I also changed my preaching pattern. Now I preach at least 13 sermons a year on prayer. Sometimes I do a series on some aspect of prayer, sometimes an individual sermon at an appropriate time. When 25 percent of the sermons my people hear are on prayer, they recognize that I place an essential value on it.

Provide opportunities to pray

The next step in motivating people to pray for the lost is providing the opportunity to do so.  It's best if those opportunities are designed so your congregation can see answers.  It's certainly important to pray for unsaved relatives who live halfway across the country.  But something happens to a congregation when people see a person they've been praying for accept Christ as Savior, become a growing believer, and get involved in a church.

At Jefferson Baptist, we encourage people to pray for neighbors, local friends, and coworkers.  We plan four major prayer events a year, each followed by an evangelistic event.  For example, every year before Easter, regular attenders put the names of 10 local people who don't go to church on a prayer card.  They commit to pray for them every day and invite them to church on Easter Sunday.  They turn in the cards, and we put them in a big bowl.  Starting 10 days before Easter, we begin around-the-clock prayer for the people on the cards.  The day before Easter, we have 24 hours of fasting.  Each time a person is prayed for, the pray-er marks the card and puts it back in the bowl.  By Easter morning, each person has been prayed for numerous times.  The first year we did this, we had over 500 in attendance on Easter morning — over 50 responded to an invitation to accept Christ as their Savior!

Another opportunity we provide for our intercessors is a community prayer effort.  We have the name of every person who lives within a 20-minute drive of the church.  Four times a year we send a card to them, asking for prayer requests.  We want our community to know we are a praying church.  When they have needs, they'll know where to go.

Our high school prayer walk is another opportunity to pray for the unsaved.  Each morning a number of our people prayer walk around the school track.  Besides getting exercise, they pray for teachers and students by name.  This has been extremely effective, and we have started a Saturday night service geared toward youth.  Many of our prayer walkers come to the service to meet the young people they've been praying for.

Don't give up!

If you want to see your church develop a passion for praying for the lost, don't give up!  It may take awhile to get your congregation motivated and on board.  Start slow and keep trying.  Make them aware that the leaders of the church are praying and put opportunities to pray in front of them.

When I was about 10 years old, my father, who was in the navy at the time, took me to the docks to do some fishing.  A large ship was tied up there.  The weather that day was particularly calm, and the ship floated on slack ropes.  My father surprised me by walking over, putting his feet on the edge of the dock, his hands on the side of the ship, and pushing.  He pushed steadily for a long time.  I thought he was crazy - he was trying to move a ship!  But to my amazement, the ship began to move!  I thought my dad was Superman in disguise!  He squatted down and said, "I don't know how it works, but somehow my energy is stored up in that ship until there is enough to move it.  If I had quit before there was enough energy to move it, even seconds too early, it wouldn't have moved, and all my pushing would have been wasted.  And guess what?  If you had helped me, it would have moved twice as fast."

As you seek to make prayer essential in your church, you will be like my dad pushing that ship.  The more people you persuade to push with you, the sooner it will move.  Don't give up before the results start to come.  You never know when they're just about to happen.  Keep praying.  Get others to pray with you.  You'll be amazed at how God moves.

Dee Duke is the senior pastor at Jefferson Baptist Church in Jefferson, Oregon. Since 1989 when prayer became the focal point of the church's ministry, Jefferson Baptist has grown from 200 to 1,300 worshipers — in a rural community of 1,700 people!
This article appeared on the National Pastors' Prayer Network site. Used with permission.

Original Publication date: October 18, 2010