On a couple of occasions recently I've been called to lead a time of corporate prayer for ministries I'm involved in that face some real challenges. Of course I asked God how He wanted the prayer times to be led—and He gave me a picture. In my mind's eye, I saw Jesus, similar to how He is described in Revelation 1, walking among these ministries. He was talking to us, sometimes smiling, putting a hand warmly on a shoulder, sometimes looking serious and concerned.
Continuing my reflection, I turned to Revelation and meditated on the first three chapters. With what I read there along with the picture God gave me, I sensed how He wanted the prayer times to be led. The format was very simple. It went like this:
Start with worship. In Revelation 1, John has a vision of Jesus that literally causes him to fall on his face. Although John was probably Jesus' closest friend on earth--intimate enough that he rested his head on Jesus' bosom--this is the glorified Jesus John is seeing now, and his response is holy fear, awe and worship. Worship is an excellent way to start a time of prayer for your church or ministry. Whatever challenges it faces, a vision of Jesus in His glory puts things into perspective. During one of our prayer times we started the worship part by singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" and then offered short prayers of praise and worship.
Thank God for the good. When our churches or ministries are going through hard times, it's easy to lose sight of what's going well. In our recent Revelation-based prayer times, we recalled that as He walked through each of the seven churches in Chapters 2 and 3, Jesus commended the good He saw there. He noticed how different churches had exhibited hard work, perseverance, faithfulness, and so on. So we asked Him to help us see the things in our fellowships that bring Him pleasure. We listened quietly for a while, then thanked Him for what the Holy Spirit brought to mind. There were some surprises--joys we'd nearly lost sight of in the midst of the more recent challenges. Being reminded of and expressing gratitude for those goodnesses gave us courage and hope.
Repent of personal sin. However, Jesus did not only commend the good. He also had things "against" the churches. When He looks at our fellowships, I'm sure He also notices where we're falling short. Often it's easy for us--okay, for me--to think the "problem" is everybody else. But guess what, I'm part of the body, and I make my contribution to its dis-ease. So in our prayer times, we allowed everyone a chance to invite the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and then confess what He revealed. Many of us confessed sins in our reactions to the problems our ministries are facing. Reactions of bitterness, detachment, discouragement, pride, anger, frustration, fear-of-man, arrogance, futility, and so on. It was really good to receive God's forgiveness for these. Doing so put is a much more humble and understanding place to move on to the next part.
Intercede for what is not going well. In each case, those of us who gathered for prayer had ideas of what we each thought was out of line. But as we prayed with this Revelation format, asking Jesu to show us what He saw, some of those ideas were adjusted, others dropped, new ones added. How Jesus saw us was not exactly how we had seen ourselves. He revealed heart attitudes, spiritual warfare, seemingly trivial actions--things we hadn't seen or considered--and led us to confess them on behalf of the body and intercede for repentance.
Close with confidence. At the end of Revelation 3, in a verse familiar to most of us, Jesus says that He is knocking at our "doors." If we will hear Him and invite Him in, He will share a meal with us--He will fellowship with us. Knowing this gives me great confidence. Whatever challenges and distress our ministires find ourselves in, Jesus is still knocking, not giving up, wanting to come in and be with us and lead us into life. So we closed our prayer times with declarations of our confidence in Him--His love, guidance, truth, help, rescue, healing, and so forth.
It's too soon to know the big-picture outcomes of our prayer times. But I do know that all of us who participated went away knowing we'd connected with Jesus, and that inspite of our struggles, He was still with us and for us and and working among us to make things right and whole. If you lead prayer for a ministry that is facing tough situations, perhaps you'd want to try leading a prayer time with the Revelation format. Let me know how it goes.