Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back to the Prayer Process

A few days ago I posted some of my thoughts about prayer and learning to hear God. I have been distracted a bit by other matters and will add a few ideas about some of the principles of moving a group to listen to the Holy Spirit.

WATCH Prayer Meetings

The following acrostic sets out a process which can guide us as we practice Seeking Prayer in a group setting. The word, WATCH gives the process a simple outline.

W-WELCOME God and each other
A-ATTEND to God and each other
T-TELL God and each other your story
C-CALL upon God for help
H-HEAR God and one another

When we practice all these principles we will usually discover that the Lord shows up and the group experiences His presence. Remember, however, that this is a dynamic process not one governed by legalistic rules. Sometimes Attend comes before the Welcome. We may hear the Lord speak about His agenda prior to our arrival at the meeting.

When serving on the pastoral staff of a large congregation we oversaw two monthly services of healing and worship that practiced these principles. The elders gathered prior to each service to Seek God’s guidance about the upcoming event. We wanted to get an idea about the direction He would take us. This enabled us to guide the interactions, worship and preaching. Sometimes a person shares a “Word of knowledge or a Prophesy” that contradicted the direction we had received at the Seeking Meeting.

During a dialogue prayer time we need to be flexible and sensitive to the dynamics of the group. This requires that we are humble about who gives guidance and direction. Sometimes a young, inexperienced or immature person will get a word from the Lord and the wiser, mare mature members will have to swallow their pride and follow the younger one. Many are the times when God has tested our humility by giving a word to an “unworthy” person.

In the early days of our ministry to college students and street people we saw God reveal our pride. God works in a mysterious way and the Spirit guided our actions and allowed us to fail many times because we needed to trust in Him not our own wisdom. For example, a group of us met to prepare for a time of prayer for a man who was deeply troubled. He was a recent graduate of the Arizona penitentiary whom we had taken in to live with us.

During the preparation time, the Lord directed us to ask a young believer named Philip to lead the ministry process. So, we were excited about the time with Charles. We expected God to set him free. However, as we ministered to Charles it was obvious that we had no wisdom, no discernment and no power. It was embarrassing and disappointing.

The next day we met with our tail between our legs for an evaluation. I reviewed the experience and asked everyone to share his thoughts about why God did not show up. Jim listened for awhile but looked awfully uncomfortable. We asked him what was wrong. He stuttered and stumbled for awhile but finally confessed that he was angry at the meeting the night before and God had convicted him of his sin. “I was upset that Philip was the leader not me. I was thinking, ‘I am older in the Lord than he is. Philip has never done anything like this and it shows that you love him more than me’. As I prayed this morning I was really convicted about my attitude.”

Jim's confession revealed why we were impotent. Pride and anger interfered with our operating in union with Christ. God allowed us to fail. The failure showed us that we needed healing ourselves. We were not ready to pray for Charles until we prayed for ourselves. We needed to Seek God’s unity and healing before we had anything to say to Charley. We had failed at the most basic part of ministry, hearing God for ourselves.

“Physician heal thyself!”

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