Too often prayer is identified as just one of several spiritual disciplines. But that is not quite accurate. While prayer involves discipline, it is in a category by itself. Prayer as intimate interaction with Him is what Jesus called the one necessary thing (Luke 10:41–42). Plus, His desire for the church to become a “house of prayer” impassioned Jesus like nothing else. How can we elevate prayer to first place in our churches, in the priorities and practice of our people, and in the strategic methods of our ministries? Providing practical answers to this multilayered question is the goal of the “Spiritual Development” breakout track at General Conference 2019.
Our game plan is to move methodically through a threefold process: 1) motivational teaching to shift the paradigm concerning prayer from passive to performative partnership, 2) testimonies from practitioners who will share insights and activities that can serve as catalysts for motivation and creative thinking, and 3) the use of an assessment tool for creating action plans to put prayer back in the center of everything.
Let’s unpack each of those sessions in a little more detail. In Session 1 (“Prayer: The Disciplemaker’s One Necessary Thing”), we will show the direct correlation between Jesus’ daily communion with His heavenly Father and His incredibly effective ministries of teaching, healing and deliverance. Undoubtedly, that’s what His disciples observed and why “teach us to pray” was the only instructional request they ever made. To follow Jesus and make disciples who follow Jesus requires a priority focus on developing people who pray with ministry results similar to Jesus. Prayer with those kinds of results requires a primary emphasis on how to pray with power.
Session 2 (“The ‘House of Prayer’ and Evangelism”) begins with the assumption that disciple-making and evangelism can and should be simplified around the missional commands Jesus gave His first disciples at the moment of their commissioning: preach the kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and cast out demons (Matthew 10:8). Therefore, the church’s evangelistic strategy must emphasize sending out compassionate people who boldly use Spirit-endowed power and gifts with the intent to demonstrate God’s love and transforming grace. Numerous presenters will share testimonies of how the church can do just that.
Finally, in Session 3 (“Prayer and Worship in Private and Public: The Ultimate Synergy”), we will discover how the wellspring of God’s mercy flowing to the world through the church is found in the incredible synergy between worship and prayer in a disciple’s private life and the church’s public gatherings. Facilitator Brett Heintzman will introduce a comprehensive reorientation tool that will help churches adjust their approaches to discipleship, evangelism and worship to be centered in prayer, and then lead the group through the use of the tool as a concluding exercise to help participants develop the beginning stage of a viable action plan.
In short, our goal is to help the church get serious about and “successful” in functioning according to Jesus’ statement that prayer is the one necessary thing.
Doug and Margie Newton are the co-directors of the National Prayer Ministry of the Free Methodist Church – USA and the leaders of the Spiritual Development track at General Conference 2019 (gc19.org).