Most Sunday School classes, small groups, and other Bible studies begin (or end) with a time of shared prayer requests and prayer. This is more than routine and meeting spiritual expectations. It is a recognition that information alone (even biblical information) does not change our hearts—God does. It is also a recognition that we were made for relationship with God and that to study God’s Word without consulting the Author is like buying your children battery operated toys for Christmas and not getting batteries.
I believe more can be done during these prayer times to fulfill the model of church leadership found in Ephesians 4:11-13:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
I would like to propose the following steps be taken regular by those who teach in order to more effectively make their teaching a time of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.
1. When preparing the lesson, identify the core life struggles to which the passage speaks (i.e., suffering, communication, hope, love, forgiveness, etc…).
2. When you ask for prayer requests ask for the class to consider prayer requests that emerge from that area of life struggle. With this you are preparing the class to reflect on the areas of their life to which they will make application.
3. Provide the class with a “Prayer Request Journal” page to record prayer requests in the class. This will enhance the expectancy with which requests are given and is very important if members are truly going to minister to “one another” (Gal 6:2).
4. Ask the class to keep the journal in their Bibles and review it as they have their times of personal devotion. This again raises the level of expectancy that prayer requests will be regularly prayed over.
5. Ask the class to write one letter, note, or e-mail that seeks to encourage another member of the class with a portion of the lesson. This repetition increases learning. It also places the class in both the position of student/learner and teacher/minister.
6. Ask the class to seek to follow up in one practical way per week to a prayer request given in the class. As they pray for the request, if an idea comes to mind, they can write it on the “Follow Up” line beneath the request. Once they follow through on God’s prompting there is even a nice box to check
I hope this serves as an enriching part of your teaching experience. One of the marks of good teaching is that it raises up new leaders and creates a context for each person to utilize his/her gifts.
SIDE NOTE: If you use the PDF handouts for the Bible Study Application Supplements found in this blog, then you can print the handout on the back of the “Prayer Request Journal.” This makes for an efficient use of paper (very important for cultural relevance these days) and places another ministry tool in the hands of those you are called to equip as they pray over one another’s struggles.