Sustaining Prayer

Eight principles to leading students in prayer

I love the student prayer movement taking place in America. Over the last decade, thousands of students have participated in sacred assemblies, days of prayer, 24/7 prayer and fasting events. But as monumental as these moments have been, the prayer emphasis must advance past the big prayer event to the local church. Prayer momentum often dissipates unless the youth leader creates an environment for students to diligently pray.

I’ve seen many youth ministries sustain spiritual fervor by injecting a weekly prayer meeting for students in their local church. This meeting becomes a seedbed for emerging leaders and a force of spiritual vitality. Here are a few helpful principles that I’ve discovered for sustaining prayer among students:

1. Declare the kindness of God like a broken record. Often, students will approach the throne of grace in prayer only when they possess confidence that they will find mercy there. Many refrain from prayer because they’re certain God is angry with them. Students are often stricken with condemnation and need to be reminded of God’s love over and over again.

2. Be authentically privileged to be at the prayer meeting. I’ve led students in a Friday night prayer meeting for years and I don’t ever thank them for “giving up” their Friday night to pray. Instead, I affirm that they have chosen the best place to be as we pray for God’s will to be done in our church, city and generation. The prayer meeting may not be the location with the most glitz on a Friday night, but it will bear fruit forever.

3. Get the best worship band that you can. Start with what you have. An iPod is cool, but live worship unites the intercessors better. Even if you just start with a single person strumming the guitar and singing, it creates the opportunity to be more spontaneous.

4. Focus on Scripture. We can be confident our prayers align with God’s will when we pray the Scriptures. The Bible will slowly creep into students’ hearts and minds as they pray it. Additionally, it gives them language to pray. The Bible creates the content and substance of our prayers. Praying the Scriptures keeps the meeting on track. If you don’t pray the Word, it’s easy for the most talkative kid to hijack the prayer meeting with his latest prayer request.

5. Have a plan. Somehow, the prayer meeting is often the one church gathering that leaders enter without much preparation. A plan significantly helps the flow of the night. Of course, you can always detour from the plan if desired. Without a plan, you’ll often find yourself trying to spontaneously think of what to do next. It’s better to prepare ahead of time.

6. Be prepared for unexciting prayer meetings. Many leaders give up on prayer meetings because enthusiasm drops and attendance wanes. Dry, barren prayer meetings matter to God. Jesus told us to persevere in prayer (see Matt 7:7, Luke 18:1). Prayer is laboring in the spiritual realm. It’s not always exciting.

7. Create an occasional adventure. We’ve met at other local churches in town (with permission) and prayed for God to move in their church. We’ve prepared maps ahead of time and walked the neighborhoods praying for each house. When students arrive, they don’t always know exactly what’s going to happen. That keeps it interesting.

8. Throw victory parties. Nothing fuels the prayer meeting like answered prayer. When God intervenes in a supernatural way, celebrate. Some prayer meetings should feel like a big party just thanking God.

David Perkins is the pastor of prayer at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and spearheads Desperation, a nationwide youth movement for local churches.

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