History of Concerts of Prayer
In the mid 1700s, pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards coined the term “concerts of prayer” to describe corporate gatherings of Christians for intercession and spiritual renewal. Regular prayer meetings at the time became a spark for the First Great Awakening in the United States.
Similarly, the Third Great Awakening was largely initiated and sustained through a movement of prayer. In 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier started a noon prayer meeting on Manhattan’s Fulton Street. The meeting quickly grew to several thousand business leaders and revival spread across the country, spawning some 2 million conversions and great works of social reform. Slavery was cut short in the United States through the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865 largely because of this awakening. The Salvation Army, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and other Christian movements found their birth during this period, and the mighty Student Volunteer Movement was launched which sent approximately 25,000 students to the mission field in the coming decades.
Such corporate gatherings for prayer and around-the-clock Prayer Watches have worked together through history to strengthen prayer ministry. The New York City “Concerts of Prayer” initiative, for example, combined their Concerts of Prayer with a Prayer Watch that united 35 churches in 1995. The combined effort continued and over the next five years, the murder rate in New York City dropped 70%, making it one of the safest cities in the country with over a million people (see “Concerts of Prayer for Greater New York” for more information).
Facilitating a Concert of Prayer
A “Concert of Prayer” is, as the title suggests, the coming together of diverse people in prayer around common themes. As with the angels that surround the throne of God, people united in passionate prayer can discover, operate in, and release extraordinary power and grace.
Just as a concert is guided by a skillful conductor, it is important to organize and facilitate a Concert of Prayer to unite the strains of many personalities and preferences into a harmonic whole. Some suggestions are:
- Plan a flow for the Concert of Prayer that moves people from praise to confession to intercession to celebration.
- Mix the methods of prayer in a Concert of Prayer between spontaneous petitions and prayers from the group to prayers led from the front, to small prayer huddles and/or group prayers with 7 to 12 members.
- Blend hymns, praise songs, and tasteful music into the prayer event, using music as a natural transition between selected themes and formats.
- Mix the reading of Scripture with prayers in such a way that the Scripture becomes part of the prayer meeting, the basis and motivation for prayer.
- Offer a brief section for teaching and instruction early in the Concert of Prayer, but do not allow the meeting to become focused more on preaching than on prayer itself. Minimize talking and teaching; maximize the experience of dynamic group prayer.
- Consider projecting the themes and sections of the Concert of Prayer on a screen or print them on a bulletin to help the participants engage in the flow of the event. See the sample Concert of Prayer for more ideas.
Sample Concert of Prayer Format
For a 60 to 90 minute gathering. There is no limit to the variations of flow and themes and the mix of prayer formats that can be put into a Concert of Prayer. This is only one example.
OPENING HYMN OR SONG
- Short prayers of praise and thanks offered spontaneously from the group.
- Brief teaching on the importance of united prayer.
- People break into small groups and commit themselves to God.
- Individuals come to the mike to confess sins on behalf of the people.
- Silent prayers of confession.
- Song of surrender and confession.
- Declaration of God’s forgiveness and grace.
- Song of victory and praise.
SPIRITUAL AWAKENING (FULFILLMENT)
- Prayers in triads for spiritual awakening in your church.
- Prayers in groups of 7 to 12 for spiritual awakening in your city or town.
- Prayers from the front for spiritual awakening in the whole country.
- Song of praise for God’s renewing power.
WORLDWIDE MISSION (FULLNESS)
- Prayers from the front for God’s kingdom to advance to all the nations.
- Prayers in groups of 7 to 12 for specific areas of need (consider providing fact sheets or prayer cards about unreached peoples of the world).
- Open time of spontaneous prayers from the whole assembly for the advancement of the Gospel.
- Song or hymn with focus on world needs and worldwide mission.
- Encourage one or more people to testify about what God has shown them through the Concert of Prayer.
- A prayer from the front dedicating the whole group to God.
- Final song or hymn, declaring God’s great victory.
- A closing benediction or prayer.