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Guest Column – How to spoil a prayer meeting

September 2005 | by Phil Arthur

Here are ten sure-fire tips guaranteed to make the corporate prayer life of any local church ineffective. Yes, your church can become weak and succumb to spiritual paralysis! Just follow these ten steps and the pulpit will lose its power, lives will cease to make an impact, and the church will become barely distinguishable from the world.

1. Don’t come.

Nothing undermines a prayer meeting quite so effectively as a people staying at home. The person who is absent for some avoidablereason achieves several things all at once. Firstly, he deprives those who have turned up of the encouragement of both his presence and his prayers. Secondly, if non-attendance becomes a habit, those who turn up conscientiously will begin to feel let down and ask themselves why they should bother when others don’t. Thirdly, it will even have an effect on the next generation. Children soon learn from their parents that the prayer meeting is at best an optional extra and at worst a tedious chore to be avoided.

2. Come ill-prepared.

Arrive in a flurry having given little thought to the business of the meeting and you will be flustered and preoccupied. Valuable time will be lost while you try to get your bearings and tune in. It will also help if you don’t pray for a blessing on the meeting before you come, asking the Lord to help you make a fruitful contribution. Furthermore, if your own personal prayer life is fragmentary and chaotic you can guarantee that this will make you feel inhibited about praying in public.

3. Come but don’t pray.

Though only one person prays aloud at a time, the idea is that everyone else listens with intense care and silently adds his own weight to the prayer of his brother or sister. Each phrase, each sentence, calls for thoughtful and intelligent appraisal so that we can make it our own and ensure that the words of one person become the prayer of all. As one person prays, others can silently plead with the Lord to help him — but if you allow your mind to wander, your brother is on his own.

4. Come but don’t pray aloud.

Some believers give the impression that they would rather attempt a bungee jump than say a sentence or two in company to the Heavenly Father who loves them so well that he sent his Son to die for them. It seems to be a real hurdle for some, but it is not as though they were being asked to die a martyr’s death. Keep silent and you can guarantee that your brothers and sisters will not have the wonderful encouragement of hearing your voice raised in prayer. You will also half convince yourself and others that the Scripture just isn’t true which says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). You may respond, ‘It’s my temperament, I can’t help it’. This too will help to undermine the claim that the gospel changes lives.

5. Assume that you can only pray for things that no one else has mentioned.

Many tell themselves that there is no need to pray for something because someone else has already covered the topic. But when one person after another raises the same issue, the Lord knows that the whole fellowship is united in its concern and longing — that there is a determination not to let the matter drop until the Almighty is left in no doubt that the church is of one mind.

6. Hog the proceedings

so that no one else gets a look-in. Try to use up as much time as possible, either by going on at enormous length or by praying over and over again to the exclusion of everyone else. Another tactic is to cover everything listed or raised for intercession in a single long prayer. This leaves others feeling that there is nothing left to be said.

7. Ensure that your voice doesn’t carry.

This is a wonderfully effective way of spreading confusion, since most of the others present are deprived of the opportunity to pray along with you. How can they, if they can only hear one word in three? You may be earnestly beseeching the Lord, but your brothers and sisters are mainly thinking: ‘Eh? What was that?’ This can be achieved by lowering your head and addressing your knees or cultivating a pious whisper.

8. Preach during your prayers.

Some like to work off their grudges against other believers or voice their complaints about their fellowship by dressing it up as a prayer. This has the benefit of leaving others feeling ‘got at’ and denying them any right of reply. Convention dictates that they must sit there, take it all on the chin and then add a thunderous Amen!

9. Teach God systematic theology

in your prayer.This is a futile exercise. He knows it all already.

10. Cultivate irritating mannerisms.

Try hard enough and you will find dozens of original ways of distracting people from what you are saying and encouraging them to concentrate instead on your habits of speech. One effective method is to take a particular word or phrase and sprinkle it liberally throughout your prayer. This includes frequent repetition of the word ‘Lord’ or the ‘prayer of the just’ (‘We justwant to thank you Lord because you are justso wonderful and we justlove to praise you …’) Once you get your brothers thinking ‘that’s the ninth time he’s used that phrase in a single prayer’, you have ensured that even if your mind is focused on prayer, his is not.

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