Three Steps to Planting Praying Churches

By J.D. Greear

Fruitfulness in church planting only comes through the power of God. To plug into that power, you must make prayer one of your top priorities and plant praying churches.

Vital prayer may be the single most important factor in the success and future effectiveness of a church plant.

I want to suggest three steps to planting praying churches. While this list will not contain every practice of praying churches, hopefully it can point you in a God-honoring direction for bold prayers in your church planting efforts.

1. Form a personal prayer team

It’s common for church planters to have a board or Sending Church that provides some measure of directional oversight for the work. These aspects of partnership are vital, but so too is the role of outsiders in praying for the church planter and the church plant. It’s one thing to know you have many unknown people who are praying for the work of the church plant, but it’s another thing to know a few people, by name, who have committed to pray for you and your work. These prayer partners also should be the inside group that knows specifics of how they can support you in prayer. You might not tell everyone everything, but these men and women should be your closet circle that you trust with your more personal needs and concerns. To partner with them well, you will need to develop some mechanism for communicating with them regularly, and this likely will need to be more personal than merely an email newsletter or a few social media posts. As I look back on our journey as Summit Church, I would trace our growth and multiplication through the prayers of saints who often are behind the scenes, unknown yet faithful.

2. Devote time in every gathering to prayer

Even before you are ready to gather as a church for Sunday services, you’ll likely have time when you are meeting with core team members or a fellow pastor or leader. In these times, it’s common to merely pray a perfunctory prayer before moving on to matters that seem more pressing. Often we’re also guilty of talking about the things we should pray about, without actually praying or doing a Bible study or sermon on the role of prayer and then stopping to meet with God in prayer. We press against these temptations by allocating up-front time in our meetings, conversations and gatherings to actually pray. Even if you run out of time on the agenda, it’s better that your people know you value prayer so much that you are willing to make other things wait so you can pray.

You’ll also need to think through how, once you begin to gather regularly, to devote time for prayer in weekly worship services. No other context shapes the priorities of the church more than what people do when they are together in weekly worship. If prayer is non-existent, rushed or thoughtless, then it will be clear to the church that prayer ranks far down the list of priorities. In contrast, if people pray consistently and compellingly in the Sunday gathering, week in and week out, then it becomes apparent to the church that prayer is a vital part of the work you all are doing together. Planters would be wise to place public prayer in prominent places in the church gathering and strive to pray biblical, bold beautiful prayers for all the church to hear.

I once had a pastor share with me that he thought the weekly moments of pastoral prayer shaped the life of his congregation more than his sermons on prayer because, as he prayed, he was modeling for them how they should pray as well. I remember my dad recounting a similar story about the pastor who led him to faith. Dad said he listened to this pastor preach every week for 10 years and he could remember very few of those sermons. But what he did remember was praying with this pastor for one hour before the service each Sunday morning. Dad told me, “I can remember how much God discipled me through just hearing that man pray, how he talked to God and how he talked about people and how he just prayed back the truths of the gospel.” And he said, “That had a profound, shaping influence on me.”

3. Preach your prayers

By this, I don’t mean you have to preach a sermon series on prayer – though this might be warranted at times. The reality is that if you are faithfully walking through almost any book of the Bible, you are going to come upon passages that relate to the task of prayer. But even if the sermon text does not explicitly speak of prayer, you should be able to relate any sermon to prayer in some way. A great way to do this is by using your sermon’s illustrations and applications to speak of ways that God is faithful through prayer in your life, the life of the church or throughout church history. People should hear you talk about prayer more often than when you are preaching on prayer.

This is especially true in a church planting context. You are building everything from scratch, so everything you are doing is an act of faith. You’ll naturally talk about the programs, structures or events your church is doing to run hard after your vision. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’ll need a steady refrain of prayer so your people don’t assume you are trusting in your own might or power to get the job done. Make it clear you believe fruitfulness in church planting only comes through the power of God.

For more steps to planting praying churches and why prayer is important, download your free copy of Praying Bold Prayers by J.D. Greear today.




Published June 29, 2022

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J.D. Greear

J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Under Pastor J.D.’s leadership, the Summit has grown from a plateaued church of 300 to one of over 10,000, making it one of Outreach magazine’s “top 25 fastest-growing churches in America” for many years running. He has authored several books, including Essential Christianity: The Heart of the Gospel in Ten Words (2023), Just Ask: The Joy of Confident, Bold, Patient, Relentless, Shameless, Dependent, Grateful, Powerful, Expectant Prayer (2021), and What Are You Going to Do With Your Life? (2020).