Essentials Pastors Need To Know About Prayer-Teams
[Excerpts taken from pp. 101-112 of Coach Bill McCartney's new book Blind
Spots, which can be purchased from http://www.christianbooks.com
. This book is a total must read--must use like a handbook
and never give away--for every pastor who wants a blessed
ministry. Don't be satisfied to merely read these excerpts,
they're only a foretaste of what lies hidden in his book,
like nuggets of pure gold.]
".I realize that if we're going to keep our fresh fire and energy and vision,
we must have the protection of prayer. A spiritual battle
rages between the forces of heaven and hell, and we can't
afford to enter the fight without committed prayer warriors
A NECESSITY FOR LEADERS
Everyone who wants to make a lasting difference for Christ and his kingdom has
to find a way to build and maintain an effective prayer covering.
Failure in ministry can often be traced to failure to create
an active, unified prayer team. When we disregard or neglect
the crucial place of group prayer, we allow our blind spots
to continue to plague and injure us.
With a committed prayer team laboring for and with us, however, we
tap into the infinite power of God. We begin to see his mind
and his will with increasing clarity. We feel his heartbeat
with growing certainty. More and more, his desires become
our desires, and we see his mighty hand acting on our behalf
and for his glory. [If you doubt what Coach is saying in
this paragraph you need to read Jim Cymbala's Fresh
Wind, Fresh Fire, also available at http://www.christianbooks.com
. Also excerpts to his book are in this prayer section, available
for a taste. The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a vibrant story of
a prayer-partner miracle that not only saved a church but
built it up beyond their pastor's wildest dreams.]
Jesus promises us, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;
so you will be My disciples" (John 15:7-8, NKJV). Our Lord
tells us that when we abide in him--when we vitally connect
to him in righteousness--then he answers our prayers and we
"bear much fruit"--we carry out the justice that delights
his heart. And in that way, God is glorified.
Perhaps no apostle enjoyed a more productive ministry career than
Paul; and judging from the letters of the New Testament, no
apostle asked others to pray for him more than Paul. A coincidence?
I doubt it.
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so
that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ," he wrote to the
Colossians (4:3). "Brothers, pray for us," he directed the
Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:25). "Finally, brothers, pray for
us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be
honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be
delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith,"
he asked them again (2 Thess. 3:1-2).
(And if he wrote the book of Hebrews, as many suspect, he also made
the identical request of them. See Hebrews 13:18.)
But what kind of prayer should we request?
BACK TO MARK 11:25
The same verse that guides our meetings at Promise Keepers also directs our
times of prayer. Remember Mark 11:25? Jesus said, "And when
you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive
him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Without clean hands and a pure heart, our prayers go no higher than
the ceiling. But when we come together to pray according
to a set of mutually agreeable ground rules, and when we refuse
to begin without first making sure that we follow our Lord's
command, watch out! The sky's the limit.
In the game of poker, four of a kind beats a full house every time.
The same principle holds true for prayer. More power exists
in the prayers of four believers who petition God in unity
than in a house full of believers who pray with clashing agendas
principle helps us to set some useful ground rules. Before
we pray in groups, we say, "Remember, our prayers are going
to be voided if anyone here has anything against anybody in
this room, or against anybody else." One of the first times
we began this way, at least two members of our team left the
room to get squared away with other staff members. [Wow!
This is making Christianity real!]
Because God loves to honor his Word, we continue to see the fruit
of praying in groups according to Mark 11:25. As we emphasize
restored and godly relationships as a precondition for effective
prayer, we pray with far more genuineness and power. And
we see results.
Do you want to know one reason why the growing divide continues
to afflict the American church? I would like to suggest it's
because there has been no integrity when we pray. One part
of the church has "held something against" the other part,
and neither part has learned how to forgive the other. How
can the Lord hear and answer our prayers for revival when
the church remains seriously divided? When we ask him for
revival, which part do we want him to revive?
The prayer component of any Christian organization or group has to
rise at least to the level of purity described in the books
of Leviticus or Numbers or Deuteronomy. Moses told his people
that if they wanted God to hear their prayers, they had to
obey the Lord and surrender to his will. The same remains
true for us.
THE CHURCH'S BOILER ROOM
Group prayer, offered with integrity, is the boiler room of the church. There
we tap into God's power. Without integrity in our praying,
our prayer rooms are reduced to mere noise.
It takes only one person whose heart is not right, who knowingly
fails to resolve a conflict with another, to nullify the power
of group prayer. Let's say we fill a prayer room with
representatives from several distinct camps, whether theological,
ethnic, or cultural. A few minutes into the meeting, someone
starts praying in tongues. A conservative believer hears
the ecstatic utterance and feels grieved. What happens?
The whole room shuts down.
When we feel offended by the way someone prays--let's change the image
and say that an individual starts dancing, or raising his
hands, or speaking in Russian-our negative reaction turns
off the spiritual power in the room. We shut down the entire
Or consider a more concrete example. A current dispute in the Native
American community concerns the use of drums in the worship.
Many conservatives consider any role for drums inappropriate
since in times past the drums were given names and thought
to be possessed by spirits [probably were]. Many other believers,
however, feel that the drums [now] represent a distinctive
characteristic of their culture and insist that as long as
the drums aren't given names or possessed by spirits, their
use in Christian worship services ought to be allowed [I kind
of agree]. What happens if this issue isn't resolved ahead
of time and one or the other group feels offended by what
happens in the prayer meeting? The whole room shuts down.
To prevent such a thing from happening, we have begun to implement
some ground rules for group prayer. Dave Wardell and Rose
Opp lead our prayer ministry, and I credit them with increasing
the effectiveness of our Promise Keepers event prayer rooms.
How does it work? Suppose you see a group of individuals praying
in a room. You don't enter the room right away. You stop
at station number one, which challenges you to check your
heart and consider whether you have unresolved issues with
someone else. If you're clear, you move to station number
two, which explains the guidelines that direct how believers
should pray in that room. "If you don't agree to these guidelines,"
it says, "don't come in." Once you clear stations one and
two, you're welcome to enter the room and join the others
already in prayer.
A short while ago Promise Keepers invited about sixty intercessors
from around the country, representing a wide variety of camps,
to join us at our headquarters for three days of sustained
prayer. We brought them in for the expressed purpose of discussing
what it takes to create and maintain an effective prayer room.
We told them, "Whenever we pray together, here are the ground
rules. If you can't agree to these ground rules, then we
must ask you to leave." They agreed, and we enjoyed three
stunning days of prayer.
Out of those meetings, we identified several key aspects to effective
group prayer. First, everyone must come in humility; a
proud heart cannot pray effectively. Second, every man in
the room--regardless of ethnic, theological, or cultural background--must
prefer others over himself. Third, everyone must remain consciously
sensitive to the differing styles and theological convictions
present in the room. Fourth, no one may "push" their own
style. And fifth, everyone must learn to function within
a mold comfortable to all present. In short, everyone must
be of one accord and come to the Lord of glory on an absolutely
equal footing. [I'm going to add something that is related
to "being in one accord": Don't spring something unknown in
prayer before the group that you've not discussed with others
in the group, so they can't really discern what you're praying
for--or more importantly, they're not sure they want to add
their "Amen" to your request.]
I LOVE MY JOB
On February 7, 2002, we hosted a group of about six hundred men (pastors made
up about 40 percent of the crowd) in Washington, D.C. We
wanted to encourage pastors all across the country to form
a prayer team of men led by a pastor-appointed, male prayer
leader. We hope to raise up a least thirty thousand of these
Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church in Colorado Springs rose to
speak. "There isn't anything about being a pastor that doesn't
thrill my heart," he said. "I love all of it. I've been
called by God, and I get to do just what he's gifted me to
do. I love preaching. I love counseling. I love funerals.
I love weddings. I love fights. I love every aspect of my
job. I love it all."
As I looked into the crowd, I could see startled, disbelieving looks
on hundreds of faces. You could almost hear them thinking:
I wish I could say that!
At one point the speaker pointed to man sitting in the crowd.
"Do you see that guy right over there?" he asked. "That's my pastor-appointed
prayer leader. Do you know what he's done? This guy is on
fire for the Lord. He's gone around and rallied the men of
our church to pray for me 24/7. I'm covered. My family's
covered. The enemy can't get to me. That's why I'm able
to enjoy what I do so much." [President George Bush has made
similar remarks, and then gives all the credit to the Presidential
Prayer Team that has been praying for him 24/7.] [To learn
more about Prayer Partnering and Prayer Teams, log onto:
A little later in the program, this pastor's prayer leader came forward
to speak. From the moment he opened his mouth, you could
tell he had two distinct qualities: fresh fire and deep humility.
This guy was alive. He breathed excitement over prayer.
And he painted a thrilling picture of what it's like to recruit
a guy and motivate him to pray. He described how a guy grows
and stretches through prayer. His task was not to counsel,
to correct, to advise, or to tell his pastor how to do his
job. His sole assignment was to get men in his church to
Sounds good, doesn't it? So why not bless yourself with such a team?
[Again, to read a very real example of what happened to a
pastor and his church when he did assemble such a team, read
Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, available
I believe that every pastor needs a male, pastor-appointed prayer
leader. That man has only one job: to recruit other men from
the church to join a prayer team for the sole purpose of praying
for the pastor, for the needs of the church, and for the community.
That's the total assignment.
CREATING YOUR OWN MALE PRAYER TEAM
Every man, every boy, grows up longing to be part of a team. In his heart,
every man yearns to be picked as a member of a winning squad.
For his part, every pastor and church leader needs loyal teammates
who will surround and assist him. Most of the pastors I know
feel isolated. Often their isolation leads to deep wounds
and awful loneliness.
Enter the team!
Pastors and church leaders need teams of men around them. And men
want to be part of a team. What better way to meet both needs
than to create teams of godly men who pray faithfully for
their pastor or leader, church, and community?
Do you know the story of the redwood tree? A redwood tree, when it
grows to maturity, reaches a height of a hundred feet. But
the roots of a redwood tree rarely go deeper than six inches
to a foot into the ground. So why doesn't a mild wind topple
a redwood? It's because the roots of individual redwood trees
embrace and intertwine. They grab on to one another and never
let go. That's how redwoods stand-they stand together.
Like a team.
Pastor, do you realize the critical importance of a male prayer leader
who recruits other men to surround you and cover you with
prayer? A team of faithful prayer warriors cannot help but
enhance your ability to lead.
We do not at all intend to undermine or demean the ministry of faithful
women who for years have labored as effective prayer warriors.
Rather, as a ministry focussed on men, we seek to show men
their God-ordained role in supporting their pastor and other
leaders in prayer.
WE'RE GOING TO DO IT TOGETHER
Former Michigan football coach Bo Shembechler often said to his teams, "Do you
know how we're going to win? We're going to master the fundamentals.
We're going to block and tackle better than everyone. We're
going to throw and catch better than anyone. We're going
to protect the football. And we're going to do it together.
That's how we're going to do it. There are going to be no
superstars on this team. Everybody is going to be more interested
in Michigan than in himself. That's how we're going to win."
[Watch the old Gary Cooper movie "12 O'clock High to put this
advice into a spiritual military setting--with the same results,
winning by mastering the basics as a team.]
Let me ask you a few questions. Have you ever requested that one of
your men undertake to pray specifically, regularly, and passionately
for you? Have you ever asked anyone to start a prayer team
like the one I described? What do you imagine would happen
if a male, pastor-appointed prayer leader called some of your
men and asked, "Can I take you to lunch?" then sat down with
each one, talked with each of them about the Lord, developed
a kindred spirit, and explained, "Here's what we need you
to do in this church?" I have no doubt that many, if not
most, men would jump at the chance. There would be many who
would say, "How high? How far? How much? Tell me what you
want me do. I'm ready."
But nobody asks these guys.
I say there are men all over the church who could transform our congregations
if someone would just mobilize them. If we are ever to get
the church together, if we are ever to heal the growing divide
that plagues the church-then pastors must learn how
to get their men into the game. Women for the most part,
are already lined up on the field. It's the men we have to
enlist, engage, and get active.
Just yesterday, the head coach of a major college basketball team
called me at home. He's a believer under tremendous pressure.
"Man," he told me, "I'm praying. I've been offered another job and
I don't know whether to take it." Then he described his whole
"Here's what you need," I told him. "We are going to build a team
of men around you who understand Mark 11:25 and who are going
to cover you. And you're going to discover that in the midst
of pressure and circumstances and everything else, you can
find breathing room."
We need to create such prayer teams for our brothers, especially for
guys in high-profile positions to which the media scrutinize
and reports everything they do. I hear the words of the prophet
Samuel ringing in my ears. "As for me," he told his people,
"far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing
to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). I envision putting teams
of prayer around these leaders--teams of men who will love
them and encourage them, not tell them how to do their jobs.
These prayer warriors will say, "We are your brothers in Christ.
We're proud of you, and we want you to be free to be the leader
that God has raised you up to be." I envision this happening
everywhere. And as soon as we take on the burden of another,
we begin to feel his pain and struggle, and the experience
knits us together. Periodically, we'll feel compelled
to call this brother to encourage him.
When pastors and church leaders form these prayer teams, they'll discover
the freedom and power of concentrated prayer. Not only that,
they'll discover a new ability to draw out of their men a
higher level of spirituality and productivity that infuses
them with a sense of worth and value, mission, and vision.
And you know the best thing of all? Every leader can have such a
prayer team. He just has to take the initiative to make it
When I first came to the University of Colorado in 1982, I faced a difficult
challenge. The football program had fallen on hard times-it
had won only seven games in three years-and we had to begin
the hard work of rebuilding the program.
Yet by 1990, just eight years later, the Associated Press had voted
us the national champions. How did we do it? By attracting
An eagle is an athlete who stands out. He's not only an achiever,
he's an overachiever. In the world of evangelism, Billy Graham
and Luis Palau are eagles. In the world of acting, Morgan
Freeman and Tom Cruise are eagles.
For the most part, eagles like to flock together. If you can get
one eagle, you can get another eagle. The problem was, before
1982, the University of Colorado Buffaloes hadn't attracted
any eagles for a long time. So what could we do? We prayed
and consecrated the football program to Jesus Christ.
Before long God gave us Eric McCarty, a true eagle and a genuine fireball.
From that day on, whenever we brought in key recruits, we
put them with Eric. He loved people, he loved God, and he
had great chemistry with young kids. Eric became a catalyst
for us to attract other eagles. And soon we started getting
the kind of talent that all great teams must attract and keep.
Eagles attract eagles. That principle works not only in football,
but in most other spheres of life. It certainly works in
ministry and in the area of prayer.
If you want to experience the difference that a team of male
prayer warriors can make in your ministry, then find yourself
an eagle. Find a humble man in your church who loves God
and others, who knows how to pray, who's filled with the Spirit--and
challenge him to recruit other men to serve on a team dedicated
Did you know that in any average group of one hundred men, eighty
can be influenced by the actions of ten others? Ten men in
any such group will naturally influence the others in a positive
direction, while the remaining ten will resist and oppose
virtually every positive thing presented. Your task is to
find those ten positive eagles and invest in them, train them,
and set them loose to influence the others.
Believe me, nothing is more fun than being with men of God who love
God and who get together to do the things that men of God
like to do. That is pure fellowship.
So get yourself an eagle. Let him attract other eagles. Get them
praying for you, for your church, and for your community.
And then stand back and watch as God begins to remove the
blind spots that keep us from approaching his throne as a
unified family of believers.
When that happens, you're off and soaring into the wild blue yonder."
TAKE ME WHERE I CAN'T TAKE MYSELF
When a blue-chip high school athlete looks around at different colleges, what
factors help him to choose a school? Most kids consider several
variables: location, school size, winning tradition, community
culture, etc. But one of the biggest factors comes down to
coaching. Most athletes look for a program where they can
It's as if they say, "Coach me. Please, coach me. Take me beyond
myself. Take me where I can't take myself." A good coach
develops the ability to take his athletes where they can't
This is a definition not only of good coaching, but also of good pastoring.
Successful pastors take guys where they can't go by themselves.
Effective pastors understand why a guy isn't responding and
go after him. They see Jesus Christ in him, the hope of glory.
And they know that man is a dynamo just waiting to be unleashed
for the kingdom.
But what's the best way to tap into such a vast potential?"
To find out, order Coach Bill McCartney's new book "BLIND SPOTS", available
To research some other quality material on the subject of prayer, applying to
both the congregation and for the individual believer, be
sure to click on the "Prayer" section of this website.