Knowing how to care for intercessory prayer group members will keep your prayer team strong. Intercessory prayer groups pray for the needs of others and this can sometimes be draining emotionally and spiritually. This article will help you care for intercessory prayer group members through training, volunteer appreciation, personal care and encouragement.
Care for intercessory prayer group members by offering training.
Leaders often overlook the need to train intercessory prayer group members. Here are some key ideas in training intercessory prayer group members.
Create a clear intercessory prayer group job description. Every volunteer needs to know what they are supposed to do. It’s a good idea to write down a job description for your intercessory prayer group just as you would for any other job. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it does have to be specific. Things to cover in the description include where you will be meeting, when, for what you will be praying and how the prayer time will be done.
As an example, I am the leader of a church intercessory prayer group called the Flamebearers. When inviting new members I tell them that our purpose is to pray for staff, volunteers and ministries at our church. I tell them that we meet the last Thursday of every month at 7 PM at the church. I explain to them that at the meeting we will share prayer requests out loud and then have a time of prayer for these requests where anyone who feels so led may pray.
I also tell them that each person will receive yearly prayer assignments in the form of a sheet containing the names of staff members and volunteers for a committee at church. This is their unique list of names to cover in prayer at the time they choose during the week.
I tell them that will send out an email reminder of our upcoming meeting and request members to respond to let us know whether or not they will be able to come. Those who are unable to attend are expected to continue praying for their assigned list at home.
Provide periodic training for your intercessory prayer group. Training can be informal or formal.
Some ideas for informal training include having intercessory prayer group members share ideas from their own experiences that will help their fellow prayer team members. As an example, with the Flamebearers I ask members to share with the group when or how they pray over their assigned prayer list during the week. One woman shared that she keeps hers in a drawer by the chair where she sits for her morning quiet time and takes the sheet out and prays over the list then. Another person shared that they memorize the names and pray for them during a morning prayer walk.
More formal training might include doing a short study on intercessory prayer, memorizing Scriptures on prayer together, having a devotional about prayer before beginning the meeting or having a workshop on praying Scriptures or standing in the gap in prayer or praying using the laying on of hands.
You can also give intercessory prayer group members books on prayer or other inspirational materials. Or you can invite in an outside speaker to give a prayer testimony or teach on some aspect of prayer.
Care for intercessory prayer group members through appreciation.
Showing appreciation to intercessory prayer group members can be done through informal or formal means.
You can informally thank intercessory prayer group members in many ways. It’s easy to say a word of appreciation to the group before or after the meetings. Whenever I send out emails to the Flamebearers I thank them. One of my favorite ways of saying is “Thank you for all that you do in God’s Kingdom!” Another idea is to specifically thank someone for a prayer they offered by saying something like, “I appreciated so much the prayer you said for the children’s ministry. It’s such a vital ministry in our church.” Or you can recognize them for the effort they’ve made, such as, “I appreciate you all making the effort to come out on such a rainy night.”
More formal means of expressing appreciation to intercessory prayer group members is via recognition. As an example, you might have the Intercessory prayer team members stand during part of a church worship service to be recognized and the minister can say a prayer of dedication or thanksgiving over them.
One church I know with a large, very active and well organized intercessory prayer team holds an annual appreciation dinner for the prayer team members. Although you may not have the money for such a big event, you can do smaller times of recognition. In our church we discovered that we had never really recognized or honored the members of our email prayer chain. We decided to invite them to the prayer chapel for light refreshments between the Sunday school and church hour. We also gave out books on prayer to them that had been donated to us.
And don’t overlook recognizing intercessory prayer team members via written means. You could list their names in the bulletin one Sunday or in your church newsletter or email newsletter. You could create a poster or a bulletin board with their names and how many years they have been part of a prayer group. You could give out pins, or have special nametags made for them. Or you can send them a note or post card in the mail.
Our church prayer committee had special church nametags made up for members of the prayer committee that said “Prayer team” and had our name on them. That helps others identify us as part of the prayer team in case they would like for us to pray for them or with them.
Although intercessory prayer group members pray because they are called by God and they have a heart for others, everyone can use a word or act of appreciation to thank them for a job well done.
Care for intercessory prayer group members through personal care.
An intercessory prayer team is a small group and as such team members might need personal care.
One way to do this is through making praying for each other a part of the planned prayer meeting. As an example in the Flamebearer’s prayer group, in addition to praying for our church leaders and events, we also pray for each other.
We don’t go around the circle asking for personal requests but simply let members know that they are welcome to share a personal request during the meeting. In special cases, such as an illness, we may even do a special prayer for them by having them sit in a chair as we gather around them and put our hands on their shoulders as we pray. This has meant so much to all of us whenever we are facing difficulties.
Another way to care for intercessory prayer group members is by reaching out to members who may have disengaged from the group. If you’re a group that meets regularly, contact those who miss meetings to check in with them to see how they’re doing.
At our church, the email prayer chain is sent out via an email newsletter program which allows the leader to see who has opened the email and who hasn’t. The leader makes note of it and if someone consistently fails to open the requests, she contacts them to see what’s going on in their life and offers to pray for them if they are going through a difficulty. She also asks them questions to determine if their schedule has changed in a way that makes it hard for them to continue on the prayer chain.
The leader can also pray personally for intercessory group members. As an example, I sometimes ask each group member to share one personal prayer request for which I will be praying during till our next meeting.
Having times of fellowship is also good for intercessory prayer group members. The Flamebearers has a pot luck dinner at Christmas in the home of one of our members. We invite our spouses to attend and this helps us all feel closer to one another.
Care for intercessory prayer group members through encouragement.
Encouragement helps intercessors stay motivated and helps them see that their prayers are making a difference. Often intercessors are asking God to send help to someone they may not know and may never meet. That’s why seeing results of prayer is sometimes difficult and this can be discouraging.
For this reason, many intercessory prayer groups keep track of requests so they can remember them when progress has been made. That’s why it’s important to emphasize having a time to share praises about how things are going as a result of prayer. Praises can be a huge motivator for your group!
A number of years ago when I was the head of a phone prayer chain there was a woman I called our “best customer” because she called in a request to at least once a week. She had a complicated life situation with blended family issues, health conditions and employment problems. Thankfully, she knew the art of asking for specific prayer and also for seeing prayer answers whenever progress was made in the right direction.
As an example, she might ask us to pray about her back problems and in a few days she’d call back with a praise to pass along that she had gotten an appointment with a new doctor. Most people waited until they had a final resolution to a problem before sending it along to us as a praise. You can see why I called her our “best customer” because of the way she kept encouraging us!
As a prayer leader, you can have a very positive impact by letting both those giving requests and those praying for them know that there are many ways that God answers prayer. It’s often by small day by day graces and steps forward that the big final answers come. Counting the progress along the way will help everyone see God’s hand at work. If you’d like to know more about this read our article Finding an answer to every prayer.
It can also be greatly encouraging to prayer group members to hear testimonies from you or other group members about how God has answered your prayers.
My personal experiences with how to care for intercessory prayer group members
Through some of the illustrations that I’ve shared you know that participated in a number of different kinds of intercessory prayer groups over the years.
One thing I found out is that at times I felt a burned out, especially when I was on a church phone prayer chain. It seemed like all of the worst things that happened got passed through the prayer chain. Divorces, serious operations, chronic health issues, unemployment, accidents, deaths. One time we even prayed about an accidental electrocution. Another time when I was leading the prayer chain I told someone that you needed to be a nurse to do it because of all of the different diseases with big names we were praying about.
As a result of my experiences, I tell groups that intercessory prayer is ministry work, with an emphasis on the word work. Often you expend a lot of emotional, physical and spiritual energy praying for requests, not to mention sometimes interrupting what you’re doing to pray if something comes through email or a phone call. And don’t forget the spiritual battles you are also waging for others against the spirits of depression, hopelessness and rebellion.
From my own experience I see why it‘s so important to care for intercessory prayer group members. Pray about ways God might lead you to care for your prayer team members today.
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Copyright Karen Barber 2019. All rights reserved.