Reviving the Prayer Meeting

A blood transfusion is in order in all too many instances if attendance at the midweek prayer meeting is a true index of the spiritual condition of the church. That these meetings should form so unimportant a part in the life of the church is most unfortunate for a number of reasons. . .

A blood transfusion is in order in all too many instances if attendance at the midweek prayer meeting is a true index of the spiritual condition of the church. That these meetings should form so unimportant a part in the life of the church is most unfortunate for a number of reasons.

First, it may well indicate that the pastor himself is missing out on a grand opportunity to use this service as a means of exploring more deeply some of the great themes of the Bible, thus enriching his own experience and expanding his background of knowledge in the Scriptures.

The tendency is to feel that since so few come to prayer meeting, why devote a lot of time in preparation. The fact is, that should only a few attend, it can still offer to the pastor the greatest opportunity for his own enrichment, an opportunity not afforded by the Sabbath services alone. The very nature of the sermonic calendar, taking into account the various seasons of the year, special occasions, guest speakers, et cetera, limits the number of Sabbath sermons that can be devoted to any one theme. True, a series of two, three, or four sermons at the Sabbath hour will add interest and help to build attendance, but even this does not provide the opportunity presented at the midweek meeting for larger development of a subject.

The pastor must dig deeply into the mines of truth for his own good if for no other reason. And once he has made a special study on some great theme, his ministry will be forever the richer. He must apply himself to learning in order to grow mentally, intellectually, and spiritually. The learning experience must be more than surface preparation consisting of a string of Bible texts or references from the Spirit of Prophecy that perhaps someone else has already brought together in a logical arrangement. It must be the result of his own prayerful study and effort.

Considering the multitude of demands upon his time, one of the most difficult tasks of the pastor is that of maintaining a consistent study program. When under pressure resulting from a lack of time, the study period is often the first to suffer. This is particularly so if there is not a definite study plan or objective. A series of studies presented at the midweek service can provide that extra incentive and discipline.

Members Eager for Knowledge

Beyond the benefits of this program to the pastor himself, it is very likely that the attendance at prayer meeting will show a remarkable increase. Our people are hungry; they want to be fed, and will respond gratefully when the necessary food is provided.

The Testimony Countdown program may be cited as an example. Wherever the pro gram has been presented, attendance has increased. This program indicates also that our laymen are interested in the Spirit of Prophecy its background, its relevance, its teachings in regard to the big issues around which the closing controversy will center. Another subject that our people appreciate and are eager to learn more about is the sanctuary. Of the importance of this subject we are told:

The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for them selves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill. Christ in His Sanctuary, p. 124.

We need to study the sanctuary of the Old Testament so that we might under stand more clearly the wonderful plan of salvation.

We all need to keep the subject of the sanctuary in mind. God forbid that the clatter of words coming from human lips should lessen the belief of our people in the truth that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and that a pattern of this sanctuary was once built on this earth. God desires His people to become familiar with this pattern, keeping ever before their minds the heavenly sanctuary, where God is all and in all. Ibid., pp. 11, 12.

Recently, Dr. Gordon Hyde concluded a series on the sanctuary in the Takoma Park church. His material showed considerable preparation, and again it was demonstrated that our people will come out when they know something especially helpful is to be given. The recently published book, Christ in His Sanctuary, by Ellen G. White, can be an excellent help on this subject. Dr. Hyde assigned pages in this text to be read along with his series.

Study Prophecy

The books of Daniel and Revelation demand increasing attention as the end draws near. Every Seventh-day Adventist minister should be a specialist in these prophetic Scriptures. There are many ways in which their great themes can be presented: it may be in a general survey of the great prophecies that sweep across the centuries, taking them up according to their logical divisions, or a careful in-depth verse-by-verse study. The historical approach, using some of the excellent material in L. E. Froom's priceless Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers can be very helpful. The approach may center on last-day events and the preparation that is to be made for the second coming of Jesus.

The subject of last-day events and the final preparation is one to which our people will always respond. Pastor Gordon Collier of Jackson, Tennessee, is one of a number of our pastors whose ministry has been enriched through special attention to this important theme. You will appreciate his article appearing on page 7 of this issue of THE MINISTRY.

The Great Controversy can also serve as the basis of special study. Pastors William Loveless, then of Sligo, and Glenn Sharman of Takoma Park teamed up to present a six-week series with special assigned reading from its pages. Overhead screen projection was used for increased effectiveness.

Other Ellen G. White books may also be used. Pastor Melvin Sickler of the Hyattsville, Maryland, church recently took his congregation through the book Early Writings.

Use Variety of Subjects and Methods

Additional subjects might include the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the life and ministry of Christ, lessons from the Exodus movement, the ministry of angels, the journeys of Paul, and great revivals of the Bible, to name just a few. Each of these and many more are clamoring for attention and study. Then there are studies of a different nature. Bible survey studies giving the background and grand sweep of the books of the Bible are helpful and can lead into deeper and more intelligent personal study of the Bible. Individual books of the Bible can be made the basis of study series. Along with Daniel and Revelation, special consideration should be given to Hebrews. Joshua is a choice book of the Old Testament from which to draw lessons on victorious Christian living and the preparation necessary for the final crisis. Romans, Ephesians, John, and many others might well serve as the basis for inspiring studies.

Some have used the prayer meeting service to help prepare the members for personal witness. This, too, can be very helpful. Pastor Myron Voegele of the San Antonio, Texas, church has developed a very effective Wednesday night program of this kind. The one-hour service includes a twenty-minute devotional message, a twenty-minute period of instruction and ten minutes for the sharing of experiences. It closes on a deeply spiritual note, often with prayer bands. He uses blacklight and other teaching aids to help keep the interest high among the youth as well as adults. The use of dialog in the prayer meeting can stimulate interest. (See "Rx for a Sick Prayer Meeting" by D. Hawley, THE MINISTRY, August, 1970, page 14.)

Guidelines in Development of Program

These are but a few of many suggestions that might be offered. But if the prayer meeting series is to be of maximum blessing there are other factors to be considered. Among them are the following:

1. Introduce the series with a sermon on Sabbath morning. Use this to lay the foundation for what is to be presented, and to create an appetite for the meetings to fol low. This is very important.

2. Give special publicity to the series, starting weeks in advance. Place notices in the church newsletter and Sabbath bulletin. Refer to the coming series in the church service, at the meetings of the church council and in pastoral visitation. Give it the attention that would be given to a special evangelistic series, perhaps even preparing a special announcement to be used as a bulletin insert.

3. Add interest to the presentations by the use of charts, cutouts, blackboard, screen pictures, overhead projection, out lines, et cetera. There are many ways that almost any subject can be illustrated, even if it is no more than a few lines, dates, or names placed on the blackboard. Pastor Robert Correia of Fredericksburg, Virginia, uses plywood cutouts of the sanctuary furniture when speaking on this subject and also has a wardrobe consisting of the priestly garments. Pastor Gordon Collier has developed charts on last-day events that have proved very helpful.

4. Have variety; ordinarily a series should not run longer than ten or twelve studies. Six to eight is more ideal. Those requiring more time could be broken up into separate series covering various phases of the subject.

5. Allow time for testimony and prayer. The method should vary and will be deter mined somewhat by the number present. Large numbers can participate in a few minutes by breaking up into small units. In any event, the prayers should be short and to the point. Long, mechanical prayers that weary both man and the angels are out of place. Those offering them are "prayer meeting killers." (See Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 70," 71; ibid., vol. 2, pp. 577- 579.)

The prayer meeting can, indeed, become a very important part of the church pro gram. To make it so, the pastor must give it the attention and preparation necessary in order that it might be adequately promoted and presented.

THE RESULT: Enrichment of the pastor's own intellectual and spiritual experience and new life to the church.

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November 1970

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