Friday, October 2, 2020

Youth Empowered - Prayer Empower Team


This week’s post is a continuation of our series that is exploring the digital side of student-led youth ministry, where we are releasing a new chapter of Youth Empowered for free, right here on Focusing on Jesus! Tune in each week to read a new portion of the chapter as we explore Empower Teams through a digital lens.

Prayer Empower Team
When we encourage students to become involved in ministry, what activities do they think of? Perhaps they imagine outreach opportunities, or worship nights, or even taking advantage of the chance to share the gospel with their friends at school. But in the logic-heavy science-driven culture of the West, would prayer be considered a form of ministry by our youth? As we explored in Youth Empowered, one of our goals as youth ministers is to help our students understand that we are living in the midst of a spiritual battlefield. While we may not be able to see the spiritual realm, the fact is that Jesus spoke quite openly about spiritual warfare within Scripture. Indeed, within the four gospels, we see Jesus in numerous power encounters as He heals the sick, raises the dead, exorcises demons, and prophetically reads the hearts of those He is speaking with.

On one such occasion, we see in Mark 2 a paralyzed man that is brought to Jesus by his friends. Upon seeing the extraordinary faith of the man’s four friends, Jesus says to the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven. When He senses the nearby religious leaders thinking that such a statement is blasphemy, He challenges them and heals the paralytic man to show that He does indeed have the power and authority to forgive sins. Today, we do not have the opportunity to go visit Jesus in person like those in Capernaum had in Mark 2, two thousand years ago. But the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and His resurrection allows us to have a relationship with Him that is just as active and real as it would be if He were with us in the flesh. James 5:13-16 states “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV).

Teaching our students to understand this spiritual truth may help them in grasping the concept that prayer with the Lord today is just as effective as visiting Jesus in the flesh was two thousand years ago. Similarly, it is also true to help them understand that praying for one another is just as much a form of ministry as it is to conduct outreach for someone in-person. It is here where a Prayer Empower Team can shine within a digitally powered student-led youth ministry. Even though praying for one another may seem a bit foreign for some students, we are in need to help them learn to practice this spiritual discipline now, more than ever.

However, being on the Prayer Empower Team would not suggest that prayer requests are simply divvied out for the group members to occasionally revisit when the person has a free moment between Fortnite rounds. Instead, we must remember that Matthew 18:20 is just as relevant in the digital setting as it is in-person. Meeting on Zoom or other video chat programs, students and their Empower Team Leader can gather in the name of the Lord and focus on the spiritual needs that they and their youth ministry have for that week. While the group can certainly meet on a weekly basis to pray for the upcoming service, it can go further than that. Perhaps the team can take turns at being a disruptor on students’ social media feeds by posting an occasional “flash prayer” video that compels the youth ministry’s followers to stop and pray for 10-20 seconds. Or maybe the Empower Team Leader can set up and oversee a text-only phone number, where the youth ministry can text in prayer requests (Google Voice is an easy way to set something like this up without giving out anyone’s personal number). Or maybe the team can take over a small portion of a youth service once a quarter and lead their fellow students in a new method of praying by giving them a template and a few minutes to try it out.

When it comes to prayer within our youth ministry, we are encouraged to remain focused on two key items. First, we must ensure that our students won’t graduate from high school with the misguided idea that prayer is merely a shopping list of wants and desires that we take to God. Instead, we introduce them to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and help them understand that it can be engaged on the battlefield of spiritual warfare, even if through digital means. Second, while we are encouraged to visit the Lord privately in our prayer closet, corporate prayer is nevertheless a vital component to the communal experience of our faith. Thus, we must be bold to pray in front of others and help our students become comfortable to pray in front of (and for) their peers. As we know through Youth Empowered, students are looking for ways to work out their faith through experiences that are shared among others. Satan will do everything in his power to prevent students from praying with one another, for it is likely that our youth may experience the Holy Spirit in a powerful way during their formative years if they did. Just as how bold Jesus was in addressing the spiritual realm, let us too be bold in helping our students understand the bigger picture of the spiritual realm, where we will all soon reside for the rest of eternity.

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