The Spirit of prophecy counsels us in the following words: "Seek every opportunity to go where prayer is wont to be made. Those who are really seeking for communion with God, will be seen in the prayer meeting."—Steps to Christ, p. 102. The true follower of Christ will regard it as a privilege, rather than a duty, to be present with those of like precious faith at the prayer meeting, and to do his part to make the meeting a success.
What do we mean by "successful prayer meetings"? I would suggest that the spiritual barometer of a church is the measure of its interest in the prayer meeting. A successful prayer meeting is one which accomplishes things, a meeting which attains definite objectives, a time and place in which God's children learn to "pray through," that is, pray until things are accomplished.
We often say, "Prayer changes things." This is true, unquestionably; but it is the change that is wrought in ourselves that is of most vital importance. Once a member believes this, and experiences it in the midweek service, he will not have to be urged to attend. When Moses came down from the mount, after being in close communion with God, his face was radiant with the glory of God. He was a changed man. The sordid things that had become the obsession of Aaron and the congregation of Israel had no attraction for Moses, because he saw them in their right perspective. He had communed with God.
I would suggest that one reason why our prayer meetings are often unsuccessful is that we ourselves do not make adequate preparation for them. Why should we not make as thorough preparation for the midweek service as for the Sabbath morning? The great danger is that we allow the midweek service to become formal and perfunctory. If the prayer meeting is, as we are told, the powerhouse of the church, we ourselves will need to do some stoking!
We should foster the spirit of devotion. Let everything be done as reverently as in the Sabbath services. Maintain a spirit of quiet, reverent worship. Encourage praise as well as petition in prayer, and let most of the petitions be for others.
Time and Length of Meeting
As a central meeting in the church is best, a midweek day and time should be chosen when the majority can attend. Successful prayer meetings need not be long meetings. One hour is sufficient in most cases and should rarely be exceeded. The meeting should commence promptly on time and close promptly. As to the time spent in prayer, the plan recommended to us in the Spirit of prophecy is as follows :
"Upon common occasions, there should not be prayer of more than ten minutes' duration. After there has been a change of position, and the exercise of singing or exhortation has relieved the sameness, then, if any feel the burden of prayer, let them pray. All should feel it a Christian duty to pray short!—Testimonies, Vol. II, P. 578.
If this plan is followed, there will be time for a Bible study of about thirty minutes, three hymns, opening and closing prayers, any announcements that need to be made, and time for the speaker to spend a few minutes suggesting topics for prayer.
If the evangelist is wise, he will link up his evangelism with the weekly prayer service. Then he will keep the members informed of the answers to petitions. "Nothing succeeds like success," and nothing will encourage our members more than to realize that their prayers are being answered. This will help to give the prayer meeting a definite objective, and so hold the interest of the church members.
Pray for any member losing his interest in the truth and those wholly backslidden, that God's Spirit may continue to follow them, and bring them back to the fold. Pray for the success of church campaigns.
A successful prayer meeting will have a marked effect upon the whole life of the church. It will produce and maintain a spirit of unity and a bond of sympathy between the members that nothing else can. In short, it will help to build a strong, active, soul-winning church.