“The Silver Bullet” – Prayer

ladyprayerI have taught adult Sunday School for a number of years. When I first started teaching, we always began our class time with prayer requests and praises written on a white board. Over the years, I began to realize that our class was the main point of contact for the needs of many who attend First Christian Church. I discovered this one Sunday when I shared a progress report for a prayer request for a serious health situation in our class with one of the pastors and not only was he not aware of the need, he was not sure he knew the person I was talking about. He was compassionate but not alarmed by his lack of knowledge – because as he pointed out, the church had grown to the point that he could not possibly know every single person in the congregation. He emphasized his confidence in me to be the pastoral ambassador to the members of our class on behalf of church leadership. I left the conversation with a revelation that my role had expanded. Up to that point, I had diligently worked on my lesson preparations and certainly cared for the people who attended our class, but I began to pray and ask God to give me a shepherd’s heart for them.

In 1 Peter 5:2-4 God’s word instructs us: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

This Scripture helped form the prayer of my heart asking God to shape me into a shepherd that could care for His flock. In prayer, we partner with God’s shepherding – He is the Chief Shepherd – and our task is to extend with human hands, the care He desires for each member of our small group or class. Whether we have a group for a 3 week session or extended relationships built over years through a class or small group, our prayers for them are seeds sown eternally.

I am reading a book entitled The Circle Maker written by Mark Batterson. He has some things to say about our prayers that I believe to be true:

CircleMaker“Prayer is like seed planted. It disappears for a season but eventually bears fruit for future generations and forever. {Prayers} never die. Prayer is an inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave. {Prayers} have no time or space restrictions. You never know when God’s timeless answer will reenter our atmosphere. He answers {prayers} forever.”
(Paraphrased quotes from pgs 135 and 136 The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson; Zondervan, 2011

Another passage of Scripture that has been a teaching for me on God’s heart for the role of shepherd is found in Ezekiel 34. This passage tells us a lot about what God doesn’t like, and from it we can draw conclusions on what He does like:

Shepherds are instructed to:

  •  Take care of the flock
  •  Look out for their physical needs
  •  Look out for the health and the weaknesses of the flock
  •  Live sacrificially for the flock
  •  Make effort to search and seek out those that belong to His flock

In this passage from Ezekiel, God was upset with the leaders and their selfish ways.. God promised to tend His flock Himself since the leaders had failed to fulfill their calling.  When we pray for our class, small group, and one another, as teachers and leaders, we are bringing the flock to God to care for them. We are asking Him to meet their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. In prayer, we receive His counsel and wisdom for any action we need to take to be His hands and feet. In prayer, we receive discernment for places where they may be straying and power to reach the lost.  All of the responsibilities of a shepherd can only be fulfilled through prayer, and taking the time to pray for your flock and for your role as leader is a sacrifice of time and heart.

As God answers our prayer for shepherd’s hearts, we will begin to become more and more aware of the needs and concerns of others. Not only will we be praying for the people who attend our group or class, but their extended lives as well. They begin to bring the needs of others – family; friends; neighbors and co-workers to add to our prayer lists. This can become overwhelming and we can begin to struggle with the practicality of lengthy prayer lists. I would like to offer just a couple of practical suggestions that I have found to be helpful.

First – The class’s prayer list – at the opening of class we list the praises and requests for the past week. I will tell you up front this is time consuming, but as I tell our class – if that was all we got done, it is the most important thing. The reason this is effective is because we pray through the list at that time together in agreement. As a community, others in the class pick up prayer assignments for one another. There is a fellowship that grows as the Spirit prompts different people to pray for different situations. The burden of prayer becomes shared as the flock learns to tend one another under your prayerful leadership.

Second —- I recommend some method of recording prayers that works for you– I use this journal. Record and date the prayer requests. I do not pray every single prayer ever day. I do pray from the journal most days and on certain days I do pray through all of them. I also take my journal when I know I will have a wait somewhere and use that time to pray for the needs I have recorded.

Third — Follow up on prayer requests as the Holy Spirit leads you. Write notes, make calls, send an email, shoot a text. Be sure to record with a praise and the date when a prayer is answered. It is also important and helpful to record ways God has been working as you wait for the answer to some prayers.

Last of all, and hardest is – Know when to “release” – be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and realize that a time comes when the assignment is over for you. When you are no longer praying effectively, ask God if it is time to release this prayer. We will not know the answer to all the prayers we pray. We must trust that God has answered or passed the burden on to another prayer person and listen for God’s leading when it is time to let it go.

I would like to leave you with words from Oral Roberts that have given me great encouragement in my prayers recently:

9780615252971He writes in his book, The Ultimate Voice, {Pengold Garrett and Associates, 2008, page 129}.
“There’s a huge and important difference in faith directed TO God and faith aimed toward anyone or anything other than God. You don’t have to believe that a particular thing will happen, or believe that it will happen in a particular way. You just need to believe in God and in His wisdom to know what should happen, how it should happen and when it should happen. You don’t have to believe that some things will change or that some things will become established. You just need to believe in God and trust Him to change whatever needs to be changed. You don’t have to believe that certain people will do what you want them to do. You just need to believe in God and trust Him to turn the hearts of anybody whose heart needs to be turned. God is the source of our faith, and my faith must always be directed to Him as the Source of my total supply. Faith comes from God, and goes back to God.”

I have actually written these words in my prayer journal as a reminder that it is not my prayers that will meet the needs of the flock under my care, but my faith is in God to meet their needs. Prayer forces us to move in God’s timing and to seek His face to fulfill the calling He has placed on our lives. May God bless each of you as you serve Him by tending His flock.

Laura Reimer
Small Groups Coach
Deacon of Christian Education

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