HOW TO RUN A PRAY AND PLAN TEAM

- by Colonel Richard Sandy

WHY PRAY & PLAN?

The OCU evolved from the Army & Navy Prayer Union. Prayer is therefore at the core of the OCU's existence. Prayer should of course be the basis for our whole lives not just OCU activities. Having prayed, we are required to plan and carry out His will. It was after seeing this in the Scripture that General Sir Robert Ewbank introduced Praying & Planning as a concept into the OCU. If we say we are Christians, if we say we wish to please our Lord and to do His will then we need to find out His will. We learn this by praying (Col. 1:9,10).

When God indicates a special need to us either as individuals or as a group, and we are required to organise some special work for Him - then we need to find out how He wants us to do it. At the basis of all this is communication with God - Prayer.

The disciples were at a loss after the feeding of the 5000. In the passage in John 6:28-37, which I believe is the basis of Pray & Plan, when the disciples asked "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus told them they must come to Him and He would give them "Bread" - those who go to Him "will never hunger" . We, therefore, need to go to Jesus.

Again, when the disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-6) they had been trying all day to catch some fish. It wasn't until Jesus came and told them when and where to cast their net that they caught something - and then the net was full to bursting.

Uniting to Pray

After Jesus had ascended into Heaven you will notice that the disciples frequently united in prayer - and what an effect it had on their ministry! We have the following list from Acts as examples which bear out the effectiveness of united prayer (Acts 1:12-14, 2:1-4, 6:1-7, and 13:2,3). Although "the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (James 5:16), we can see that it is more effective if two or more unite in prayer ( " .. where 2 or 3 are gathered together ..." - Matt.18:20).

Praying & Planning

Before forming a Pray & Plan team there must be a clear need or area of concern that God has indicated to a group. Once this has been made clear, and it might be a new programme, an Open Meeting or whatever, the activity must be prayed for and planned by the OCU group concerned. God expects us to use all our resources to ensure that each activity we are running for Him is organised to the best of our ability. He does not expect us merely to pray and then suppose that everything else will happen by divine intervention. The Pray & Plan team form the central planning committee, and supporting groups need to be enlisted to give as wide prayer support as possible. In practice, this means notifying the OCU office and Associate prayer groups of the Pray & Plan team's objectives. For a major project (eg. International OCU conferences, etc.) it may be desirable to set up subordinate Pray & Plan teams to work on certain limited aspects. This too is a good means of training Pray & Plan team leaders.

FORMING A PRAY & PLAN TEAM

The Team Leader

Now the Pray & Plan team itself. It is a team because the members are united in Jesus working towards a common goal. As with all teams there must be a leader. Because it is a Pray & Plan team, the leader is not necessarily the one who prays the "best" prayers, nor is he necessarily the senior Christian. He must, however, be a mature Christian, a capable organiser, and readily accepted as the leader. He is the one who is required to superintend the translation from prayer to workable plan; he should therefore be a person who has a gift for organising.

Size of the Team

The size of a Pray & Plan team depends on a variety of things - the size of the undertaking, the availablilty of team members, etc. All that can be said is that the minimum number is 2 and the team should be kept fairly small. For most local OCU activities I would suggest a team of 4 or 5; but for a bigger project it could be as many as ten.

Team Members

There are no special qualifications for the other members of a Pray & Plan team, other than that they must be Christians willing to share in open, extempore prayer. They should be willing to be available to the Team Leader at all times when required during the preparatory stages.

Team Preparation

Having formed a team, the first priority is for all the team members to prepare themselves for the task of praying and planning. This is particularly important because if the Pray & Plan team are shaky, so too will be the final plan. Prayer as we have seen is communication with God and should be a prompting of the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:26,27) "for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us ..." The members of the team must therefore be receptive to the Holy Spirit and have a clear conscience before God. The team members should read and satisfy the requirements of Rom.12:1-8 "... to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship ..." and should do this before each Pray & Plan meeting.

Frequency of Meeting

How often the Pray & Plan team meets is the responsibility of the team leader. He must call additional meetings whenever they are required. He should "know" if sufficient prayer time has been given to each subject. I would suggest that the frequency of meeting be increased the nearer one approaches the date of the activity. It should continue up to the moment of the meeting/event and then after the meeting/ event especially for Praise, Thanks and Follow Up and evaluation of lessons learned.

PRAYER and PRAISE

The essential start point for a Pray and Plan is prayer and praise and I will therefore give a few notes on this subject.

Location

A Pray and Plan meeting should be held in a quiet, private place not liable to interruption. It needs to be isolated from sights and noises going on around outside the room.

Attitude

I have already mentioned that the team members need to prepare themselves before praying and planning. Those praying should make themselves comfortable. Those who prefer, or are accustomed, to kneel rather than sit should be able to do so without embarrassment. In most groups the majority of people prefer to sit in their chairs and bow their heads to pray.

Form

It is often helpful to start the Pray and Plan with a reading from God's Word, for example a Psalm (e.g. Psalm 63) and to spend the first few minutes in Praise and Worship. The object of this time is to satisfy the instruction of 2 Cor.10:5 "... and take every thought captive to obey Christ".

The team leader should then mention the subjects for which prayer is needed and explain a bit of background where necessary. I would suggest that he mentions a few subjects at a time rather than single points or a long list.

Prayer Hints

The team leader should encourage members to keep their prayers brief. They should also restrict each prayer to one topic - remembering that God may be speaking to another member of the team and laying a particular topic upon his heart.

When a member is praying the remainder should be echoing the prayer in their hearts. It is sometimes a temptation when one person is praying to be busy thinking about the next prayer - in doing this the effectiveness of the prayer group is reduced.

The team leader should discourage the setting of a pattern when praying, such as praying round in a circle.

There may be some members of the team who are not used to praying openly and may feel nervous about it. Such people should be referred to Acts 1:14,15 which tells of the disciples gathering in an upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus' Ascension. We read that they prayed together - but there were 120 of them in the room and it would seem unlikely that all 120 prayed aloud.

Some people are put off when someone else prays for the same thing before them. There is no harm in praying more than once for something if you feel it is laid on your heart. When Jesus' heart was burdened in Gethsemane "again He went away and prayed, using the same words" . (Mark 14:39)

The Prayer time should be closed by the Team Leader in an obvious way so that the other members are not left wondering whether it has finished or not. I suggest this is best done by either asking everyone to join in saying the Grace or perhaps by reading a passage, such as Eph.3:20,21. Finally, I would add that whereas prayer cannot be organised a Prayer Meeting can (1Cor.14:40 "Let all things be done decently and in order" ).

Expectant prayer

Too often, regrettably, our praying and planning is limited by our lack of faith. We should be praying with confidence (Eph.3:12) - there should be no "...if it be Thy will ..." prayers, other than those in the spirit of Matt.26:39. We are claiming the promise of 1 John 5:14,15 - "and this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us".

The key to our confidence in prayer is faith. Faith is the wire that carries the current of His power into our lives. The Power is always available; it is the wire which is often twisted, broken or providing resistance. The remedy for increasing our faith is available to us and the key is given in Rom.10:17 - "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" . We should continually feed our faith with the Word of God.

DISCERNING THE PLAN

How does the Lord actually reveal His plan to the team? In our experience a Pray and Plan should not be dominated by any one member, but rather should be a homogenous group of expectant Christians listening for the Lord's leading. If all have taken a full part in the time of prayer, praise and meditation there should not be an inclination by anyone to try to dominate proceedings. When there is no agreement on an issue the group should turn to specific prayer and then try again to discern by discussion what the Lord is saying. In our experience, after such a time of renewed prayer, one of the members may say, "I wonder if the Lord is telling us ....." and immediately all will sense that it is indeed the Lord's proposal. The characteristic of a Pray and Plan should be concensus but sometimes when seeking to undertake a new initiative a group will have to meet three or four times before the Lord will reveal the fundamental issue, such as the essential aim of the undertaking from which all else depends. Just this happened when a Pray and Plan team was assembled in the MOD to consider a programme of OCU activity in London. The team met three times without being confident that they had discerned the Lord's leading. On the fourth occasion the excited group quickly came to a plan which included among its initiatives the organising of an annual carol service in the nearby Guards Chapel to include an evangelical address; sixteen years later this event still attracts a vast and enthusiastic congregation every mid December. The Lord can as easily reveal detail to a Pray and Plan team as He can principles. There are countless examples of the Lord's leading a team to derive meticulously crafted programmes for international conferences, etc. In short, the Lord can reveal His perfect plan to any group of believing Christians if they are willing to offer heartfelt prayer and praise and then to enter into expectant, dependent planning.

As the team begins to plan it must ask:

THE PLAN

By this stage an outline plan should be emerging and there should be a clear concensus (if not, more prayer is needed). It should then be committed in prayer and recorded, subsequently to be reproduced in the minutes of the meeting. this is important because Satan will continually seek to undermine the team's confidence; they will need to be reminded that the plan now has scriptural significance (see Matthew 18 verse 9). The record of the plan should also be issued in the form of minutes as soon as possible so that coherent work may proceed before the next meeting of the Pray & Plan team.

PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING

The Pray & Plan team should close each meeting with a time of praise and thanksgiving that the Lord has given the team His wisdom and discernment. After the event has taken place the Pray & Plan team should meet to praise and thank the Lord and to evaluate results. It should also plan follow-up action if this has not already been considered in earlier meetings.

CONCLUSION

There is no undertaking which is beyond a properly prepared Pray & Plan team - only a lack of faith will limit the full potential of the Holy Spirit at work:

"if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you will say to this mountain, `move hence to yonder place and it will move'; and nothing will be impossible to you" Matt.17:20

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