How to Make Prayer a Priority at Your Church in 2024

In 2024, I want to spend at least as much time talking to God as about Him. And I believe that’s an invitation for all of us!

Susanna Fleming

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"We often say that true success for our church will be when we see more people gathering for prayer on a Tuesday morning than we do on a Sunday. That's the vision we're pursuing."

I distinctly remember when a pastor shared this thought with me. It was back in 2016, during a mission trip to Cali, Colombia. My team and I were in the final stages of preparation to plant a church in the Pacific Northwest, and our visit to Cali was twofold: to engage in global ministry and to glean wisdom from experienced pastors with whom we had connections. 

A Culture of Prayer

The church we visited was remarkable, not just in its size – it was one of the world's largest Nazarene churches – but also in its culture of prayer. I had frequently heard church leaders talk about evangelism and growing their congregations, but I had never heard someone put quite so much emphasis on corporate intercession. The pastor informed us that the church had hosted a 4am Tuesday prayer service since its inception, and it was surprisingly very well attended. Yes, you read that right – 4am

When we finally had the opportunity to visit this 4am prayer service, the scene was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Close to a thousand people, some in workout attire ready for the gym afterward, others in business suits, all gathered in fervent prayer before the sun had even thought about rising. 

My perspective truly shifted that day. Previously, I had been impressed at the size of this congregation. Some 12,000 people attended services there every Sunday, and I was eager to learn how the leadership team had facilitated the growth of such a large church. But now, I realized that this wasn’t just a large church – it was a praying church. 

People were setting their alarms for 3am, compelled by a deep conviction that missing this prayer service was not an option. They weren’t just going through the motions. They were there because they truly believed prayer was important. The church’s leadership believed this, too – so much so that they emphasized this prayer service to their church more than they emphasized attending on Sundays! 

When we arrived back in the States and planted our new church, my team chose to follow this church’s example by implementing 6am prayer on Tuesdays. Did our church eventually reach the size of 12,000 members? No. But that wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to create a culture of prayer, and that’s exactly what we did. This commitment to prayer, more than anything else, has been the cornerstone of our church's growth and health.

Vulnerability = Opportunity

As we gear up for 2024, I’ve been reflecting on the broader Church and the turbulent few years we’ve recently navigated. The pandemic took a pretty big toll on churches worldwide, and many are still recovering emotionally, culturally, and financially. In-person attendance numbers have dwindled, tithing is still recovering, scandals have been popping up left and right, and 2 out of 5 pastors have thought about quitting ministry

This is a pretty vulnerable place to be for the Church. And yet, in this fragility lies an opportunity for renewed dependence on God.  

We are finite human beings. We are limited, and we are weak. This is part of what it means to be human. But even in our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect. In the midst of our brokenness, God invites us to lean on him. He invites us to be wholly dependent on His grace.

And He isn’t impressed with us trying to do it on our own. I love the way Psalm 147 speaks to this idea: 

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:10-11, NIV).

The Lord delights in those who fear Him and trust in Him! And this is exactly where prayer comes in. 

Making Prayer a Priority at Your Church in 2024

If you are a church leader or pastor, you have likely been praying through your church’s vision and goals for 2024. I believe that God has something unique He wants to do in and through your congregation this year, and I’m confident He will impart that vision to you as you seek Him. 

Whatever direction God is leading your church, however, one thing is certain: prayer has to be part of it! 

This is not to suggest that your church is not already a praying church. But I do want to implore you to lean even more into prayer this year. 

Instead of rushing around and trying to make things happen on our own, what if we really trusted God with our time this year? Rather than trying to move forward with our own agendas, what if we really partnered with what God is doing through intercession? 

In 2024, I want to spend at least as much time talking to God as about Him. And I believe that’s an invitation for all of us!

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4 Ways to Focus on Prayer Next Year

Whether it is through a morning prayer service, a sermon series about prayer, a commitment to pre-service prayer, or handing out Lectio Divina journals, here are a few ways your church can focus on prayer in 2024.

#1 Implement a Morning Prayer Service

One way to build a culture of prayer at your church is by starting a morning prayer service similar to the one we witnessed in Cali. This doesn't have to be as early as 4am, but it should be early enough for people to attend before they have to go to work for the day. This can be a time of free-flowing intercession, worship, and reflection, or you can choose to pray through specific verses or themes each week.

#2 Launch a Sermon Series on Prayer

Even the disciples recognized that they needed to learn how to pray, and they asked Jesus to teach them (Luke 11:1). This means that we, as 21st-century disciples, should be eager to grow in both our understanding and our practice of prayer! Try kicking off the new year with a sermon series centered around the importance of prayer in the Christian life or practical ways to deepen prayer practices. If you are looking for a scriptural reference to guide the conversation, the Lord’s prayer in Luke 11 provides an excellent starting point!

#3 Prioritize Pre-Service Prayer

Pre-service prayer is a great way to invite congregants to a corporate prayer time. Simply host a prayer meeting between 30-45 minutes before your church service, and invite people to come early and join! This is a time to seek God concerning the direction of the service, pray for the congregation, and remind your hearts that church – above all else – is about Him.

#4 Distribute Prayer Journals

I recently witnessed a deeply inspiring initiative by a church I hold in high regard. They distributed prayer journals to their congregation, a thoughtful tool designed to help people pray through scripture. The journals contained a selected verse for each day, along with a designated space for people to write down their prayers. If you are looking for a practical way to help your congregation cultivate prayer in their personal lives, this is an excellent place to start!

Gearing up for 2024

However you choose to lean into prayer in 2024, I hope that this year marks a rich and vibrant prayer life for your church! As you begin making plans for the new year, make sure to check out Breeze’s list of features that are designed to support you and your team!

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