people connect with the God who heals, restores, comforts, encourages.”
Confidentiality is essential. Regard what is shared as a “sacred trust.”
Personal hygiene is important. Use breath mints.
Are there some things to avoid?
Don’t preach. Pray, listen and affirm.
Don’t give advice. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Don’t try to make something happen. Relax. Sense what the Lord is doing and bless that. Trust the process.
Don’t make a pronouncement, “God said.” Rather say gently, “I believe God may be saying … Does this resonate with you?”
Don’t sound overly “spiritual.” Use conversational, everyday language.
Is it preferable to pray alone or in pairs?Ideally, it is best to pray in pairs—partnering an experienced prayer minister with a newer prayer minister for modeling and learning. However, sometimes there aren’t enough prayer ministers to go round. Then you can pray solo.
What about gender?Normally it is best if men pray with men and women with women. A man might be more comfortable praying about pornography with another man and a woman who has been sexually abused might prefer to pray with women. But there are some issues that are not as gender specific and some people may not have a preference.
What about touch?Jesus often used touch to show compassion to hurting people (Luke 4:40). So can we. A hand on a shoulder or arm is reassuring and comforting.
What about anointing oil?Oil was used in the Bible to anoint people for blessing, healing or commissioning for service. To use anointing oil make the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and say, “I bless you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” See James 5:13-16. You may choose to use unscented oil because some people are allergic to scented oil.
What if someone has a problem that I can’t deal with?You can refer the person to your “prayer captain” who can handle more difficult problems. Or you can alert a staff member who can offer more help.
What if the same person comes up week after week for prayer?People can benefit from being prayed for by different prayer ministers. However, if someone becomes dependent on your team and asks for prayer too often, consult your prayer supervisor. The person may need extended counseling.
Is it OK for a prayer minister to ask for prayer ministry?Absolutely. If the Holy Spirit prompts you to ask for prayer, don’t hesitate. Receiving prayer is how prayer ministers learn and how they stay healthy.
Which is better? Offering prayer stations where people can see you praying publically or a prayer room which offers privacy?If you can, offer both options. Position prayer ministers in the front of the sanctuary where they are easily accessible and also provide a private room or curtained space where people can be prayed for privately. That way everyone has a choice.
How can my church encourage people to come forward for prayer?Encourage your pastor to come up for prayer. This modeling sends a strong signal that all of us need prayer from time to time.
Educate your congregation. Preach and teach about the power of prayer and the value of prayer ministry.
In churches where people come forward for communion, position prayer stations alongside communion servers. After taking communion, people can also choose to receive prayer for personal needs.
Ask those who have been helped by prayer to share their testimony.
Don’t limit prayer ministry to worship services. Pray for one another in Sunday school classes, church meetings and small groups. “Make prayer ministry a part of your church culture,” says Paul Anderson.
How do I know if God is calling me to be a prayer minister?Do you have empathy for hurting people?
Is prayer important to you? Do you hear God when He speaks to you?
When people have problems, do you feel led to pray for them?
When you pray for them, do they feel comforted, encouraged or more hopeful?
Have you experienced God’s love and power through prayer in your own life?
Seek confirmation about your calling from those close to you—a close friend, a pastor, a spouse.
Do prayer ministers need training?Absolutely. You need more than compassion to pray effectively for people. You also need skill, mentoring and experience to develop your gifts and abilities. Prayer Ventures provides training for altar ministry and for more in-depth prayer ministry as well. Check our calendar for training events.
How can I grow as a prayer minister?Be in the Word. Live in it. Breathe it. Let it infuse you.
Put on the armor daily (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Explore different kinds of prayer—praying Scripture, spiritual warfare, meditation, fasting.
Keep learning: books, podcasts & seminars.
Guard your personal health—good diet, recreational time, exercise regularly, open communication in relationships
Be in partnership with others in ministry.
Use your ministry gifts whenever you can. Pray with individuals, in small groups, at conferences. You’ll learn something new every time.
I want to learn more. Is there a resource you would recommend?Prayer Ministry: A Practical Handbook for Training Prayer Ministers by Paul Anderson (www.lutheranrenewal.org)