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Building an organisational culture of prayer

The Mergon Foundation recently hosted a morning with Brian Heasley and Nathi Mbuyazi of the 24-7 Prayer Movement. Brian shared from his well of experience on how we can cultivate a culture of prayer in our ministries and workplaces as well as our personal lives. Here are a few nuggets we managed to capture from his inspiring talk with Mergon and friends on the day.

Building an organisational culture of prayer

Ever since the garden, God has desired to walk with his children ‘in the cool of the day’ (Gen 3:8-9). As humans, we have been hardwired for intimacy – everything else just comes up empty compared to the fulfilling pursuit of knowing Christ.

There’s an unspeakable pleasure and privilege in cultivating a lifestyle of prayer. What a relief knowing that God doesn’t rate our performance or outsource our intercession to a selected few. Prayer is designed for all of us to enjoy as an expression of our being, not a state of our doing.

Most of us don’t have a ‘black belt’ in prayer. We find it hard and slow-going. What starts with good intentions to warfare for nations, often fizzles into thoughts of what’s for supper. We’re prone to wander in our thoughts. God knows this about us and enjoys us all the same. Prayer, after all, is a journey of growth – we may not be where we want to be, but we’re better at it than ever before.

We all want to grow – in our churches, businesses, organisations and in our own personal capacity. But true growth only takes place through Christ-centred transformation, gradually and often unwittingly, through the mundane and the miraculous, as we, over time, learn to surrender our will to His.

So how do we grow a culture of prayer in the homes and organisations we lead? Brian suggests we start with the following

Example it

‘None but praying leaders can have praying followers.’ – E.M. Bounds

You can only lead your people in prayer if you yourself are prayerful. Ask yourself as a leader:

–      Am I on a journey towards deeper spirituality? Are my devotions and practices vibrant, active and flexible? Does my private prayer life enhance my relationship with Christ, or am I becoming slick and ‘professional’ in my devotional times?

–        Would my family recognise my spiritual growth? If I am committed to spiritual growth as a leader, that growth should firstly be visible in my own home and recognised by my family.

–        Do I have peace at the centre of my life? With God’s presence comes His peace. Jesus could give peace because He had it Himself. Is peace a hallmark of my ministry?

–        How has my prayer life grown? Are my choices and lifestyle based on prayerful consideration, or impulsive desires and ambitions?

Jesus modelled a life of prayer, rising ‘early in the morning while it was still dark’ (Mark 1). If the Son of God needed to seek wisdom and strength from above, how much more should we?

Teach it

‘Prayer is not everything; but without prayer everything is nothing.’ – Johannes Hartl

Praying isn’t easy or reflexive – but over time, through the repetition of intentional rhythms, it can become a treasured and ingrained part of your culture. Like anything else, you have to work at it. The more creative and innovative your approach to prayer, the more naturally you’ll weave it as a priority into your daily rhythms. Here are some ideas to inspire a more regular praying routine:

–        Set yourself reminders: Whether it’s a boiling kettle, a dedicated object or a post-it note on your laptop, use the everyday things around you to help you pause from your routine and pray.

–        Learn to be nimble: Everyone is different – find what works for you. This could mean setting aside a time of the day and space where you can talk to God, or finding the right app or tool to help you pray.

–        Make it a lifestyle: Billy Graham said the three critical keys for a successful, God-honouring event are ‘prayer, prayer, prayer.’ When you fail, take your failure to God through prayer. But when you succeed, pray even more.

Institutionalise it

Let the fires go out in the boiler room of the church and the place will still look smart and clean, but it will be cold. The Prayer Room is the boiler room for its spiritual life.’  – Leonard Ravenhill

For prayer to become a self-sustaining aspect of your organisational culture, there need to be formal rhythms in place. Brian suggests some (or all) of the following that they have done:

–        Create a space: One that is centrifugal by design (pointing towards God) and not centripetal (pointing towards your organisation). Architect the atmosphere – make it beautiful. Draw people into an experience that reflects the creativity and excellence of Christ.

–        Be seasonal: Relaunch prayer events throughout the year.

–        Reclaim the prayer meeting: Avoid the spectatorship syndrome. Make prayer accessible for everyone – break people into groups, tell them what to pray into. Good framing solves all the niggles and gets people activated.

–        Host a retreat: Once a year, prioritise a time of reflection, prayer, fun and fellowship.

–        Set a prayer budget aside: Like any other area of your organisation or ministry you want to grow, prayer takes investment. Build a budget into your yearly planning.

Celebrate it

If we think we will have joy by praying and singing psalms, we will be disillusioned. But if we fill our lives with simple, good things and constantly thank God for them, we will be joyful. Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience.’ – Richard Foster

Always celebrate what God is doing. As God starts to write extraordinary stories through ordinary people, tell these stories on. ‘The future of the church,’ after all, ‘is in the hands of the storytellers’, Leonard Sweet says. Remind people of their organisational history and unique mission narrative; boast in the ‘simple, good things’ as well as the big moments that fill your daily and yearly rhythms. Get creative in your communication – seek surprising and innovative ways to put the gospel on technicolour display.

Lastly, remember: behind every ‘suddenly of God’ is a backend story – a steady flow of faithful prayers which have preempted the moment of breakthrough. In our ‘microwave culture’ of today that expects immediate gratification, God is more often into ‘marinading’. Breakthroughs will come, but not overnight. Persevere in your prayers, God will be faithful to answer them in His time.

Enjoy the journey of self-surrender – hold the work lightly yet cling to wonder, the more you see unfold, the evidence of that ancient prayer: God, let your Kingdom come.

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