PALATINE, Ill. (BP) -- We've entered the dog-days of summer (July and August) -- this often oppressive and sweltering time of year that coincides with traditional summer slumps in church attendance as families scatter for summer vacations and other summertime activities.
But our need for prayer is never greater. Here are five suggestions to make your dog days of summer sparkle with spiritual freshness:
Family table time -- Ask each church family to use at least one family meal each week to pray for their neighbors, whether those who live nearby, people they work with or fellow students. Keep a log of the names and needs of those the Lord leads toward in prayer. During a Sunday morning service in August, ask families to come prepared to share their prayers and God's responses.
Schedule a church picnic -- Before the festivities begin, ask every family to form a circle and to pray (facing inward) for the church, its spiritual health, its ministry vision and its evangelistic effectiveness. Reverse positions to face outward and pray for the community, its needs, its leaders and the church's influence on it.
Weeknight prayer meeting -- Take the midweek prayer service outside. Those who cannot handle the walk or the heat may stay inside and pray using this as a template. Ask everyone to pray with their eyes open, looking at and praying for:
* God's good creation
* The church facilities
* Residential areas, schools, recreational, medical or business districts to the north, to the east, to the south and to the west
Secret saint -- Ask everyone in the congregation to become a secret intercessor. Prepare cards with the names of your church family for distribution on a Sunday morning -- perhaps a reverse offering where everyone picks a name as a basket is passed. Ask the church family, including youth and older children, to pray each day for a week for the person whose name they drew. The following Sunday simply ask for testimonies of what it was like to pray once a day for their person or if anyone sensed a special blessing from the Lord because someone was praying for them.
Pastoral prayer -- Recruit volunteers to pray aloud for the pastor each Sunday during the summer. Encourage them to pray from their deepest passion.
So, rather than succumb to the slow-down, casual atmosphere of summer, put those dog-days to good use. Prayer -- encourage every member and family to invite the Holy Spirit to alert them every day to special summertime opportunities to pray for people they may only see in July or August. Care -- show the love of Christ to them through practical and appreciated acts of service or mercy. Share -- invite them to investigate the often misunderstood message of the Gospel. Let's love our communities to Christ!
Phil Miglioratti is state prayer consultant for the Illinois Baptist State Association and serves on the Mission America Coalition facilitation committee's LOVE 2020, a "prayer-care-share" ministry initiative. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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