Setting up a prayer chain for your community
Jeanet Sinding Bentzen of the University of Copenhagen published a study in 2020 which looked at whether Google searches on prayer had increased during the month of March 2020 when the Covid-19 went global.
She reported that seeking comfort in religion rose dramatically since the onset of the pandemic with political leaders and self-organized groups urging their fellow citizens to pray. Google searches on the topic "prayer" skyrocketed - surging to the highest level during the last 5 years for which comparative Google search data is available. Using daily data on internet searches for prayer for 75 countries, she reported that search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of Covid-19.
The results can be understood as religious coping - we pray to cope with adversity.
Intensified searches on prayer during the Covid-19 pandemic was global - it occurred on all continents and for Christians and Muslims. The surge mainly coincided with increases in the registered cases of the Covid-19 rather than surges in death rates.
That was during Covid. Since then we have the war in Ukraine, inflation, cost of living crisis.. Is prayer increasing?
As people in our communities turn to prayer, regardless of whether they attend church, they could be very interested in knowing about prayer support and churches may be interested in setting up prayer chains and publicising this to local households.
Starting a prayer chain in your church or ministry group is an effective way to let members share, receive and pray for the needs of others. Email prayer chains use technology to quickly and reliably share prayer requests. As needs are received, emails are sent to the chain and people can interceding for the interests and needs of others.
Distilling some wisdom on prayer chains, the considerations are as follows:
1. Receive approval from the church or ministry leadership to form a prayer chain. Speaking to your leader about organising a prayer chain.
2. Select prayer chain coordinator(s) - organiser(s) with discernment, time, computer skills and a heart for prayer.
3. Method of receiving prayer requests - set up special email e.g. prayer@.. or form on website which gets forwarded to co-ordinator(s). Update any privacy notice.
4. Method of sending out email prayer requests to the prayer chain members - use bcc on emails or service such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. If using a service, people can unsubscribe without you having to process it.
5. Consider how you will write the content of prayer requests. Remove contact details. Ideally do not to change or edit requests except for edits to make more readable. If there is sensitive content. consult with church staff before proceeding. Add a notice at the end of each email reminding members of the confidentiality of the information shared.
6. Decide how often you will send out requests. This is a time commitment for the co-ordinator(s). Need to monitor the inbox often especially in a crisis. Send out requests as soon as they arrive or to send out daily at the same time each evening.
7. Develop guidelines. Provide; a statement about the purpose of the prayer chain, co-ordinator contact details, general information of when requests are normally passed along, expectations that prayer chain members will open the emails as soon as possible and pray in a timely manner, confidentiality guidelines, how long to continue praying for a request (until the Holy Spirit gives a release or continues to touch your heart), any follow-up actions to be handled by ministerial and/or counselling staff.
8. Ask for volunteers. Church members, not limited by gender or age, who are committed prayer warriors and can keep information confidential. Check list with leaders. Distribute guidelines.
9. Publicise in the community. Publicise prayer support via social media, on website and, if possible, by leaflet through doors (could Royal Mail help here?)
10. Immediately notify ministers of requests where intervention is needed. On occasion you may receive a request from someone who needs immediate help or intervention e.g. someone who is suicidal, severely depressed or where child abuse or other abuse is noted.
11. Pass along praises and answers to prayer. Encourage people who make requests to get back in touch later when their situations improve, progress is made or the crisis has been resolved. Receiving praise reports helps encourage the intercessors. Send out a weekly? email with praises and answers to prayer.
12. Expect resistance. Put out a prayer request to members of the prayer chain to pray for each other. Share the co-ordinating load. Seek wisdom and counsel from others when something is hard to deal with.
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Geoff Knott, 03/04/2020