Baptismal Prayer Ministry

by Eddie Green

Prayer ministry in its simplest form is when one person asks another person (or more usually two people) to pray with them. It is an invitation for God to meet with a person in the Holy Spirit, rather than an exertion of human skill or talent. Whilst there is a time and space for more complex forms of prayer counselling this model is designed to focus on scripture and God's work, and is ideal for people who have little experience of extempore prayer ministry.
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 NLT
It is based on a theological understanding of Christ’s baptism as being the baptism in which we all share. The Baptism of Christ was not just John's baptism of repentance, but involved the work of Father, Son & Holy Spirit - it was a unique event in which we as Christians participate through our own baptism.


Safe Guarding

It is vital that you follow appropriate safeguarding procedures amongst those offering prayer ministry. That they are aware of issues relating to children and vulnerable adults. In many cases this will mean they have appropriate background checks. It is assumed that those offering prayer ministry will be part of a pastoral team, and understand a supervision procedure. It is usual to offer prayer ministry in mixed gender pairs, and to ensure the prayer space is private.

Blessing Holy Oil

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14 NLT
Scripture commends the use of oil in prayer. Traditionally the holy oils blessed by the bishop are set apart for special purposes. However in the Orthodox Tradition it is common for oils blessed by a Priest to be made available to the laity for anointing one another. It is my practice to use this same oil for lay and ordained colleagues in prayer ministry teams. 

Using blessed oil communicates to the gathered community that the prayer being offered by members of a team is the prayer of the whole church, rather than that of particular individuals. The oil can be blessed during a healing Eucharist with the prayer:
God of compassion, mercy, and love,
in the midst of the pain and suffering of the world your Son came among us
to heal our infirmities and soothe our wounds.
May all who use this oil be refreshed by the Spirit,
and blessed with health of mind and body.
Grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen
The oil is usually olive oil, and may be scented by heating gently with herbs and spices and straining afterwards (although beware allergies!) Oil can be kept in small make up tins with cotton wool in. When using oil in prayer ministry it may be necessary to explain to people the method that will be used. Some people do not wish to be touched and this must be respected.

Scriptural Heart

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ Mark 1:9-10 ESV
In our baptism we share in Christ's baptism. We too receive the gift of the Spirit, and hear God's voice of loving parenthood. However we all need that gift to be refreshed and renewed. Although John baptized Jesus it was God as Father and Spirit that 'did the work'. In prayer ministry we work as part of an 'outward sign', but it is God who meets with people with 'invisible grace' and favour.

Those praying for others must reflect on this scripture and what it means for them. It is appropriate to meet before and after prayer ministry and listen to the scripture and pray for one another. At times it will be appropriate to read the scripture to those seeking prayer.

As we shall see this pattern of prayer ministry follows the scripture in reverse. God speaks to us His words of love. The Spirit meets with us. We prophetically listen and speak as John did.

Prayer Steps

Following are steps to be followed in offering prayer.

1. Ask

Ensure you know the persons name, and what they are seeking prayer for. It may be themselves or it may be another person. It may simply be for refreshing or renewal. Discourage too much detail, this is not a counselling session. The simple words 'Let's Pray' can bring focus.

2. Open

Invite them to place their hands in an open palm up position. This position pre-dates hands clasped together in Christian prayer. Explain that you will anoint their palms with oil and ensure they are happy with this.

3. Anoint

Take oil on your own thumbs and hold their hands gently underneath and with your thumbs, spreading the oil. I recommend continuing to gently hold the hands during prayer.

Sometimes when people are prayed for they react physically. The bible speaks of the fruit of the Spirit as 'Love, Joy, Peace ...' (and others Galatians 5:22). When overwhelmed with God's love we may cry. When overwhelmed with God's joy we may laugh. When overwhelmed with God's peace we may relax entirely and fall. By holding someone's hands you can sense how they are responding to the work of the Holy Spirit. Your prayer partner can stand behind a person to catch them if they fall. We have all been caught out by someone responding to the Spirit in a way we did not expect.

4. Beloved

Begin to pray.

Thank God for the person by name. Thank God that they are God’s child. Thank God that they are loved by God and that God is delighted and well pleased with them.

This prayer is based on the Father's words to Jesus at his baptism. It does not need to be long, but you can include particular gifts and qualities of the person. Jesus knew his relationship to the Father, and God speaking was a witness to his status and ministry. You are proclaiming the person's relationship to Father God, which many people need to hear before they can receive His gifts.
'Thank you Lord for Susan, Thank you that she is your child, that she is loved by you. Thank you for her work and service of you. Thank you that you delight in her and are pleased with her'
In general even if the prayer request is for someone else it is good to pray for the person who has come to you, and then name the person on their heart. Sometimes people react at this point. Be gentle and give them space.

5. Come Holy Spirit

Invite the Holy Spirit to come and minister to the person in their need or concern.
'Father send your Holy Spirit and renew and refresh Susan, just as you sent the Holy Spirit on your Son Jesus. Come Holy Spirit.'
This can be very simple words, again we are asking God to work, not counselling the individual.

6. Listen

Leave space for silence and for God to speak to the person and to you. Do not rush or hurry this time.

7. Speak

Just as God spoke through John the Baptist God speaks to us. We may have a few words of encouragement, or a picture to share with the person - but do not feel obligated, God speaks directly to people. This is not a space to bring anything negative or condemning. It is healthy to share things as questions rather than statements.
'Susan, as we we praying I saw a picture of a strong tree, with lots of delicious fruit that others enjoyed. Maybe this is like your work in the church?' 
It is good to ask the person being prayed for if God has spoken to them. Sometimes it may be appropriate to go back to 5. and ask God to continue his work.

You can close the prayer time:
‘In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen’, 
At other times it may be appropriate to encourage people to keep praying on their own.

Something has Happened

Sometimes people do react in ways we do not expect. It is important that prayer ministers know what to do in such situations - who to turn to. This will be a person in oversight (often clergy).

An individual may be asking for prayer for an issue of abuse or other criminal matters. They may have an issue that is very 'close to home'. The prayer minister must ask someone else in oversight (again usually clergy) to step in in these cases.

If someone is very distressed then this prayer from Common Worship is useful to have on hand:
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
present with us now in his risen power,
enter into your body and spirit,
take from you all that harms and hinders you,
and fill you with his healing and his peace.
Amen.
Never assume that someone is 'possessed', especially if they react physically. The Church of England and other churches have strict rules about this area of ministry.

Keep it Simply Spirit

(Sorry!)

Finally - Although this guide deals with different possibilities the aim isn't to overburden people with rules, but to encourage people to have the boldness to pray for one another. The framework provides space for the Spirit to simply meet with people, rather than placing the emphasis on the 'performance' of the prayer minister. Come Holy Spirit.

Comments

  1. This is a very simple yet informative article am in prayer ministry and at times i feel directed by the spirit to be simple and precise and to those who have previously received a detailed prayer from me might feel a bit empty and i am happy to hear KEEP IT SIMPLY SPIRIT, for me i sometimes find myself inviting the HOLY TRINITY, COME LORD JESUS COME, COME HOLY SPIRIT COME and COME HEAVENLY FATHER COME.In no particular order and at times one,two or three. thanks Eddie Green

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