Essentials Pastors Need To Know About Prayer-Teams
[Excerpts taken from pp. 101-112 of Coach Bill McCartney's new book Blind
Spots, which can be purchased from http://www.christianbooks.com
. This book is a total must read--must use like a handbook
and never give away--for every pastor who wants a blessed
ministry. Don't be satisfied to merely read these excerpts,
they're only a foretaste of what lies hidden in his
book, like nuggets of pure gold.]
".I realize that if we're going to keep our fresh fire and energy and vision,
we must have the protection of prayer. A spiritual
battle rages between the forces of heaven and hell,
and we can't afford to enter the fight without committed
prayer warriors encircling us.
A NECESSITY FOR LEADERS
Everyone who wants to make a lasting difference for Christ and his kingdom has
to find a way to build and maintain an effective prayer
covering. Failure in ministry can often be traced to
failure to create an active, unified prayer team. When
we disregard or neglect the crucial place of group prayer,
we allow our blind spots to continue to plague and injure
With a committed prayer team laboring for and with us, however, we
tap into the infinite power of God. We begin to see
his mind and his will with increasing clarity. We feel
his heartbeat with growing certainty. More and more,
his desires become our desires, and we see his mighty
hand acting on our behalf and for his glory. [If you
doubt what Coach is saying in this paragraph you need
to read Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,
also available at http://www.christianbooks.com
. Also excerpts to his book are in this prayer section,
available for a taste. The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a
vibrant story of a prayer-partner miracle that not only
saved a church but built it up beyond their pastor's
Jesus promises us, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for
you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear
much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:7-8,
NKJV). Our Lord tells us that when we abide in him--when
we vitally connect to him in righteousness--then he
answers our prayers and we "bear much fruit"--we carry
out the justice that delights his heart. And in that
way, God is glorified.
Perhaps no apostle enjoyed a more productive ministry career than
Paul; and judging from the letters of the New Testament,
no apostle asked others to pray for him more than Paul.
A coincidence? I doubt it.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so
that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ," he wrote
to the Colossians (4:3). "Brothers, pray for us," he
directed the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:25). "Finally,
brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may
spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.
And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil
men, for not everyone has faith," he asked them again
(2 Thess. 3:1-2).
(And if he wrote the book of Hebrews, as many suspect, he also made
the identical request of them. See Hebrews 13:18.)
But what kind of prayer should we request?
BACK TO MARK 11:25
The same verse that guides our meetings at Promise Keepers also directs our
times of prayer. Remember Mark 11:25? Jesus said,
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against
anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may
forgive you your sins."
Without clean hands and a pure heart, our prayers go no higher than
the ceiling. But when we come together to pray
according to a set of mutually agreeable ground rules,
and when we refuse to begin without first making sure
that we follow our Lord's command, watch out!
The sky's the limit.
In the game of poker, four of a kind beats a full house every time.
The same principle holds true for prayer. More power
exists in the prayers of four believers who petition
God in unity than in a house full of believers who pray
with clashing agendas and attitudes.
principle helps us to set some useful ground rules.
Before we pray in groups, we say, "Remember, our prayers
are going to be voided if anyone here has anything against
anybody in this room, or against anybody else." One
of the first times we began this way, at least two members
of our team left the room to get squared away with other
staff members. [Wow! This is making Christianity real!]
Because God loves to honor his Word, we continue to see the fruit
of praying in groups according to Mark 11:25. As we
emphasize restored and godly relationships as a precondition
for effective prayer, we pray with far more genuineness
and power. And we see results.
Do you want to know one reason why the growing divide continues
to afflict the American church? I would like to suggest
it's because there has been no integrity when we pray.
One part of the church has "held something against"
the other part, and neither part has learned how to
forgive the other. How can the Lord hear and answer
our prayers for revival when the church remains seriously
divided? When we ask him for revival, which part do
we want him to revive?
The prayer component of any Christian organization or group has to
rise at least to the level of purity described in the
books of Leviticus or Numbers or Deuteronomy. Moses
told his people that if they wanted God to hear their
prayers, they had to obey the Lord and surrender to
his will. The same remains true for us.
THE CHURCH'S BOILER ROOM
Group prayer, offered with integrity, is the boiler room of the church. There
we tap into God's power. Without integrity in our praying,
our prayer rooms are reduced to mere noise.
It takes only one person whose heart is not right, who knowingly
fails to resolve a conflict with another, to nullify
the power of group prayer. Let's say we fill a
prayer room with representatives from several distinct
camps, whether theological, ethnic, or cultural. A
few minutes into the meeting, someone starts praying
in tongues. A conservative believer hears the ecstatic
utterance and feels grieved. What happens? The whole
room shuts down.
When we feel offended by the way someone prays--let's change the image
and say that an individual starts dancing, or raising
his hands, or speaking in Russian-our negative reaction
turns off the spiritual power in the room. We shut
down the entire proceedings.
Or consider a more concrete example. A current dispute in the Native
American community concerns the use of drums in the
worship. Many conservatives consider any role for drums
inappropriate since in times past the drums were given
names and thought to be possessed by spirits [probably
were]. Many other believers, however, feel that the
drums [now] represent a distinctive characteristic of
their culture and insist that as long as the drums aren't
given names or possessed by spirits, their use in Christian
worship services ought to be allowed [I kind of agree].
What happens if this issue isn't resolved ahead of time
and one or the other group feels offended by what happens
in the prayer meeting? The whole room shuts down.
To prevent such a thing from happening, we have begun to implement
some ground rules for group prayer. Dave Wardell and
Rose Opp lead our prayer ministry, and I credit them
with increasing the effectiveness of our Promise Keepers
event prayer rooms.
How does it work? Suppose you see a group of individuals praying
in a room. You don't enter the room right away. You
stop at station number one, which challenges you to
check your heart and consider whether you have unresolved
issues with someone else. If you're clear, you move
to station number two, which explains the guidelines
that direct how believers should pray in that room.
"If you don't agree to these guidelines," it says, "don't
come in." Once you clear stations one and two, you're
welcome to enter the room and join the others already
A short while ago Promise Keepers invited about sixty intercessors
from around the country, representing a wide variety
of camps, to join us at our headquarters for three days
of sustained prayer. We brought them in for the expressed
purpose of discussing what it takes to create and maintain
an effective prayer room. We told them, "Whenever we
pray together, here are the ground rules. If you can't
agree to these ground rules, then we must ask you to
leave." They agreed, and we enjoyed three stunning
days of prayer.
Out of those meetings, we identified several key aspects to effective
group prayer. First, everyone must come in humility;
a proud heart cannot pray effectively. Second, every
man in the room--regardless of ethnic, theological,
or cultural background--must prefer others over himself.
Third, everyone must remain consciously sensitive to
the differing styles and theological convictions present
in the room. Fourth, no one may "push" their own style.
And fifth, everyone must learn to function within a
mold comfortable to all present. In short, everyone
must be of one accord and come to the Lord of glory
on an absolutely equal footing. [I'm going to add something
that is related to "being in one accord": Don't spring
something unknown in prayer before the group that you've
not discussed with others in the group, so they can't
really discern what you're praying for--or more importantly,
they're not sure they want to add their "Amen" to your
I LOVE MY JOB
On February 7, 2002, we hosted a group of about six hundred men (pastors made
up about 40 percent of the crowd) in Washington, D.C.
We wanted to encourage pastors all across the country
to form a prayer team of men led by a pastor-appointed,
male prayer leader. We hope to raise up a least thirty
thousand of these special leaders.
Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs rose to
speak. "There isn't anything about being a pastor that
doesn't thrill my heart," he said. "I love all of it.
I've been called by God, and I get to do just what he's
gifted me to do. I love preaching. I love counseling.
I love funerals. I love weddings. I love fights.
I love every aspect of my job. I love it all."
As I looked into the crowd, I could see startled, disbelieving looks
on hundreds of faces. You could almost hear them thinking:
I wish I could say that!
At one point the speaker pointed to man sitting in the crowd.
"Do you see that guy right over there?" he asked. "That's my pastor-appointed
prayer leader. Do you know what he's done? This guy
is on fire for the Lord. He's gone around and rallied
the men of our church to pray for me 24/7. I'm covered.
My family's covered. The enemy can't get to me. That's
why I'm able to enjoy what I do so much." [President
George Bush has made similar remarks, and then gives
all the credit to the Presidential Prayer Team that
has been praying for him 24/7.] [To learn more about
Prayer Partnering and Prayer Teams, log onto: http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prayer/partner.htm
A little later in the program, this pastor's prayer leader came forward
to speak. From the moment he opened his mouth, you
could tell he had two distinct qualities: fresh fire
and deep humility. This guy was alive. He breathed
excitement over prayer. And he painted a thrilling
picture of what it's like to recruit a guy and motivate
him to pray. He described how a guy grows and stretches
through prayer. His task was not to counsel, to correct,
to advise, or to tell his pastor how to do his job.
His sole assignment was to get men in his church to
Sounds good, doesn't it? So why not bless yourself with such a team?
[Again, to read a very real example of what happened
to a pastor and his church when he did assemble such
a team, read Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,
available at http://www.christianbooks.com
I believe that every pastor needs a male, pastor-appointed prayer
leader. That man has only one job: to recruit other
men from the church to join a prayer team for the sole
purpose of praying for the pastor, for the needs of
the church, and for the community. That's the total
CREATING YOUR OWN MALE PRAYER TEAM
Every man, every boy, grows up longing to be part of a team. In his heart,
every man yearns to be picked as a member of a winning
For his part, every pastor and church leader needs loyal teammates
who will surround and assist him. Most of the pastors
I know feel isolated. Often their isolation leads to
deep wounds and awful loneliness.
Enter the team!
Pastors and church leaders need teams of men around them. And men
want to be part of a team. What better way to meet
both needs than to create teams of godly men who pray
faithfully for their pastor or leader, church, and community?
Do you know the story of the redwood tree? A redwood tree, when it
grows to maturity, reaches a height of a hundred feet.
But the roots of a redwood tree rarely go deeper than
six inches to a foot into the ground. So why doesn't
a mild wind topple a redwood? It's because the roots
of individual redwood trees embrace and intertwine.
They grab on to one another and never let go. That's
how redwoods stand-they stand together. Like
Pastor, do you realize the critical importance of a male prayer leader
who recruits other men to surround you and cover you
with prayer? A team of faithful prayer warriors cannot
help but enhance your ability to lead.
We do not at all intend to undermine or demean the ministry of faithful
women who for years have labored as effective prayer
warriors. Rather, as a ministry focussed on men, we
seek to show men their God-ordained role in supporting
their pastor and other leaders in prayer.
WE'RE GOING TO DO IT TOGETHER
Former Michigan football coach Bo Shembechler often said to his teams, "Do you
know how we're going to win? We're going to master
the fundamentals. We're going to block and tackle better
than everyone. We're going to throw and catch better
than anyone. We're going to protect the football.
And we're going to do it together. That's how we're
going to do it. There are going to be no superstars
on this team. Everybody is going to be more interested
in Michigan than in himself. That's how we're going
to win." [Watch the old Gary Cooper movie "12 O'clock
High to put this advice into a spiritual military setting--with
the same results, winning by mastering the basics as
Let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever requested that one of
your men undertake to pray specifically, regularly,
and passionately for you? Have you ever asked anyone
to start a prayer team like the one I described? What
do you imagine would happen if a male, pastor-appointed
prayer leader called some of your men and asked, "Can
I take you to lunch?" then sat down with each one, talked
with each of them about the Lord, developed a kindred
spirit, and explained, "Here's what we need you to do
in this church?" I have no doubt that many, if not
most, men would jump at the chance. There would be
many who would say, "How high? How far? How much? Tell
me what you want me do. I'm ready."
But nobody asks these guys.
I say there are men all over the church who could transform our congregations
if someone would just mobilize them. If we are ever
to get the church together, if we are ever to heal the
growing divide that plagues the church-then pastors
must learn how to get their men into the game.
Women for the most part, are already lined up on the
field. It's the men we have to enlist, engage, and
Just yesterday, the head coach of a major college basketball team
called me at home. He's a believer under tremendous
"Man," he told me, "I'm praying. I've been offered another job and
I don't know whether to take it." Then he described
his whole difficult situation.
"Here's what you need," I told him. "We are going to build a team
of men around you who understand Mark 11:25 and who
are going to cover you. And you're going to discover
that in the midst of pressure and circumstances and
everything else, you can find breathing room."
We need to create such prayer teams for our brothers, especially for
guys in high-profile positions to which the media scrutinize
and reports everything they do. I hear the words of
the prophet Samuel ringing in my ears. "As for me,"
he told his people, "far be it from me that I should
sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" (1
Samuel 12:23). I envision putting teams of prayer around
these leaders--teams of men who will love them and encourage
them, not tell them how to do their jobs. These prayer
warriors will say, "We are your brothers in Christ.
We're proud of you, and we want you to be free to be
the leader that God has raised you up to be." I envision
this happening everywhere. And as soon as we take
on the burden of another, we begin to feel his pain
and struggle, and the experience knits us together.
Periodically, we'll feel compelled to call this brother
to encourage him.
When pastors and church leaders form these prayer teams, they'll discover
the freedom and power of concentrated prayer. Not only
that, they'll discover a new ability to draw out of
their men a higher level of spirituality and productivity
that infuses them with a sense of worth and value, mission,
And you know the best thing of all? Every leader can have such a
prayer team. He just has to take the initiative to
make it happen.
When I first came to the University of Colorado in 1982, I faced a difficult
challenge. The football program had fallen on hard
times-it had won only seven games in three years-and
we had to begin the hard work of rebuilding the program.
Yet by 1990, just eight years later, the Associated Press had voted
us the national champions. How did we do it? By attracting
An eagle is an athlete who stands out. He's not only an achiever,
he's an overachiever. In the world of evangelism, Billy
Graham and Luis Palau are eagles. In the world of acting,
Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise are eagles.
For the most part, eagles like to flock together. If you can get
one eagle, you can get another eagle. The problem was,
before 1982, the University of Colorado Buffaloes hadn't
attracted any eagles for a long time. So what could
we do? We prayed and consecrated the football program
to Jesus Christ.
Before long God gave us Eric McCarty, a true eagle and a genuine fireball.
From that day on, whenever we brought in key recruits,
we put them with Eric. He loved people, he loved God,
and he had great chemistry with young kids. Eric became
a catalyst for us to attract other eagles. And soon
we started getting the kind of talent that all great
teams must attract and keep.
Eagles attract eagles. That principle works not only in football,
but in most other spheres of life. It certainly works
in ministry and in the area of prayer.
If you want to experience the difference that a team of male
prayer warriors can make in your ministry, then find
yourself an eagle. Find a humble man in your church
who loves God and others, who knows how to pray, who's
filled with the Spirit--and challenge him to recruit
other men to serve on a team dedicated to prayer.
Did you know that in any average group of one hundred men, eighty
can be influenced by the actions of ten others? Ten
men in any such group will naturally influence the others
in a positive direction, while the remaining ten will
resist and oppose virtually every positive thing presented.
Your task is to find those ten positive eagles and invest
in them, train them, and set them loose to influence
Believe me, nothing is more fun than being with men of God who love
God and who get together to do the things that men of
God like to do. That is pure fellowship.
So get yourself an eagle. Let him attract other eagles. Get them
praying for you, for your church, and for your community.
And then stand back and watch as God begins to remove
the blind spots that keep us from approaching his throne
as a unified family of believers.
When that happens, you're off and soaring into the wild blue yonder."
TAKE ME WHERE I CAN'T TAKE MYSELF
When a blue-chip high school athlete looks around at different colleges, what
factors help him to choose a school? Most kids consider
several variables: location, school size, winning tradition,
community culture, etc. But one of the biggest factors
comes down to coaching. Most athletes look for a program
where they can learn.
It's as if they say, "Coach me. Please, coach me. Take me beyond
myself. Take me where I can't take myself." A good
coach develops the ability to take his athletes where
they can't take themselves.
This is a definition not only of good coaching, but also of good pastoring.
Successful pastors take guys where they can't go by
themselves. Effective pastors understand why a guy
isn't responding and go after him. They see Jesus Christ
in him, the hope of glory. And they know that man is
a dynamo just waiting to be unleashed for the kingdom.
But what's the best way to tap into such a vast potential?"
To find out, order Coach Bill McCartney's new book "BLIND SPOTS", available
To research some other quality material on the subject of prayer, applying to
both the congregation and for the individual believer,
be sure to click on the "Prayer" section of this website.
Meditative Prayer-Groups is looking for a few good prayer-warriors
(to quote the famous US Marine Corp ad). These groups
are strictly for those who are interested in the type
of prayer-group that will both strongly enhance their
own personal walk with Christ, as well as assist in
bringing powerful spiritual unity within the entire
body of Christ. CLICK
HERE to read more about these Unity Meditative Prayer-Groups."