Monday, January 21, 2008

In Praise of a Prayer Shield

“I can do this on my own!”

So began my ministry as the Women’s Ministry Director at our church plant years ago. I believed erringly that if I diligently nurtured my own walk with the Lord, ministry would just fall into its proper place. I was mistaken. Ministry became misery.

I struggled to find time to spend with God. Yes, I loved him. However, now that I worked vocationally for him, the prayer time I longed for eluded me. My personal devotions became drudgery. They seemed to be just another chore crowded into an already busy day. I discovered the tasks of ministry and the needs of people exhausted me. I swung back and forth with the desire to resign or to be obedient to what the Lord had called me to do— lead a women’s ministry program.

For months, the indecision tormented me. It was my personal Garden of Gethsemane. Should I quit? Or would I obey his will? Just when I felt I could not continue, a handful of our people went to a prayer conference. They came back fired-up with new ideas. What did they want to implement first? A “prayer shield” for the pastoral staff.

Oh great! Just another thing to do, I thought.

As they explained the prayer shield to me, I relaxed. It didn’t sound like anymore work for me. Instead, it was designed to support and protect the pastoral staff at our church. In order to begin a prayer shield, each pastor needed seven people committed to pray one day a week for his or her needs. On a weekly basis, one designated person of each of the pastor’s prayer shield would agree to call for the prayer requests, and then dispatch them to the rest of the shield for prayer during the upcoming week.

They explained that all I needed to do was to decide whom I would like to pray for me, and then give the point person of my prayer shield updated requests each week. After six months, a new prayer shield would be formed for me, so the shield would remain fresh and active. They noted, “Even the Apostle Paul asked for prayer, “Brothers, pray for us.” I Thessalonians 5:25.

“Ok, ok.” The prayer shield appealed to me, and it sounded doable.

Within just a couple of weeks of my prayer shield forming, I found myself with a lighter heart. My private devotional time revived with a fresh breath of the Spirit. Things didn’t seem so overwhelming. Ministry moved from misery to manageable.

Could it be the prayer shield? I wondered to myself.

Two years later my ministry suddenly changed directions. Although, I began to serve God in a new capacity, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I still wanted a prayer shield. I asked a few close friends if they would be part of my new prayer shield. They agreed readily. I email them updated prayer requests. Often my requests reflect ministry needs, but just as often, they represent personal cares and concerns.

Now after more than three years of unceasing and powerful prayer shield protection I no longer wonder if it assists my ministry. I know my prayer shield provides the necessary support and balance I require in ministry. James 5:16 states, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

Oh, so true! Can ministry still wear me out? Are there more tasks than time? Yes, but with my prayer shield standing in the gap for me, I can manage ministry, instead of ministry managing me.

What experiences have you experienced with prayer and ministry?

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