The second element in “raising the sails” for movement is “Multiply Extraordinary Prayer.”
If you study some of these movements overseas, one thing that will immediately become apparent is that they pray… A LOT!
Let me give you an example from a book called Miraculous Movements which details one of these movements in Africa.
What does much prayer look like? Here are some characteristics of prayer that we have seen among the hundreds of ministries that we coach and train, and within our own teams…
Many Christians pray & fast every week at least two meals in one day.
Many Christians gather regularly for all-night or 6-hour prayer vigils (typically 2-4 nights per month).
Midday prayers for members of churches & ministry teams are common.
Personal disciplines of early-morning prayer are very common. One hour to two or three hours of prayer is not uncommon.
- Family devotions centered on discovering the Bible together and praying together are common.
For most of us, that would definitely be extraordinary prayer. That’s hours of prayer & fasting every week. I think for many of us, if we were honest, we might not pray an hour a month, much less a few hours a day.
In David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements, he makes a list of 10 elements that are found in every Church Planting Movement. Guess what #1 is? Extraordinary Prayer.
In fact, he says, “Prayer permeates Church Planting Movements. Whether it’s Koreans rising at four in the morning for a two-hour prayer time, or Spanish Gypsies ‘going to the mountain,’ as they call their all night prayer vigils, Church Planting Movements are steeped in prayer. Consequently, prayer has become the first priority of every Church Planting Movement strategist.”
Later in his book he shares something that our teams regularly refer back to.
He said, “We pray because our vision exceeds our abilities. Prayer is the soul’s deepest cry of rebellion against the way things are, seeing the lost of this world and crying out, ‘This does not glorify God, and so, by God’s grace, it must change!’ Prayer comes from God and ascends back to God on behalf of those who do not know God. Extraordinary prayer lays a firm foundation for a Church Planting Movement.”
When I began to study these movements around the world, the thing that kept sticking out to me was how much they prayed. They were desperate for God. They wanted to see God touch their nation. They wanted to see all of their family members, friends, co-workers & neighbors follow Christ. They wanted to see God come & do something miraculous. They believed the key was prayer!
This shouldn’t be surprising, right? We see this call to pray throughout the Scriptures.
Here are just a few examples from the first few chapters of the Book of Acts:
Acts 1:14 – They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.
Acts 2:42 – All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
Acts 3:1 – Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.
Acts 4:23-24 – As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God…
Acts 4:31 – After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.
My DMM mentor, Stan, has often said this, “When we’re asking God for a movement, we’re essentially asking him to do again what he did in the Book of Acts.”
The early church in the Book of Acts catalyzed a great movement of God that swept the Roman Empire, leading to millions coming to Christ in a relatively short period of time.
I’m convinced that if we want to see the results they saw in the Book of Acts, we have to do what they did in the Book of Acts. And what’s one thing they were constantly doing?
As we were talking to our DMM mentor about what “extraordinary prayer” looks like, he said, “Your prayer life now is ordinary for you. Add something to it to make it extraordinary for you. Then when that becomes ordinary, add something again to make it extraordinary. Keep repeating the process.”
That made sense to us.
I was so convicted of my own prayerlessness when I saw how my brothers & sisters in Christ were praying all across the world. I immediately felt like the Lord was leading me to challenge my staff to take our “ordinary” prayer lives to the next level.
This was the challenge I gave.
We already prayed every Thursday from 1-2pm as a staff each week. Most of us also prayed another hour each week with our small groups. I just sensed we needed to be praying more.
I said, “Let’s start praying EVERY week day for an hour rather than just once a week. Much like they started doing in the 1857-1858 Prayer Revival under the leadership of Jeremiah Lanphier.” We started praying for one hour through lunch every day.
In addition, I told them that our brothers & sisters in Christ overseas regularly pray through the night. Even the NEW believers in some of these movements are trained to pray through the night at least twice each month. Since we’re leaders in the church, I told them we needed to start praying at least half the night every single week.
We settled on Sunday nights. Every Sunday night from 8pm-12am, we pray together as a team!
While adding the weekday prayer meetings & the half night prayer on Sunday night is still much less prayer than many of our friends in these movements, it was extraordinary for us. I’m sure it will become ordinary for us soon & we’ll look for new extraordinary ways the Lord wants us to pray.
As you could see by the title of this element, it’s not just about Extraordinary Prayer, it’s about multiplying it. It’s not enough just that we pray in an extraordinary way, we want to challenge others to begin to do the same. We want as many as possible asking the Lord how he wants them to increase in prayer.
As we began to encourage others to pray, different groups of people in our church felt God leading them to pray through the night. One person that initially started praying with us on Sunday nights started his own half night of prayer on Friday nights. Then another person started a half night of prayer on Thursday nights. Then another person started having monthly ALL night prayer meetings. Several others started praying for extended periods of time as well.
People started becoming interested in praying for long periods of time together. When that happens, since it’s so unusual & maybe even extraordinary, you know God must be up to something.
We’ve found that the more we pray, the more we want to pray. Several of our staff would say that praying more has set them even more on fire for God.
It reminds me of a quote from Jim Cymbala in Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire that a friend reminded me of today.
“The more we pray, the more we sense our need to pray. And, the more we sense a need to pray, the more we want to pray. When the apostles were unjustly arrested, they didn’t call for a protest or some political leverage. Instead, they headed to a prayer meeting.” (referring to Acts 4:23-31)
You may be wondering, “Where did all of this half night of prayer & all night prayer stuff come from anyways?”
Luke 6:12 – One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
I’m sure our friends overseas thought, “If Jesus needed to pray all night long, how much more do we?”
If we want to raise DMM sails for movement, there’s no question that we need to “Multiply Extraordinary Prayer.” That’s a common element in every active movement in the world today.
Will you allow the Lord to take your “ordinary” prayer life to an “extraordinary” level?
I’ve heard people say that Prayer Movements precede Church Planting Movements. We’re definitely trying to catalyze a movement of prayer!
Jerry Trousdale, author of The Kingdom Unleashed, wrote:
We can also say unequivocally that every major revival and every movement of the Spirit was preceded by long, intense prayer. The question, then, is why do Christians in the Global North [North America & Europe] spend so little time and attention on prayer?
Prayer is the lifeblood of movements. The church in the Global North does not rely on prayer, and if behavior is any indication, it does not believe in it, either. If we are going to see movements in the Global North, we will need to see a new, ongoing commitment to serious, intense, persistent prayer for God to open heaven, to raise up disciple makers and church planters, to guide us to His people of peace, and to empower our work. Without that, there will be no movements and the church will continue its slow, inexorable decline into irrelevance in Global North culture.
Each of our DMM Church Planting Teams that we’ve sent out from eLife have these goals related to this element:
1 hour of individual prayer at least 5 days each week
1 hour of corporate prayer with the group each week
- 4 hour extended prayer time at least once per month (half night or all night)
Each of these goals are just recommended starting places. Many of our teams pray much more than this right from the beginning.
Part 4 – Go Out Among the Lost