How do your students view prayer? As a ritual at the beginning and end of your meetings? A last-ditch plea before they head into a hard test? Something they do when their grandma is sick?
Leveling up your teens’ understanding and practice of prayer is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to accelerate their spiritual growth and accomplish your youth group’s mission. Recently, Dare 2 Share founder Greg Stier caught up with Kathy Branzell, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force to talk about why this is and how youth pastors can help students prioritize prayer.
Through their conversation, they highlighted three key, practical steps youth leaders can take to unleash the power of prayer in their ministries.
1. Communicate why prayer is vital.
One reason students—and, if we’re honest, adults too—don’t pray much is we underestimate how vital it is to living the Christian life and building God’s Kingdom. Instead, Stier says, we should liken prayer to U.S. military air operations in the Gulf War.
“Before they sent in the ground troops,” he explains, “they had 100,000 bombing missions. They dropped 88,500 tons all over every target in Iraq—took out their eyes and ears—and when the ground troops came in, the Iraqi soldiers were surrendering to CNN reporters. From square one, I realized that’s what prayer does.
“On your campus, you know of so many things going on that you can do absolutely nothing about,” he continues. “You have no authority, you don’t have the resources, you don’t have the influence, the relationship—whatever it is. Well, God does.”
Branzell agrees. “Intercessors come in from the air—they see all that’s out there. And they pray God’s Kingdom come, His will be done in those situations. You take [all the needs], and you hand them to God, who can do all things. … ‘The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’—that’s a promise.” And this promise applies to anyone who has trusted Christ, because Jesus gives us His own righteousness. Our standing in God’s sight is based on His goodness, not ours, Branzell explains.
2. Teach students how to pray.
No matter how full our schedules are, we should prioritize prayer each morning—and teach students to do the same, Branzell says. She advocates a four-pronged approach to prayer:
- Praise. “Praise reminds us of who God is,” Branzell says. “Many of us have forgotten how mighty and magnificent our God is, how powerful and loving—and how He watches over us, not like He’s waiting for us to mess up. Praise reminds you that He’s watching over you with so much love and so much authority and so much power—that He’s got your back.”
- Praying Scripture. “The Word of God is your greatest guide in prayer,” Branzell says. “It tells us what truth is and how to pray that truth—not preferences or opinions or something you might have heard somewhere. When you pray Scripture, there’s no cultural camouflage on you, but you’re armored up in the Word of God and you know who you are in Christ.” Reading and praying is also how we hear God speak to us—the primary way we hear His voice, Stier adds. (Click here for insight into how to pray Scripture.)
- Supplication. Teaching this “fancy” word to students can actually be helpful, when you explain that it comes from Latin words meaning supply care, Branzell says. It can help teenagers understand that prayer is perhaps the simplest, yet most effective way teens can care for those around them.
- Thanksgiving. “[As a culture,] we’re so dismayed; we’re so discouraged. Depression is consuming right now,” Branzell says. But gratitude is a proven way to combat those crippling thoughts and emotions, instead fixing our thoughts on what is good and right and true (Philippians 4:8).
Get practical help! Join us September 5 at 1 p.m. Mountain time for a free, interactive webinar offering detailed strategies about how to get your students really praying.
3. Bookend the school year with prayer events.
Branzell suggests tapping into the momentum of existing prayer movements to inspire your students, starting in the fall with the student-led See You at the Pole (SYATP) event. Since 1990, students around the globe have gathered at their school’s flagpole on the fourth Wednesday morning of September to intercede for their campuses and peers. Because it’s student-led, this is an excellent event for you to hype up and then step back and watch students take bold steps of faith in front of their peers.
Then, wrap up the school year by participating as a group in the annual National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May. You can join an existing event or create your own; click here to find out more.
Implementing these three simple strategies can ignite in your students (and you!) a new appreciation for prayer that will take your ministry and its impact to a new level. We encourage you to start today!
Free Prayer Resources!
Download (and print, if you’d like) these free, Scripture-based prayer-plan cards:
Praying Scripture for Your Students provides five days of prayer prompts to guide you in interceding for your students and your ministry.
The Rescue is a six-day prayer plan that helps students intercede for their friends who don’t know the Lord and equips and challenges them to share the Gospel with them.