Doxology: How Worship Works (New Book!)

Books, Music, Prayer, Preaching, The Church, The Gospel, Theology, Worship

(by: Nicolas Alford)

I’m so excited to share that Free Grace Press is publishing Doxology: How Worship Works, a book I’ve written to assist the church in offering faithful praise to God. I love the cover art that the publisher put together, and I’m humbled by the kind endorsements from men I respect:

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The Kindle Edition is available now; the paperback should be ready in a few days. A deep thanks to all who have already purchased a copy and sent some encouraging words– it’s satisfying to know the Lord is already using it among his people.

If you’re interested in receiving a copy for review on your blog or other media platform, please reach out via social media or the contact form on The Decablog. If you’ve read a copy (and liked it 😉 ), don’t hesitate to leave a short review on Amazon.

May the Lord use this little effort to promote the praise of his glorious name.

The Blessing of Argumentative Prayer


prayerIn a few recent church prayer meetings my Pastor has been leading us in devotions from Isaiah 62.  I have been struck afresh by the language that is used in verse 6, that we are to give God “no rest” until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.  Did you catch that?  Did the Bible really just tell weak minuscule creatures like us to give the omnipotent Creator God no rest until he acts? Have you ever been struck by the unexpected and radical nature of that command?

It it really appropriate to use that sort of language, or should we not follow this example?  Is it right to actively pursue the blessing of God through prayer or should be just passively acknowledge his sovereignty?  Is it ok to reason with God, indeed to present arguments to Him, or is that a horrendously inappropriate way for the creature to approach the Creator?  I believe God not only allows, He actually commands argumentative prayers.  Let’s look at five aspects of the blessing of argumentative prayer.

1. There is a vast difference between arguing to, and arguing with God.

Arguing with God is a sin.  We have no right to bicker with the Lord Sabaoth.  That’s a recipe for rebuke, and not something I would ever argue for the blessings of.  In fact, when you consider who He is and who we are… it’s basically an illustration of the insanity of sin to argue with God.

But arguing to God is a whole different matter.  I’m not talking about the ways we foster bitterness against the Lord for what he has done, or that arrogant mindset that believes we would have done better than He.  That sort of argumentativeness, like all sin, should be put on sanctification death-row and briskly executed.  But there is a way of arguing without being sinfully argumentative.  What I mean is this: we not only may, but actually ought to offer careful arguments to God when we seek his power and blessing upon our lives and gospel labors.  The Redeemer would have us give Him reasons in our prayers.  With this crucial distinction in mind, we can move on to the next point.

2. The Bible is full of examples of saints offering argumentative prayers.

We’ve already seen that Isaiah 62 tells us to give the Lord “no rest” until he acts.  This is vividly illustrated in a historic event when we look at Genesis 32 and see Jacob wrestling with God throughout the night, unwilling to give him “rest” until he receives the blessing.  But for the most frequent example, we must look to the Psalms.

The Psalms are refreshingly uncensored.  Here we find the words to express the totality of the human experience in all of its many aspects- expressions of comfort, but also confusion and pain.   Soaring language about hope and deliverance, but also the frequent expression of real fear.  Joy poured out in tears, but also the stinging tears of sorrow.  Assurance and doubt exists in the Psalms side by side like an old married couple on a city park bench.

The Psalms are all about the honest and uncensored living of life in a fallen world before the face of God Almighty.  They express the full breadth of the human condition but they never express it in a vacuum, and never unto itself.  The Psalms express the redeemed human condition in the context of life lived in the presence of the Redeemer.  They are therefore perhaps the richest of all teachers in the school of Christian prayer.

There is no shortage of Psalms available to illustrate the point of this post, but I’ll just look at one.  Let the reader amend their own examples as they so wish.

Psalm 13 starts our with a cry of distress.  The Psalmist says

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul

and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2, ESV)

Much could be said concerning these verses, but for our purposes it is sufficient to see that we are dealing with a man in deep distress.  He says “How long,” expressing that he has either been in his distressing situation for quite some time, or it is of such an intensity that we cannot long endure it, or some combination thereof.  He has turned inward in terror, is full of sorrow, and is forced to see his enemies lifted up around him.  So in the next two verses his prayer goes from lament to supplication.  And he argues.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. (Psalm 13:3-4, ESV)

Did you catch that first word?  Consider.  Consider this, Lord.  What a request to make of Omniscience!  And he even develops his argument, in effect saying, “Lord, if you do not hear me, this and this and this will be the result.  Consider that if you do not hear my cry, I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemies will not only prevail against me they will rejoice in my defeat.  Lord, consider these things.”

This is just one example of what we see again and again in the prayers of the Biblical saints.  More could be explored, but this is a blog and not a book.  Suffice to say, there is a holy sort of argument that can and should be offered to God, not so much because of what it does for Him, but rather because of what it does for us.  More on that to follow.

3. The God who ordains the ends has also ordained the means.

There is more to say on Psalm 13 related to our topic, but at this point we have to pause and ask a question.  Why would God command this sort of prayer?  Why would the God who is for example, completely sovereign over the salvation of men according to Romans 9 say in Luke 10 …the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest…?

Again, it can be difficult to bump up against big questions in the small confines of a blog.  For what we are talking about now, I do think the most important principle to point out is that the God who ordains the ends (that is, the things that come to pass) is the same God who ordains the means (the various ways that those ends come into being).  He not only knows what will happen, he has actually decreed that those very things would come to pass.  But he generally doesn’t ordain that they pop into existence apart of normal means!  If he has created the beauty of a forrest, he has done so by the means of seeds, light, water and time.  Similarly, if he has ordained deliverance for you from a particular situation, or the salvation of a lost person’s soul He has also ordained the various means he will use to bring it about.  And one of the crucial means He uses is the prayers of His people.  God wants us to pray without ceasing, to pray earnestly, to pray even for specific things in the manner requested by Paul in Colossians 4:2-4:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Yet as we consider the specific question of offering reasoned arguments to God in prayer, we still need more guidance.  On what basis can we possibly offer and argument to God, pleading with Him to act?

4. The only basis upon which to reason to God are his own divine promises.

On what possible basis does a mere man reason with God?  There is only one good, biblical answer to that question.    That answer is that we only reason with the Lord on the basis of the Lord’s own promises.  When begging the Lord to consider something, the only place we can point to is the very words of the Lord himself.

Offering arguments to God does not mean that we can reason with God and get Him to somehow course-correct or remind Him of something He has forgotten.  But it is true that part of the way our Lord has chosen to unfold his plan for history and for our lives in particular is through the means of prayer, and in those prayers he not only allows us, but we have biblical precedent for reminding, as it were, the Lord Himself of His own promises.  Look at this illustrated in the cry of Jeremiah:

Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;

do not dishonor your glorious throne;

remember and do not break your covenant with us.

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?

Or can the heavens give showers?

Are you not he, O Lord our God?

We set our hope on you,

for you do all these things (Jeremiah 14:20-22).

Notice the specific arguments- Lord, is there any other?  Lord, are you not the only one who can deliver us from our current trouble?  Are you not he, O Lord our God?

The beauty of argumentative prayer is that it reminds us of the rock solid promises of God.  It forces God’s people to consider His character, to rehearse out loud the various covenantal oaths he has sworn to uphold.  Ultimately, although God certainly makes use of the means of prayer in accomplishing his will, this is for us and not for Him.

5. The only attitude to take in such prayers is utter humility and astounded wonder.

I have primarily used two examples in this post, Psalm 13 and Jeremiah 14.  Notice that in Psalm 13:5-6, just after offering an argumentative prayer, the Psalmist explodes in praise to God:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

And just prior to arguing for the deliverance of God on the basis of the covenant and the unique ability of God to save, the prophet is driven low in humble acknowledgment of his position before God in Jeremiah  14:20:

We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord,

and the iniquity of our fathers,

for we have sinned against you.

The first reaction to argumentative prayer might be to think that it is arrogant and bitter.  But in both theses cases we see that it is couched in utter humility and astounded wonder.

So can we pray this way today?  The answer is simple: we must.  We must pray with urgency and zeal, we must plead the very promises of God back to Him.  We must argue to God in prayer, unto His own glory.  We must argue that the salvation of souls will magnify his name in all the earth.  We must argue that he has sworn merciful promises to us in His New Covenant.  He not only allows this, I believe He desires it.

Because when we argue to God on the basis of His own promises, and in the interest of His own glory, it is an argument He always wins.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Check out these previous Decablog posts on prayer-

Prayer According to God’s Will

Conducting Effective Prayer Meetings

Prayer According to God’s Will

Christian Living, Prayer

prayerI was recently asked by a brother in our congregation about prayer in light of 1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” The question revolved around whether or not we ought to be praying for specifics that are concealed in the secret will of God. In other words, given John’s statement that when we “ask anything according to [God’s] will he hears us,” shouldn’t we only pray in accordance with those things we know to be true from God’s revealed will?

More specifically, should we pray that God heal someone from a particular infirmity, or should we only pray that an individual suffer well as a child of God, with patience, endurance, and hope in the resurrection to come? Should we ask God to regenerate the heart of a specific individual that they might become a new creation in Christ, or ought we to simply ask God to make us faithful ambassadors of Christ, taking every opportunity we have to point people to the truth of the gospel? The difference is that God has not promised to heal specific individuals of their suffering in this life, nor has he told us who his elect are throughout the world. So is it wrong for us to pray for those things which God has not made clear?

It’s a good question and certainly worthy of every Christian’s time and consideration. My answer is, it depends! Surely if a man asks God to help him keep his adulterous relationship a secret from his wife, or if I ask God to make me a more savvy thief, we are not praying in accordance with God’s will. However, God’s character and nature can inform our prayers that they be consistent with His revealed will, even though they may not come to pass in the way we ask because God’s eternal plan is concealed in his secret will.

There are various kinds of prayers all throughout the Bible: Prayers of adoration and praise, prayers of confession and repentance, prayers of rejoicing and thanksgiving, imprecatory prayers, and prayers of intercession and supplication. A Christian’s time before the Lord in prayer should include each of these elements, and we would be well served by utilizing the prayers of the Bible to give a launching point for each type of prayer in our daily, private worship. But the question at hand is really dealing specifically with supplication or intercessory prayer.

I turn to the words of Matthew Henry:

“[W]e must not think in our prayers to prescribe to him, or by our opportunity to move him. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and knows what he will do. But thus we open our wants and our desires, and then refer ourselves to his wisdom and goodness; and hereby we give honour to him as our protector and benefactor, and take the way which he himself hath appointed, of fetching in mercy from him, and by faith plead his promise with him, and if we are sincere herein, we are, through his grace, qualified according to the tenor of the new covenant to receive his favours, and are to be assured that we do, and shall receive them.”

I appreciate the balance struck by Henry: We are not setting out in prayer to change the mind or will of God, but to simply make known to him our “wants and our desires” while simultaneously settling in our hearts that it is God’s will we ultimately desire to see fulfilled, not our own. I am reminded of the prayer of Jesus as he prepared for death on the cross: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus knew there was no other way, and yet in his humanity desired to be delivered from the inevitable. Likewise we might pray, “Father, while I know my prognosis from the cancer is terminal, if you are willing, would you heal my body? Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Or, “Father, my neighbor is so far from you and scoffs at the name of Jesus. He will not hear the gospel, but would you be pleased to send the Holy Spirit to arrest his heart and give me the opportunity to share the truth with him? Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

R.C. Sproul writes:

“Nothing is too big or too small to bring before God in prayer, as long as it is not something we know to be contrary to the expressed will of God as made clear in His Word… What is important to us may also be important to our Father. If we are not sure about the propriety of our request, we should tell that to God. James 1:5 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ The Greek phrase translated ‘without reproach’ literally means ‘without throwing it back in your face.’ We don’t need to be afraid of the reproach of God, provided we are sincerely seeking His will in a given situation.”

So how might we use the Word of God (his revealed will) to pray specifically for individuals or circumstances that are uncertain to us (his secret will)?

  1. Identify your motive: Why are you bringing your request before God? “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3).
  2. Search the Scriptures: Are you asking for something contrary to the revealed will of God? Has God already answered your request in His Word?
  3. Know God: Is your petition consistent with the nature and character of God? Has He shown in His Word that what you are asking is what He has done before and would do again in the future? Perhaps this takes some explanation. While God has shown in His Word that He has healed myriads of people throughout history through various means, he has not shown in His Word that He will give a man a set of wings that he might fly away from his circumstances. Likewise, nothing of Scripture suggests that God has ceased in the healing of the infirmities of mankind, therefore it’s not an unreasonable request that is contrary to the nature of God. Contrarily, many elements of God’s past dealings with mankind have ceased to include the gifts of tongues and prophecy, and it would be a great error to seek such things. Furthermore, God is a God of redemption and takes no delight in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32). He has saved and continues to save a people from the wrath to come by the hearing of the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit to grant faith and repentance in Christ Jesus alone. Therefore, it is consistent with God’s nature and character that we might pray for the salvation of our neighbor.
  4. Remember who prayer is for: Prayer is not about man changing the mind of God, but rather God conforming the heart of man to be more humble, faithful, reverent, and trusting in the everlasting promises of God to His people. Our persistence in prayer is not to annoy God into submission, but rather to build within us a greater patience and trust in the reality that He is sovereign over all things, and our trust needs to be constantly bound up in him alone.
  5. Remember God’s Will is not always your own: There is as much to be learned in God not answering our prayers in the way we desire as there is in when He does. When God doesn’t heal or save the individual I’ve prayed for, there’s not failure on God’s part, but rather an opportunity for me to be reminded that God’s ways are greater than my own, and His eternal plans are far more wise than my short-term longings. “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”
  6. Pray God’s revealed Will: The primary emphasis of our prayers of intercession and supplication should be focused on what God has revealed in His Word. While praying for the sick, it is good and right to ask God to heal them, but all the more important to pray, “God, they are your servant – will you help them to suffer well with patience and perseverance that you would be glorified through them? May it be that others see the hope that is within them and inquire as to why they find joy in the midst of trials.”

Prayer is about a Christian’s communion with God and union with Christ. “Lord, here is what I desire, and as I look in your Word, I don’t see that what I’m asking is wrong or opposed to your Word or your nature or your character, but Lord I want your will to be done, not mine, for I know that your will is far greater than anything I could hope or imagine – so whatever the outcome, will you help me trust you, will you humble me to submit myself to you and your will that you might be glorified through the circumstances of my life both now and in the future?”

John Calvin writes:

[Prayer is] not so much for his sake as for ours. He wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging that all which men desire or feel to be useful, and pray to obtain, is derived from him. But even the benefit of [giving ourselves in prayer] which we thus pay him redounds to ourselves [it is to our benefit]. Hence the holy [fathers], the more confidently they proclaimed the mercies of God to themselves and others, felt the stronger incitement to prayer… it is very much for our interest to be constantly [calling out to] him; first, that our heart may always be inflamed with a serious and ardent desire of seeking, loving, and serving him, while we accustom ourselves to have recourse to him as a sacred anchor in every necessity; secondly, that no desire, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to make him the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place all our wishes in his sight, and thus pour out our heart before him; and, lastly, that we may be prepared to receive all his benefits with true gratitude and thanksgiving, while our prayers remind us that they proceed from his hand.

Therefore I conclude it is entirely appropriate for a Christian to pray for those things which are not explicitly revealed in the Scriptures, and yet remain consistent with God’s nature and character and are not opposed to the Law of God. In doing so, we are asking according to his will and He hears us. Praise God!

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Biblical Responses to The Boston Bombings

Christian Living, News, Prayer, The Gospel

Like most, I received the news of yesterday’s attacks in Boston with a familiar sickness.  While this sort of mass murder should always grieve us, it is undeniable that that which hits closest to home hits hardest.  The familiarity I felt was to that day many Septembers ago when I woke up to shaky video clips of planes crashing into buildings and people who could be my friends and relatives running for their lives in a city not so different from my own.  Now we have footage of a fireball going off in an unsuspecting crowd, of people gathered for a day of fun and sport instead fleeing for safety, and of heart rending violence played out on a Boston sidewalk.

This is heavy on my heart today, and so as I think through a Biblical response I wanted to share what I feel is an appropriate way for the Christian to respond to these horrific events.  Specifically, a Biblical response to the Boston bombings includes…

1. Appropriate Sorrow

When Jesus saw human suffering he was moved with compassion (Mark 1:41 et al).  The Creator is intimately concerned with the pains, fears, and sorrows of His creatures.  Following His example, our hearts should ache for those who have lost loved ones, for those who are even now waking up in hospitals- facing a life forever changed by the violence that erupted yesterday, and for a nation once again dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Christians ought to respond to tragedy with open hearts ready to grieve with those who grieve (Romans 12:15) and with open hands ready to relieve suffering as we are able (Galatians 6:10).  We ought to be driven in prayer to cry out for those in pain, and to seek the Lord’s mercy and comfort for them in their day of sorrow.

2. Righteous Anger

We do not worship the impersonal and passive idol of Deism.  Our God hates injustice.  He is the advocate of the widow and the orphan.  He hates what happened in Boston with a righteous fury, and it is not wrong that we feel anger about it as well.  We should be angry that men spit in the face of God, breaking his sixth commandment and treating as worthless that which God has called “very good” and “made in His image” (Genesis 1:27, 31)

3. Chastened Patience

It is easy for righteous anger to slip into imprudent haste and unwarranted conclusions.  We don’t yet know who committed yesterday’s crime, and the history of “first reports often overturned” should make us patient about speculation until more information is known (Proverbs 18:17).

4. Transcendent Hope

It is wrong for Christians to be nonplussed by tragedy under the false guise of being “spiritually minded” or a false understanding of “trusting God’s sovereignty.”   However, it is also wrong for us to “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13).  The promise of the gospel gives us a confidence that can transcend even the darkest hour, even when that “dark hour” bombards us through rebroadcast on the 24/7 news cycle.  We do not rest our hopes in the hands of men, nor are they dashed by men’s wicked deeds; rather we rest them in the hands of God who is governing and guiding this world toward a great deliverance and future glory (Romans 8:18-25).

5. Eager Longing

Every time a bomb or a bullet rips through a human being it leaves more than a trail of medical trauma and human suffering.  It leaves behind the exit wounds of a fallen world crying out for deliverance.  May God help us to have our hands quick to relieve the suffering of the present hour even as our hearts long for the age to come- the age of no more tears, no more sadness, no more death.

May we all say “Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

One Last Thought

As I ready this post for publication, one last thought does come to mind.  Yesterday people gathered in Boston to participate in a sport that celebrates the joy of running- the undeniable lift that a human being experiences when putting his God-formed body to use in a display of God’s brilliant design and the admirable discipline of human training.  Yet wicked men instead made them run in panic and fear.  This inversion of God’s good creation is at its root Satanic- it is open service to the one who entered the Garden with a message designed to flip God’s good creation on its head.  But Satan doesn’t win, and the goals of yesterday’s attack are ultimately futile (Genesis 3:15).  We worship and serve the Christ who died to overturn death, who suffered to erase suffering, who is in the business of fixing broken things.

Does he not use this very picture to show us what he is doing?  “…they shall run and not be weary…” (Isaiah 40:31).  And so I say again: Amen, come quickly Lord Jesus.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

Conducting Effective Prayer Meetings

Ministry, Prayer, The Church, The Gospel, Worship

Recently Pastor Max Doner posted a short article on Reformed Baptist Fellowship discussing the value and validity of holding a regular church Prayer Meeting.  He lists several reasons for the decline of the Prayer Meeting’s popularity, none of which I would quibble with, but I would amend to his list one major reasons that the Prayer Meeting suffers: we’re often not very good at conducting them.  I’ve been in prayer meetings that seem almost electric in their spiritual intimacy and gospel zeal, and I’ve been in others that would make a sloth go looking for something a bit more invigorating.

Small wonder that the Prayer Meeting isn’t treasured when they are far too often sloppy, disjointed, unfocused, and bland.  We who are tasked with leading such meetings should approach them as we would any other gospel labor- with a careful plan to glorify God, edify His people, and help light evangelistic fire in the souls of the people.  This takes forethought.  I must confess that I have personally presided over some prayer meetings that were hastily put together- and it bore the sort of fruit one would expect.  But in God’s grace, I’ve also been able to conduct some where we felt the blessing of Christ in the way Pastor Doner describes in his quotation of Matthew 18: 19-20:  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Here then are 12 tips I’ve found helpful in conducting effective prayer meetings.

1. Start with a SHORT devotion from Scripture.

Notice that SHORT is capitalized, which is the typing way of yelling at you.  Keep it SHORT.  Five minutes is best, ten is the absolute maximum.  The goal is to orient the hearts and minds of God’s people toward spiritual matters, not preach a morning sermon part II.  You have gathered the people here to pray, so respect the purpose of the meeting.

Psalm 19 makes an excellent text, as both the glories of God in creation and the fuller revelation of saving grace in the Scripture can be highlighted.  I recently used Ephesians 1 as an opening text and briefly pointed out the Trinitarian nature of salvation.  It can also work to briefly summarize the recent sermon and lead the people into a time of prayerful response or even focus on the words of a hymn.  Whatever you pick, make sure the tone and tenor of your speech is in harmony with the sort of prayer you desire to lead the people into.

2. Begin with a focused time of doxological Prayer.

The Prayer Meeting should not normally be one big mass of open prayer, but should rather be organized into smaller segments with a particular focus.  After giving a SHORT devotion I invite the people to offer a response to God’s Word through prayer, picking up the major themes of the text presented.  Emphasize that this is a time of worship and not for general requests.

You will find that this is new for many people, so you will need to model the sort of prayer you are trying to lead them into.  This is another reason why the Psalms make for excellent devotional material, as they typically model this sort of doxological method.

3. Use the “open floor” rather than the “go around the circle” method.

It is temping to have everyone pray in turn because it forces participation, but I would avoid it.  “Going around the circle” tends to take way too long and it also fosters a situation where people are composing their prayers as the circle gets closer to them, rather than joining with the current speaker with all their mind and heart.

4. Have your second season of prayer be a time for requests and intercession, but with a specific focus.

This is not the time to pray for grandma’s neighbor’s brother’s roommate’s uncle Beau’s arthritis.  Lay a specific area of prayer before the people.  I like to focus on the health of our local church, or the church’s evangelistic witness, or something timely such as the appointment of new Church officers or a specific missionary family.

5. Have your third and last season of prayer be open to the burdens and concerns of the people, but avoid spending more time talking than praying.

This one takes the careful application of wisdom, and doesn’t happen overnight.  You also don’t want to stifle the fellowship of the people of God as they explain a situation or express care for one another, but try to move the “sharing time” into the “praying time” without undue delay.  Leaving this portion of prayer to the end is a major help in this area, as an extended discussion of requests can’t monopolize the whole meeting.

6. If necessary, split up a large gathering into smaller groups.

In larger churches, after the first two seasons of prayer it may be time to split up into smaller groups to share general requests.  This can be done in one room, as the sound of the prayers being offered by different people actually makes a nice soundtrack to your own.  Staying in one room also will keep everyone together for when you bring the meeting to a close (see point 12 below).

7. Don’t do the “recap.”

Everyone just listened to the requests, you don’t need to list them back to everybody.  Just start praying.

8. Encourage “piggyback prayers.” 

Just because someone prayed for something doesn’t mean it is checked off the list and done with.  Encourage others to echo the prayers of their fellow saints with their agreements, affirmations, and Amens.  Again, modeling this is helpful as bad habits may have to be unlearned.

9. Don’t be afraid of silence

Give people time.  I would err on the side of allowing  time to pray rather than ending a session because you think everyone is done.  There are worse things than quiet contemplation.

10. Say Amen with gusto and encourage the people to do likewise.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

11. Make sure that the Prayer Meeting is saturated with gospel realities and gospel priorities.

Pray for conversions.  Pray for growth in grace.  Pray for missions.  Pray for the preaching of the Word.  Pray for evangelism.  Pray for God to be glorified through the salvation of the lost.  Pray in light of gospel realities and gospel priorities.   When asked the secret of his success for the gospel, Spurgeon famously replied “my people pray for me.”

12.  End the prayer meeting in a way that gives it structure and closure.

The two methods I like to use are to either make the last prayer  a reading of Scripture that ends in “Amen,” or to close with a short hymn such as the Doxology.  This gives the Prayer Meeting the feel of a worship service (which it is) and helps to bracket the time as something distinct and special in the life of the church.

I’m sure there are a million ways these guidelines could be adapted to particular situation and contexts, and I would even advise periodically modifying the format so as to not grow stale.  May the Lord revive the Prayer Meeting, and may he use this means to accomplish his purposes unto His glory, our growth, and the salvation of the lost!

(By: Nicolas Alford)