About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (Acts 16. 25 – 26)
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18. 19 – 20)
I recently took part in some training sessions for Peterborough Diocese as part of the Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCIG) team. I have been a member of the national LYCIG team for around fourteen years. Over that time, I must have participated in twenty or more conferences and training days, and they never fail to inspire me and spur me on to take mission and church growth seriously.
One of the sessions that has always remained with me is what is known as ‘The Four Ps’, which stand for Prayer, Presence, Proclamation and Persuasion. These probably made the biggest impact on me at my very first conference back in 2007. I will look at each of the four Ps over the next four weeks, and the way they could make an impact on our churches as we return to the ‘new normal’ post-Covid.
Most churches do plenty of praying, although there is always room for improvement, but do we intentionally pray for church growth? We can pray for church growth anywhere anytime on our own or with others. Praying for growth means the leader praying for growth, the ministry team and PCCs praying for growth, and the congregations praying for growth. Some prayer will take place alone, some in small groups and some in church services and meetings, but even when only two or three commit to pray for growth together then God promises to answer.
This was Paul and Silas’ experience. Paul’s missionary journeys were all about church planting and church growth. At this point, Paul and Silas had been thrown in prison by some unscrupulous slave owners. (You can read the whole story earlier in Acts 16). The two of them decided to get on with praying and worshipping within earshot of the other prisoners. As they prayed, there was a mighty earthquake which unfastened the chains of the prisoners, but none of the prisoners escaped. Instead, the jailer and his household all came to faith, and the church in Philippi began to grow.
Wherever you are, you can start praying for church growth right now. The prayer below might be a good place to start. Why not commit to praying this prayer every day and let’s see what God will do!
The LYCIG Prayer for Growth
God of mission,
who alone brings growth to your church,
send your Holy Spirit to give
vision to our planning,
wisdom to our actions,
joy to our worship,
and power to our witness.
Help our churches to grow in numbers,
in spiritual commitment to you,
and in service of our local community,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
'Gather us in' by Marty Haugen (b. 1950)