At Calvary Bible Church, where I am associate pastor, we are striving to create a culture of discipleship among our people. We desire that the individual members of our body be engaging in personal ministry with each other on Sunday mornings and throughout the week in various ways. One example of personal ministry that our senior pastor has been encouraging, is for each of us to ask someone how we can pray for them before we get in the car and go to lunch on a Sunday. In addition to that, he has been challenging us to actually pray for that person’s request right there, in the moment, while the person is standing two feet away. In short, we are being encouraged to pray for a person in person. Here are the benefits I see for this kind of ministry.
1) It ensures that you actually pray for that person – How many times have you told someone, “I’ll be praying about that” only to forget ten minutes later? This simple ministry keeps us accountable for praying for the body of Christ.
2) The person will often ask how he/she can pray for you too – Not only does this keep you (the prayer) accountable for praying, but it reminds the person you are praying for that they too need to be praying, so the request is often reciprocated and more praying is being done as a result.
3) It’s a simple ministry that any believer can practice – This isn’t preaching, teaching, detailed administration, or music ministry (ministries that are represented by a small percentage of the church population). This is a ministry that is essentially asking God for help on behalf of another. We can all do that.
4) In a relationship with another believer, it moves you past the superficial – Asking how you can pray for someone gets you past the weather and the local sports team to the things of weightier importance in a matter of seconds. I know of no better way to transition from the natural to the spiritual in a conversation.
5) It communicates care – Sadly, in my experiences, this practice (up until now) has been a rare occurrence, much like it has become rare for us to write handwritten notes to each other. In the same way a handwritten note communicates more care than an email, praying for someone in their presence communicates more care than telling someone you will pray for them later.