CHALFONT ST. PETER, England — People need prayer, and they need it as an integral part of worship.
That philosophy keeps access to prayer open during all worship services at Gold Hill Baptist Church in Chalfont St. Peter, England. Once more of a “tack on” ministry, prayer now is a valuable part of worship, and leaders offer specific times for it in services.
Prayer in some form has been available for decades at Gold Hill, prayer team leader Gill Stott explained. But the ministry has gone through “times of prominence and times of barrenness.”
Four to six members of the church’s prayer team are “on duty” during each service. They take a hands-off approach because they want the person being prayed for to encounter God, not the prayer warrior. The team keeps the prayer ministry separate from counseling, Stott said.
Often, people who respond to the prayer time come expecting the team member to talk. Instead, the team is encouraged to “step back and say to the person that we are going to invite the Holy Spirit to come.... We give them space and be silent and allow the Holy Spirit to work,” she explained.
The pray-ers usually anoint the individual with oil — a blend church leaders created and mix themselves — and then frequently ask questions to help the person focus on God: “What are you feeling? What are you hearing?”
“We get them to partner [with the team member] rather than just having it done to them,” Stott said. “We release them to God.”
The prayer team consists of people who have a natural compassion for those who are hurting or who are broken. They also desire to see individuals become whole, and they must be able to keep confidences, she explained.
“They also must be...people who really believe God wants to encounter people and that when he does, he does significant things.... They must believe that something significant will take place,” Stott added.
The team co-leaders hold at least one training event each year, but usually tries to provide two to keep participants “fresh” and to invite those who want to explore the possibility of serving.
“We try to make the training hands-on and minister to one another,” she said.
Stott also makes certain team members have a safety net when dealing with others. If someone seeks prayer for a private matter, at least two team members will accompany the individual to the church’s prayer room.
“We encourage pray-ers who deal with an intense or difficult situation to go to one of the co-leaders so that they won’t have to hear the burden alone,” Stott explained.
The team on duty has a pre-service prayer time to pray for each other, for those who will lead and for people who may respond.
Stott believes prayer touches the heart and soul. “It’s a wonderful ministry to offer...because people are hurting.... It’s a privilege to be able to bring them into that place where God can meet with them,” she said.
“Everything we do is meant as encouragement...to help them hear God’s verdict over them.”