A Ministry of Prayer
By Fr. Milorad Milosevich and Donna Karabin
“How do we equip ourselves to undertake an effective Church Growth program?” That was the question hanging heavily as our committee approached the implementation of our “plan.” We had come through the Seventh All-American Council with a new commitment to and strong conviction about the concept of Church Growth. After a year and a half of efforts to familiarize our parish with the theme, we began our formal discussion groups, Study Papers in hand.
Much to our surprise, Church Growth was an emotionally charged and controversial issue. There were as many definitions of Church Growth as there were participants. Some were convinced that change would divide and destroy the parish. Those of us sure of God’s will for us to carry on with the project realized that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). It was then that, along with our Study Papers, goals, objectives, and outlines, we passed around a sign-up list for a Prayer Group.
Beginning our Prayer Group
We began as a group of ten, headed by our parish priest and a lay leader. A small booklet was prepared, including information on intercessory prayer by Fr. Thomas Hopko, and the prayer found in Ephesians 3:14-21. Our priest and our parish organizations, as well as Church Growth in our parish, in the Orthodox Church, and in our nation were listed as ongoing prayer topics. Several blank pages were added with columns for “prayer needs” and “answers to prayer.” The last page listed Prayer Group participants and their telephone numbers. The booklet closed with the words of Acts 9:31.
Initially, we each volunteered for a specific day of the week to pray privately for growth in the church and for the personal needs brought to the group. As time has passed, the discipline of prayer has strengthened so that now each of us is praying every day.
We meet once a month in the church, following Divine Liturgy, to update our lists and to exchange Orthodox prayers and articles or readings from books on prayer. In between our meeting times we use a telephone chain system for passing along newly-received prayer requests.
Our prayer list continues to grow as our fellow parishioners become more comfortable with sharing their needs, and as our parish projects increase. We are surprised, too, that we have many requests for prayer support from people outside our parish, some even outside the Orthodox Church. Our Prayer Group has become a vehicle for Evangelization!
Prayer requests vary from health needs to spiritual needs, for guidance in times of decision, and for strength in the conflicts of day-to-day life. Because our God is gracious and merciful we have also offered many prayers of thanksgiving, including those for healings left unexplained by medical doctors.
Importance of Praying for Each Other
Our priest has reminded us that as our group grows spiritually and in numbers, it is important that we participants pray for each other. We feel we have been called to this ministry of prayer and need to encourage and support one another. We are becoming powerful witnesses to our Orthodox Faith and to the grace of God in our lives. It is to our Lord that we give all honor and praise for the blessings that have come to us as intercessors and to those for whom we have prayed.
Our Church Growth Committee continues to meet, blessed by the commitment of the Prayer Group. Now, following the Eighth All-American Council and its directives to Evangelization, we are grateful for the Lord’s hand leading us as we work with our visitors, our new and active members, and, more recently, with inactive members. The effort is truly a blessing to clergy and laity alike as we work together as servants of the Lord.
Then the church… enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” — Acts 9:31