In several ways, both during and after services, worshipers in Christ Community Church of Nanaimo, British Columbia, are encouraged to pray. Before we are led in prayer by the minister, individuals bring prayer requests, and we pray about them together. But because many individual needs are private and not suitable for sharing in public worship, Christ Community Church has opened a prayer room. In fact, the prayer room has become such a vital part of our ministry that we think of it as our "engine room."
We decided on the prayer room when we were planning our new facilities. We were convinced that our church-planting mission would succeed only if accompanied by persistent prayer. Having a designated prayer room serves as a visible statement and reminder of this belief to us and to everyone who comes into our facility.
Providing a ministry of prayer for people in our community who share their needs and hurts has also been a vital part of our evangelistic work. We have found that community people really appreciate this service and receive it as a genuine demonstration of our compassion and love. They, along with people in our own congregation, need a way to respond to the gospel invitation in worship. Trained prayer counselors can help people commit their lives to Christ or prayerfully make other decisions. The prayer room has had an interesting effect on people who are part of our ministry. We've had a lot of requests for training and practice in prayer—both from members of our congregation and from some of the unchurched women who are part of our Coffee Break ministry. These requests have prompted a series of messages on prayer and a Sunday evening workshop and seminar series.
Using the Prayer Room
Each Sunday members of the congregation are encouraged to use the prayer room. Those who have private prayer needs and those who need to respond to the message are urged to join those who staff the room immediately following the service. The room then serves as a clearing house where human needs encounter the power and compassion of God.
Presently we have five teams (two to a team) of pray-ers who staff the room on a rotating basis. The teams are trained and are in training as pray-ers. We continue to study together and to practice various models of prayer, yet we encourage volunteers to pray spontaneously, following the leading of the Spirit. The prayers are not qualified as counselors. If a visitor to the prayer room seems to require counseling, the pray-ers will encourage him or her to set up a separate appointment with a pastor, counselor, or other capable person.
The prayer room is also open during the week. Although teams of pray-ers are not present Monday through Saturday, people are encouraged to use the room for prayer whenever they wish.
Creating a Prayer Room
Those interested in setting up a prayer room in their church may find some of the following guidelines helpful:
- The prayer room should be immediately accessible from the worship area so that people do not have to struggle to find it. It is also helpful if the room is away from the path of the exiting congregation so that those who go there to pray have some privacy. Many older churches will discover that their council room, if located near the front entrance to the worship area, will serve well for this purpose.
Ideally, the prayer room should also be easily accessible to those who use it during the week. Posting clear signs and directions will help those who wander in from the neighborhood.
At Christ Community the prayer room is located at the front entrance to the worship area, directly across the hall from the pastor's study.
- Decorate the room simply. One or two appropriate banners or other art forms, with few or no words, will create the right atmosphere for meditative thoughts of God as the compassionate and accepting Father or the gentle Shepherd.
- Furnishings should be, likewise, simple but comfortable. A combination of folding chairs and kneeling benches would be ideal.
- Continue to advertise the prayer room in the bulletin and to mention it from the pulpit. At Christ Community we encourage leaders of Coffee Break, Men's Life, and church school to use the prayer room and to invite members of their groups to use it as well. During the week several of our leaders meet together in the prayer room to pray for their respective ministries.
- Equip pray-ers by providing them with training and clear instructions about how to best help those who come to the prayer room (see guidelines below). Giving prayer teams a clear idea of what is expected of them will ensure a consistent and uniform approach in the prayer room. People will know what to expect when they come there.
Guidelines for Pray-ers
- Be confident that God is with you. What you lack in yourself he is able to supply. YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO PRAY.
- Get the necessary facts of the person's request. Limit the discussion to the prayer "need." Pleasant conversation, life histories, and tangential conversation should be kept to a minimum (others may be waiting). Encourage socializing, but outside the prayer room.
- If it becomes obvious that the person has needs that cannot be addressed through prayer alone, encourage him or her to make an appointment with the pastor or counselor. Do not feel that you must "solve" the problem.
- Let the Holy Spirit help you pray. You may find yourself praying something other than what you first had in mind. As you pray, let the Spirit direct you to the person's true needs.
- Don't look for magic ways or methods of dealing with others. All Christ asks is expectant faith in his ability. We merely place one hand in God's and the other in the person's for whom we are praying. We act, as it were, as assistants, helping others "make the connection" with God.
- Determine if the need is an ongoing one that will need follow-up prayer. If so, include the person's request in the file on the table. Offer to pray for the person again.
- Make sure people know you are there, ready to help. Keep the door open and the light on; if necessary stand in the doorway. If no one comes after the first fifteen minutes, you may feel free to leave.